Continuity and Change in the United States from 1997 to 2015


Although the events during 1997 to 2015 maintained the need for reform and recovery after catastrophic events, the events overall fostered more change than continuity.   Change came economically with the questioning of the impact of technology, politically with the election of new leaders, culturally with the acceptance of homosexuality, and in relation to the rest of the world with a new look on terrorism.

Document A:

John Noble Wilson

July 4, 1997

Craft to Mars Closes In On History

Newspaper article

Work, Exchange, and Technology

1997, Year of My Birth

"An American robotic spacecraft, Mars Pathfinder, gathered speed today as it came under the power of Martian gravity and closed in for a landing on the planet on Friday, the first in more than two decades and the opening of what is being called the second era of Mars exploration."

Historical Context: Prior to the late 1990's the Cold War was finally meeting its end and the Soviet Union was officially disbanded.  During the late 1990's, America experienced an economic boom in which GDP was at an all time high and unemployment was at an all time low.  This led to rapid technological changes and more money invested in the development of technology. Some of this money was supplied in the space program to create more robotic space crafts to send to Mars.

Purpose: The purpose of this article was to inform the American citizens of this brilliant new accomplishment.  This was the first Mars rover launched since 1976 and NASA wanted this news shared with the public.  The author of the article wanted to excite the readers and let them know that America was advancing tremendously in the field of space technology.

Reflection: This source reflects the change in technology during the late 1990's and how this change affected society.  Economically, more money was spent on technological innovations such as the new Mars space craft Pathfinder and its rover Sojourner.  This was the first Mars space craft since the 1970's, marking a turning point for the U.S space program.  The term "new era of Mars exploration" indicates that society was to turn its interest towards the space program again now that America was doing well economically. The people became excited about space programs like they did before in the 1950's-1970's during the Space Race.  Historians may find this source significant in the future because it shows a continuation of the U.S battling for space supremacy and a foreshadow of future technological advances to come.  This article is the initial announcement of the Mars craft and reflects the excitement and high hopes at the time.

Document B:

George W. Bush

September 11, 2001

Statement by President George W. Bush in his Address to the Nation


America in the World

2001, Elementary School

"Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining."

Historical Context: Prior to the 9/11 attack, Americans felt invulnerable.  They thought the two vast oceans on either side of the continent and the strong U.S military protected them from any foreign attacks.  The catastrophic events of 9/11 proved Americans wrong and left severe psychological damage along with the physical damage.  George W. Bush was recently inaugurated as President in January 2001.  This event tested Bush's response to emergencies as a new president.

Point of View: In Bush's address, Bush adopts a negative view of terrorism and the events of 9/11.  He describes these terrorist acts as "evil" and "despicable".  He feels great sorrow for those whose lives were lost and those who are mourning the lost.  However, Bush encourages his audience to keep their heads up.  He believes the American foundation is still steady and that the nation can overcome this travesty.  All throughout his speech, Bush uses emotionally loaded words to show his passion for the subject at hand.

Reflection: This source reflects the change of America's relations with other parts of the world, particularly the middle eastern countries from which the 9/11 terrorists came.  After these terroristic attacks, America was wary of the middle eastern countries and retaliated in the form of war or some type of military involvement.  The foreign policy changed by becoming more strict when dealing with possible terrorism.  America's new goal was to prevent as much terrorism as possible.  Historians would find this source significant in the future because the events of 9/11 represent a landmark in American history.  From that day forward, the government devoted much of its attention on anti-terrorism and military protection.  This source shows the President's firsthand response to the situation and how his point of view at the time led to the decisions he made later.

Document C:

Barack Obama

November 4, 2008

Barack Obama Elected President

Audio Recording

Politics and Power

2008, Elementary School

Historical Context: During the year of Obama's inauguration (2008), the economy was facing a major recession.  This recession was characterized by financial and mortgage crises.  The annual GDP shrunk dramatically and unemployment rose to new peaks.  This meant that once Obama had a brief celebration for his inauguration, he had to get to work right away in dealing with the recession.

Intended Audience: This speech was intended towards the American people.  Thousands gathered at the U.S capital or in front of their televisions to watch the first African American president become inaugurated.  This was an exciting new event because there had never been an African American president before.  Obama directed his speech towards the citizens anxious for his presidency and assured that America is place full of opportunities and he will take advantage of those opportunities.

Reflection: This source reflects the shift in political values.  The fact that an African American man could hold the highest government position over the U.S shows that Americans became more open minded and willing for change.  This shows that there really is equality and freedom for all, no matter your skin color or race.  Just 150 years ago, a man of Obama's race could be sold on the slave market.  Obama's inauguration shows the progress in society and its move towards a fair political system.  Historians would find this source significant because it is a landmark in history.  The first Black president will always be remembered.  Obama's success in the election and its reasons for success will always be analyzed by historians since it reflects the shift in Americans' mindsets.  Obama's speech was one that millions listened to so his choice of words was very important.

