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Learn About America at the End of the Twentieth Century

The last quarter of the 20th century was shaped by three fundamental challenges that arose in the  late 1960s and early 1970s. The first was a crisis of political leadership. Public cynicism toward politicians intensified, political party discipline declined, and lobbies and special interest groups grew in power.

The second challenge involved wrenching economic transformations. Economic growth slowed, productivity flagged, inflation soared, family income stagnated, and major industries faltered in the face of foreign competition.

The third challenge involved growing uncertainty over America's proper role in the world. A major challenge facing policymakers was how to preserve the nation's international prestige and influence in the face of mounting public opposition to direct overseas interventions.

In the late 1970s, many academic authorities suggested that the United States was in decline, that such societies as Japan and West Germany were growing faster and were beginning to dominate cutting-edge industries such as consumer electronics and luxury automobiles.  As the 21st century began, the United States had reasserted its economic, military, and cultural supremacy.  It was the world’s sole superpower. It dominated not only the Internet and computer software and hardware, but also film and television production. Still, the United States was also faced by new threats, especially from terrorist organizations.

Ronald Reagan, Moscow State University, May 31, 1988
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Handouts and fact sheets:

Facts and Figures for the New Century

Recommended lesson plan:

Looking Back to Move Forward
Using Primary Sources to Examine Significant 20th Century Events


Test Your Knowledge About the America at the End of the Twentieth Century

Recommended books:

David Halberstam, War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals.
One of the country's foremost investigative reporters and authors examines American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era.

Joe Klein, The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton.
A prominent journalist evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the Clinton presidency.

Recommended film:

This documentary film, which charts the rise and fall of an Internet startup company that raised $60 million before going bankrupt, captures the exciting of the stock market bubble of the late 1990s.

For comprehensive reviews, see:
learn more film

Recommended Website:

CNN: The Cold War


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