Continuity and Change in the United States


Thesis: My generation has seen significant changes in America culturally, technologically, and politically, and while these changes saw plenty of opposition, America has continued to be a powerful nation that has ultimately changed for the better.

Document A:

Source: Jonathan Larson, 1997

"RENT"/Culture/Recording/ 1997, Year of Birth


RENT's Broadway debut in 1997 not only brought change to the musical theatre industry but also had a huge impact on society. RENT takes place in New York City's East Village and features struggling artists all dealing with a mixture of HIV, AIDS, drug addiction, homosexuality, and a slew of other taboo topics for its time. In fact, the subject matter of RENT is one of the reasons it was such a success. RENT did what no mainstream musical had done before, and while cynics responded with disdain at its vulgarity, even more people created a cult following for the rock musical. RENT spoke to people who identified with the struggles and hardships of its characters and brought together a diverse community of people built on the tolerance and understanding of anything out of the mainstream. This in turn fostered change in society's view of the HIV positive, homosexual, and simply unconventional. Through Rent people learned, as Larson put it, to "give into love, or live in fear".

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

RENT premiered in the late 90's during the AIDS epidemic and its subject matter certainly reflects that. The musical presents very true to life characters and events for the time period, for example Roger and Mimi, both recovering drug users who suffer from HIV and Angel, a transgender woman who eventually dies of AIDS. A late 90's setting is crucial to RENT's plot as it's message only truly gets across with this end of the millennium backdrop, that message being to accept others for who they are, do not damn what you know nothing about, and above all love is more powerful than anything else.

Document B:


Robyn Ochs and Kirsten Steinbach/Politics and Power/Visual/2004, Elementary School

Politics and Power

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in America to legalize same-sex marriage. After months of debating the issue the decision that denying same-sex couples marriage rights was unconstitutional, and the bill was posed at the 2004 constitutional convention. Legislature debated the issue, passing several bills allowing civil unions among same-sex couples, and generally went back and forth on the issue until November 2004 when a referendum to change the status of same-sex marriage in the eyes of the government was changed to allow people of the same gender to get married, thus showing the "push and pull" so to speak that comes with democracy in politics.

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

The above image was taken a year after same-sex couples were granted equal marriage rights in Massachusetts, when the amendment to evoke the right was overturned. It perfectly shows the feeling of gratitude and accomplishment that those in the LGBTQ community felt when America finally made it's first steps in the direction of equality. In the image two women are seen hugging while one holds a sign saying "Thank You, Massachusetts". The photograph is moving and beautiful, as I'm sure it was designed to be. It shows people how important marriage rights are and how the people effected by inequality are real people with real feelings and emotions. It tugs at the heart strings of anyone who sees it, effectively helping those who may be opposed to same-sex marriage to see how important it is to LGBTQ couples.

Document C:


NANCY PELOSI:First Female Speaker of the US House Of Representatives/Politics and Power/Text/2007, Elementary School


First Female Speaker of the US House Of Representatives

Nancy Pelosi is the Minority Leader in the United States House of Representatives. In 2007 she became the 60th Speaker of the House and the first female Speaker in American history, a position she held until 2011. She represents California’s 8th District as a member of the Democratic Party.

Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940 to an influential political family. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro II, was a US Congressman and the Mayor of Baltimore. Her brother, Thomas D’ Alesandro III, was also Mayor of Baltimore between 1967 an 1971.

Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1962 with a degree in political science. She married her college sweetheart, Frank Pelosi, and had five children in six years between 1963 and 1969. Her political career began in earnest in 1969, when the family moved from New York to San Francisco, where her brother-in-law was a member of the City’s Board of Supervisors.

Over the next two decades, Pelosi worked her way up in California politics, eventually serving as Chair of the California Democratic Party and as a member of the Democratic National Committee. In 1985, she was narrowly defeated in a bid to become chairwoman of the DNC.

In 1987 Pelosi won a special election for the 8th District’s seat in the House, a seat that she has held ever since. She quickly became one of Congress’ strongest liberal voices on a variety of issues such as women’s reproductive rights, gay marriage, and staunchly opposing the War in Iraq. She was also one of the House’s most prolific members, serving at various times on the Appropriations Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and as the Minority WHIP and Minority Leader.

Politics and Power

Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives was a huge acomplishment for equality in the U.S. Having a woman in this position of political power helped to further the idea that women are just as capable as men of holding jobs in government, something that is still scarce and debated upon today. It also gave women a voice that they didn't fully have before, as Pelosi represented women with the point of view of one, fighting strongly for women's reproductive rights and same sex marriage, as mentioned in this excerpt from an article about Pelosi's life and accomplishments.

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

This profile of Nancy Pelosi was written to share her story with people in the hopes of inspiring them. Young women seeing her accomplishments in a time of gender inequality can inspire them to follow in her footsteps and show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to holding positions of power.

Document: D


Top Technology Trends that Ruled 2009/Work, Exchange, and Technology/Text/2009, Middle School

3D Cinema

Although digital 3D movies have now been around for a couple of years, the technology's widespread adoption has been hampered by a stalemate of sort: Studios were reluctant to invest in big-budget 3D movies that could only be played on a small number of screens, but without a steady stream of 3D movies, theater-owners were reluctant to spend the money installing these screens.