Document D:

The Washington Post

May 2, 2011

U.S Forces Kill Osama Bin Laden


America in the World

2011, Middle School

Historical Context: In the years after the 9/11 attack, U.S military was bent on tracking down the leader of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11.  Osama Bin Laden was the most wanted man on the planet.  He went into hiding shortly after the start of the Afghanistan War that followed 9/11.  America was in a anti-terrorist frenzy post 9/11 attacks. This frenzy was finally subdued when Bin Laden was finally found and killed by Seal team 6.

Point of View: This newspaper headline presents Bin Laden in a negative light.  The giant "Justice has been done" implies that the death of Bin Laden was indeed a benefit to the country.  He deserved to die.  This perspective accurately reflects how most Americans felt at the time because many were highly concerned about terrorism and the attacks on 9/11 and wanted to see the cause of 9/11 to get what he deserved.

Reflection: This source furthers the role of America in the world after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  When the attacks occurred, America changed its foreign policy laws by becoming more strict when dealing with possible terrorism.  The capture and death of the Al-Qaeda leader exemplifies that America was following through with this foreign policy.  This success sent a message out to the other terrorist groups in other countries that America was determined and America is not to be messed with.  America was and continued to be a superpower among the world. Historians would find this source significant because the word choice in the headline is crucial.  The headline emphasizes that a murder was justified, which would technically be seen as immoral since a murder is never okay.  But this is an exception and in this context, historians may believe Bin Laden deserved to die due to his previous actions.

Document E:

Phil Gast, CNN

May 9, 2012

Obama Announces He Supports Same Sex Marriage

Video/News Article


2012, Middle School

"President Barack Obama said Wednesday he supports same-sex marriage, raising the political stakes on an issue over which Americans are evenly split...Obama once opposed such marriages. He later indicated his views were 'evolving'...The president said he supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own, ABC News reported."

Historical Context: The first U.S state to legalize same sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004.  The Supreme Court case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health ruled that it was unconstitutional to allow only opposite sex marriages in Massachusetts.  For years leading up to 2012, several states followed Massachusetts's lead.  By 2012, twelve states had legalized gay marriage by court order, legislative actions, or referendums.  More and more people were pushing for equal marriage rights no matter what sexual orientation you are.  Obama recognized this trend by providing his own opinion on the subject.

Point of View: In the video, Obama confirms that he supports gay marriage.  He specifically stated, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."  This was quite a monumental announcement because the issue of same sex marriage is one that many Americans are split over.  Obama's opinion is very liberal and shows that he is open minded.

Reflection:  This source reflects a shift in culture when it comes to marriage.  Prior to the 21st century, people did not even imagine the legalization of gay marriage could be possible.  Most believed allowing males to be with males and females to be with females was against God's right and a sin.  As the time went on, more and more people accepted the fact that there were sexual orientations other than heterosexual and laws allowing gay marriage began to be passed.  This shows how America's culture changed from conservative and strict to more liberal and free.  Even Obama's support on the subject reflects this change.  Historians would find this source significant because in this modern era, fighting for equal rights is a very prominent issue.  This shows a continuation in history because civil rights movements have dated back to the 1960's.  Historians can reflect back on the gay marriage laws and analyze how they affected society's opinions.

Document F:

Patience Haggin, TIME Magazine

July 20, 2012

Eyewitness Tweets from The Dark Knight Rises Shooting in Colorado



2012, High School

Historical Context: During 2012 and 2013 there were a quite a few prominent mass murders and massacres in the U.S.  The first was this Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting at the screening of the Dark Knight Rises.  Shortly following this event, there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.  Then, in 2013, bombs were set off during the Boston Marathon.  All of these events are related because there were large numbers of people affected in each; they were either killed, injured, or mourning a loss of a loved one.  During these years, the issue of gun control was highly debated and most of these massacre events included guns.

Point of View: The tweets from the eyewitnesses at the time of the movie shooting exhibit fear, confusion, and disbelief.  These tweets were tweeted shortly after the first shots were fired and accurately reflect the initial chaos of that time.  The eyewitnesses tweeted, "Oh God, I don't know what to do." and "Little kids got shot..." and described the scene as "Chilling, just chilling."  People were shocked that a single man could just be so cold blooded and shoot random people that were just trying to enjoy a movie.  They were all fearing for their own lives or fearing for a loved one's life. 

