U.S. History Since 1877 (H205)

In a public statement following the shattering events of 9/11, President George W. Bush took stock of the life-altering event by contending that “America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.”  Since then, American leaders have engaged in a prolonged discussion of how American values contrast with those of the terrorists.  Indeed, by calling the United States “the brightest beacon,” Bush harkens back to a centuries-old idea that America has a unique role to play in the world.  Such a national conversation only further provokes the vital question of American identity: Who are we as Americans?  Has the U.S. had a unique national identity, and— if so— has that identity remained the same or altered over the years?  Is there a fundamental generational and philosophical shift underway after the September 11 attacks, and how might it take shape?  We will address these issues as we look at America’s past this semester, and examine critically whether American identity is undergoing a vital turning point as we approach the 21st century.