Historical Events Essay

Pages: 6 (2130 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

¶ … 20th Century to bring into focus the most significant events -- either political, social, or economic -- that occurred during each of the decades. Each decade will be evaluated based on only one criteria, and that is the impact that one event had on the American people. In conclusion, the upcoming ten years will be appraised in the same manner to forecast what changes may take place during that time period.

Transcontinental television, the Korean War, the communist hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Rosa Parks and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, the creation of the AFL-CIO, the development of the Salk polio vaccine, President Eisenhower's Federal Highway Act marking the beginning of the interstate highway system, and Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite. To pick among all of these amazing events is an extremely difficult challenge, because most of them, eventually, impacted an enormous number of Americans in significant ways (Lone Star College, 1998). The 1950s has been referred to as the most influential decade in American history.

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However, the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the U.S. would probably have to rank as the event of that decade that most impacted Americans. In 1954, segregation was ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Court said that segregation was "inherently unequal." (Rosenberg, 2010) and, in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her action caused the bus boycott, organized by Martin Luther King, which brought King into the national spotlight, and activated the civil rights movement in the U.S. Since, millions of Americans were impacted by these events during the decade of the 1950s, and impacted emotionally, culturally, politically, and socially, there can be no other events, perhaps in the history of our country, other than the Civil War, that tore us apart so thoroughly and for such an extended period of time.


TOPIC: Essay on Historical Events Assignment

The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy changed our country forever. and, as tens of millions of Americans who lived through that time period might say, the U.S. has never recovered from this horrible time.

Viet Nam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Beatles, the hippies, the disastrous Democratic Convention and associated riots, the U.S. landing astronauts on the moon, the building of the Berlin Wall, Martin Luther King's march and "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington D.C., and so many more significant events occurred during this decade (1960s, 2009).

As it came first, and had the most impact on the U.S. And the world, perhaps JFK's assassination was the most significant of the three. The unique circumstances of the assassination and the 24-hour coverage of the events -- the first of its kind in the television era -- led to the tremendous impact on Americans from teenagers to the oldest of generations. A young and vital president, his young children, and the beautiful wife in her blood-soaked dress, led to a personal attachment to this event unlike any other including the death of FDR and Pearl Harbor. It was personal. And it was internal to the U.S. There was no enemy to blame, and seemed so senseless.

This man, like him or not personally, was a symbol of all that was good about America. And he was torn from at least an appearance of vitality and vigor, and from a promising future as a world leader by one senseless, individual act of violence (Rivers & Greenberg, 1977, p. 3).

All who cared about America, in light of this first horrid killing of their president, were impacted so forcefully that a survey taken after the assassination revealed that over 70% could not compare the significance of this event to any other they had witnessed in their lifetime -- including FDR's death and Pearl Harbor (Rivers & Greenberg, 1977).

The killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy within five years after JFK led to a mistrust and defeat of morale in the U.S. No one knew what was happening to us socially, politically or morally. King was the father of the peaceful movement that had wrought enormous change in American society, and Robert Kennedy was the symbol of hope for the future by African-Americans and millions of whites.


It seems that he 1970s was a mish-mash of nothingness piled on top of political suicide by one president and his vice-president, and another who charged the country with "malaise," destroyed its economy with runaway inflation, and could only put together a disastrous hostage rescue mission . At the same time, we proved to the world that we could shoot our own college students and end the Viet Nam War with an "honorable peace" that resulted in our defeat and the overrunning of the country in which we lost 50,000 of our own soldiers. It was not a good decade for the U.S. (enotes, 2010).

But perhaps of all the 1970s events, Watergate would have to take the crown as the most impactful on Americans in that it, once again, brought doubt and mistrust about our government to the minds of its citizens. Just as we put the Vietnam War behind us, we had a president we found we could not trust, and, following the deaths of JFK, MLK, and RFK throughout the 1960s, we were once again saturated in the aura of who do we trust, and how do these things happen, and where do we go from here (Givan, 2005).

In a way, it reinforced what we had lost during the previous decade and we wandered our way through the decade rather aimlessly between presidents telling us he was not a crook, and another turning off light bulbs in the White House. And in between was a president who couldn't play golf without beaning a bystander with a golf ball, and couldn't depart Air Force One without stumbling down the steps.

It is only symbolic that the icon created and most displayed in the decade of the 70s was the smiley face -- the perfect expression of a traumatic decade -- if only because it, by its unique optimism, defies and denies the fact that the nation was repressed and profoundly shaken, and pretending that nothing in the 1960s had happened (enotes, 2010).


Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, once said that "the defeat of Soviet Communism is an outcome 'no less decisive and no less one-sided' than the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815 or of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945...What will probably prove to be the most important historical event of our lifetimes has already occurred" (D'Souza, 1999, pp. 129-130).

Despite much controversy over his part in the accomplishment of such a feat, the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States in 1980 would be at the top of the list for the event that most impacted Americans in the 1980s. It is a strongly held belief by many that Reagan's strong stance against the "evil empire," his development of the Star Wars missile defense system, and his ultimate close relationship with Michael Gorbachev were at least partly responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union two years later.

It is accepted by many scholars and experts that the Soviet Union was doomed to failure early in the 1980s because its economy could not keep up with the United States and its allies, nor could its military. and, frankly, Ronald Reagan scared them with his wild ideas of shooting down all their missiles. Their attempts to fund programs to defend against this system is partially what ruined their financial capability to compete. Internally, Gorbachev recognized the necessity for complete reform of the system. The communist hardliners in the government did not. His reforms failed because they were too much, too soon (allempires.com, n.d.). but, whether or not Gorbachev had pushed ahead, sooner or later, the Soviet system would have collapsed under the sheer weight of internal strife and economic chaos, again, partly caused, at least indirectly, by Ronald Reagan's hard-line stance and his contribution towards an arms build-up that would pointedly impact the Soviets when they were most vulnerable and end the Cold War.


The end of the Cold War in 1992, as the Soviet Union collapsed, had the most significant impact on Americans during this decade. Though we have discussed the cause of the collapse in terms of President Reagan's contributions and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was the actual, official end to the Cold War that greatly impacted an America that had to live with the fear of nuclear attack for 40 years. Now that threat was gone -- at least temporarily as we were to find out later (Rosenberg (2) 2010).

But the fact was that millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief, along with a sense of satisfaction that Khrushchev's shoe-pounding performance… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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