This nut was finally cracked this year--the mushrooming number of 3D theaters now numbers in the thousands, and is almost (but not quite) at that critical point where a blockbuster film can be released exclusively in 3D, without having to simultaneously release a watered-down 2D version in order to break even.

Work, Exchange, and Technology

The widespread use of digital 3D screens show a change in America, due largely to our huge movie industry. The movie industry being more prominent in the U.S than anywhere else makes this change effect American economy drastically. 3D movies being commonplace and successful added a new depth to movies and the amount of money they produce and therefore stimulated the industry and made more jobs and money for Americans.

Historical Context/Point of View/Reflection

This article was written at the end of 2009 when 3D movies were just beginning to break ground as commonplace, big budget blockbusters. Written from the point of view of an American citizen reflecting on the technological achievements of the time, it emphasizes how far America has come since then and how much more we can accomplish.

Document: E


Remarks by the President to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill/America in the World/Archival/2010, Middle School

Remarks by the President to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That’s why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge -- a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Document: F

Source: New York Times

Pope Francis's Declaration/Culture/Text/2013, High School

Work, Exchange, and Technology

In 2015 technology has been given a whole new identity. Cell phones have become a staple of technological advancement, getting smarter, faster, and lighter as the years go by. And no one is more famous for these revolutionary devices than Apple. Apple's release of the iPhone 6 took the smartphone industry from good to better with it's advanced capabilities such as voice recognition, mobile hotspots, and many more.

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

When this ad came out, not very long ago, the iPhone 6 had just hit the market and Apple's primary goal was to sell as many as they could. Like any other ad, this one aims to convince anyone who views it that they need an iPhone 6. This is especially important to Apple as their phone's don't always very much from one generation to the next, so they needed to use all the advertising they could to convince people to upgrade their phones to the next level.

A Conservative with a Common Touch

In 2001 he surprised the staff of Muñiz Hospital in Buenos Aires, asking for a jar of water, which he used to wash the feet of 12 patients hospitalized with complications from the virus that causes AIDS. He then kissed their feet, telling reporters that “society forgets the sick and the poor.” More recently, in September 2012, he scolded priests in Buenos Aires who refused to baptize the children of unwed mothers. “No to hypocrisy,” he said of the priests at the time. “They are the ones who separate the people of God from salvation.”

Though he is averse to liberation theology, which he views as hopelessly tainted with Marxist ideology, Cardinal Bergoglio has emphasized outreach to the impoverished, and as cardinal of Buenos Aires he has overseen increased social services and evangelization in the slums.

“I am encouraged by this choice, viewing it as a pledge for a church of simplicity and of ecological ideals,” said Leonardo Boff, a founder of liberation theology.


In 2013 Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope and drastically changed Catholicism. Pope Francis, unlike the Pope's before him, taught that Catholicism should be about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. He taught that while you may not agree with someone's lifestyle or choices, the christian thing to do is to treat them with kindness and respect. This is a drastically different perspective than the one held by previous Pope's who followed strict Catholic teachings that often meant excluding and demonizing those with different cultures, religions, and view points.

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

This article, written in 2013 when the Pope was first introduced, serves the purpose of educating people about his life and past experiences as sort of an introduction to the new leader of the Catholic church. They talk about the religious work he had done previously and speculate the kind of Pope he will be.

Document: G


Emma Watson UN speech/America in the World/Archival/2014, High School

America in the World

In 2014 Emma Watson gave an inspiring speech to the UN about feminism and the He for She campaign. She came out saying that she was undoubtedly a feminist and that the idea that feminism and man hating are synonimous needs to stop. Her video almost immediatley went viral around the world as people either passionately agreed or disagreed with her position. Watson being such an icon in America, due largely to her role in the hit Harry Potter films, gave her message an international audience that showed people all over, including America,  that feminism is not something to be afraid of, but embraced.

America in the World

The oil spill in the Gulf Coast was not only a tragedy for America but for the rest of the world as well. The oil spill being the biggest and most out of control the worlds ever seen meant that it spread all over the word to other seas and nations. The tragedy effected many water accessible nations and thankfully was able to eventually be contained, stopped, and the damage it caused undone.

Historical Context/Purpose/Reflection

This speech delivered by President Obama was given just after the events of the 2010 Gulf oil spill. It's purpose was to inform people about americas plan in this time of crisis and reassure them that action would be taken to make things right again and punish those responsible. It still holds weight today as the president describes this tragedy as the  "worst environmental disaster the world has ever faced".

Historical Context/Intended Audience/Reflection

In recent years the word feminism has gained a negative connotation. It is associated with radical man hating and it's commonly thought that any woman who identifies as one wishes female superiority upon the world. This, of course, is untrue and He for She is the project that Watson hopes will combat that stereotype. Watson is not only reaching out to women, but also primarily men. She talks about how femminism is not only an issue for women but men too, and presents a "formal invite" to men who don't think they can help the feminist movement.

Document: H


iPhone 6 ad/Culture/Visual/2015, Present Day

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