Reflection:  This source reflects the shift in culture because this massacre shows how guns were a large part of society at the time and that even social media started to be intertwined into these catastrophic events.  People were getting on their phones and tweeting at the time of the shooting and this provided a new kind of primary source.  Their tweets gave us insight into the emotion felt at the shooting.  The trend towards technology and internet allowed this new primary source to be available.  The increased use of guns in society also allowed the shooter to be able to carry out this event.  Historians would find this source significant because many people were murdered or injured and this movie theater shooting would be added to the list of other mass murders involving guns.  This addition to the list further highlights the question of gun control and gun use in the U.S.

Document G:

Barack Obama

January 16, 2013

Remarks On Signing 23 Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

Audio Recording

Politics and Power

2013, High School

Historical Context: As the years go on, gun violence becomes more and more of an issue.  In 2010, 67% of all homicides in the U.S were conducted by a firearm.  Recent mass murders such as the Aurora movie theater shooting and Sandy Hook Elementary shooting blared on national news headlines.  In both of these events, a single armed individual released fire in a public area and caused several children and adult casualties.  In terms of face to face conflict, George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend in 2013.  These are just a few of the gun related homicides that have made the news.  The concerning amount of gun violence has led the government to seeking reform.

Purpose: In this speech, Obama intended to raise awareness about the increased gun violence in the recent decade.  He announces that he has 23 executive actions that will help reduce gun violence and he goes on to explain a few of those actions. Ultimately, he wants to persuade Congress to pass legislative acts that will help prevent gun violence and to persuade American citizens to help encourage their congressional representatives to do so.  Obama brings in an emotional appeal when he discusses the children lost in Sandy Hook and how some children wrote letters to him expressing unusually mature concerns about gun use.  He does so to make a change in gun control laws and prevent future massacres.

Reflection: This source reflects a debate over the value of freedom and protected rights.  Many believe that ordinary people should be able to possess a gun, as long they meet the lawful requirements, because the Second Amendment in the Constitution states, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."  Obama recognizes this amendment and its meaning but he argues that by allowing leniency based on this amendment, other more important rights are being put at stake.  The right to worship, the right to assemble peacefully, and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were denied to those killed in gun massacres.  Americans are very torn over the issue of gun control but in this speech Obama clearly states his opinion that there should be stricter background checks, more protection officers, and adequate mental health professionals.  Historians would find this source significant because the government is truly trying to make a difference about gun violence, which is a prominent issue.  Obama's reasoning and logic can be further analyzed to fully understand the issue of gun control and gun violence.

Document H:

Greg Botelho and Kevin Conlon, CNN

May 14, 2015

Amtrak Train Thought to be Going Twice as Fast as it Should Have Been

News Article

Work, Exchange, and Technology

2015, Current Year

"'Clearly it was reckless in terms of the driving by the engineer. There's no way in the world he should have been going that fast into the curve,' Nutter told CNN's 'The Situation Room.' Preliminary data show the train's speed exceeded 100 mph before the derailment. That would be more than twice the 50 mph speed limit for the curve it was in... Noting President Barack Obama's commitment to upgrading the country's infrastructure, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration is 'hard at work' trying to figure out what caused the crash..."

Historical Context: Lately, there have been a lot of large scale transportation machine mishaps that have resulted in deaths.  Two examples include the disappearance of the Malaysian Airline Flight 370 in 2014 and the sinking of the South Korean ferry in 2014.  Although these two events occurred outside of the United States, they show similarities to the Amtrak incident in 2015.  There was some kind of malfunction in the technology of the airplane/ferry/train, which caused the transportation to go off track.  This may signify that mass production of parts could have led to insufficient transportation vehicles and this may call for further investigation or reform.

Point of View: This article implies that the crash was the fault of the engineer.  Mayor Nutter calls his driving "reckless" and describes how the train went faster than 100 mph on a 50 mph curve.  He goes on to say that there is no excuse for this carelessness unless the engineer had a heart attack.  If the engineer had followed the speed limit, perhaps the train wouldn't have derailed and seven people wouldn't be dead.

Reflection: This source reflects the ongoing debate of whether the technological turn of the century is a good thing or bad thing.  Years ago, people would have never dreamed of riding high speed trains like the Amtrak.  Now, it is seen as a common source of transportation.  However, this comes with its downfalls.  A reliance on technology can lead to more severe accidents such as the Amtrak derailment.  A train derailing is much more likely to cause large scale death or injuries than a small car crash.  Historians would find this source significant because this article provides new insight into the accident rather than just simply stating the facts of the incident.  The possible reason for the crash is revealed, which is crucial to those negatively affected by the event.

Comment Stream