Wright Brothers make their first flight (1903)
I think this is a very important event in US history as it showcases one of the things that make America exceptional. The Brothers flight wasn’t the first powered airplane flight in history it also started a new era of air travel and defines global trade today. This innovation coming from the US and changing the world is the beginning of the United States rising economic power that continued throughout the 20th and 21st century up until today and made and still makes the US exceptional.
For the memory that connects best to this historical event I picked my first day in Elementary school. I think it connects very strongly to the Wrights Brother first flight since it also was my “first flight” into school life and into the environment and place where I spent most of life in the last 11 years. I was very excited to finally be in school and very eager to learn. Although I am not quite that enthusiastic about school anymore I think my attitude towards school is something that makes me exceptional, just as the innovations and inventions coming from the US made the country exceptional.
FDR becomes democratic presidential candidate (1932)
Going into a contested convention FDR was far from certain to become the presidential nominee for the democratic party but in the end he emerged victorious against his biggest rival Al Smith. With his New Deal policies Roosevelt stopped and contained the Great Depression and gave Americans hope for the future. I think he was the best president the US had in the 20th century and did a great job in dealing with the crises he had to deal with during his 3 terms in office (first and only president to serve more than 2 terms). Although it was WWII that ultimately stopped the Great Depression and massively increased America’s economic power I think Roosevelt's legacy as a “socialist” president changed Americans values permanently.
For my personal memory that I think fits best with this event in US history I chose my Winter Break in sophomore year. Since the only years that counts toward your high school diploma in Germany are 11th and 12th grade I wasn’t really too concerned about my grades when I moved to the US in the beginning of Sophomore. That was partly because I hadn’t realized yet how important all 4 years of high school are and partly because there was a lot of other stuff going on in my life since I just moved to another country. But in these 2 weeks over winter break I realized I have to start doing more for school and sacrifice my free time to study. I think this was a very big and important change in my life that changed what I valued and what defines my everyday life.
For my audio I picked a famous rocky quote that of course exaggerates the sacrifices you have to make for school but I think it fits the general idea and it also is a perfect example of internationally known american pop culture.
US drops Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945)
In my opinion the actual event wasn’t as important and extensive as the way these two bombs changed the world forever. Of course it is still important to remember all the people who died but I think the issue whether it was justified to drop the bombs is too controversial and can not be answered in a simple paragraph. I think the main significance of this event is that it not only changed the United States identity but also started a new age of nuclear weapons. When the US dropped the bombs it became forever the nation to first use weapons of mass destruction and gained, although other nations later also acquired nuclear weapons, the title of a superpower who is ready to do whatever is necessary. This change in identity from the noble and morally perfect nation to a nation that does whatever is necessary greatly influenced the United States foreign policy in the post WWII years up until now.
Since I’ve only talked about the significance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki I wanna use an image of the immediate destruction the bombs caused that left the whole world in shock:
To be honest I don’t think I have a personal memory that is appropriate to be connected to Hiroshima and Nagasaki or would portray a “whatever is necessary” value. The only memory I have which I can somewhat connect is when I almost got hit by a car on my bike in 7th grade. I was driving to the beach with my family and there was a big intersection on which cars that turn left get green at the same time as pedestrians (or cyclists) crossing the street. The man who was biking right in front of me got hit by a car that was going way too fast trying to catch the green left turn light before it changed. Luckily the car missed me by a foot and only hit the back of the man’s bike. My parents had to call an ambulance because the man had broken a rib and his arm I think. The lasting effect this had on me wasn’t seeing the man all scraped up and in pain it was seeing how close I was to being hit. The experience showed me how fragile life is and that from one moment to the next it all can be over.
Creation of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (1949)
The reason why the United States and 11 other Western European nations came together to create NATO was no other than the threat of more Communist Expansion. The immediate reaction from the USSR and its allied Communist nations was the Warsaw Pact a rival alliance that made almost every European nation ally with one of the 2 sides. The NATO had a long lasting impact as it still exists today and is greatly responsible for the long lasting peace in Europe since WWII despite almost constant Russian aggression. In addition to all the things NATO did in Europe it also showcased a big change of values in the US.
A moment in my life that connects to the creation of Nato is the moment when I got my license. Here in the US it is very hard to be independent from your parents before you get your license since they have to drive you almost everywhere. Once you get your license that changes and you become a lot more independent since you can come and go anywhere whenever without being dependent on someone that drives you. You are not completely isolated before you get your license but you are certainly a lot more isolated than when you have your license.
First American satellite is launched (1958)
Four months after Russia orbited Sputnik the first satellite ever the US army launched Explorer 1 into its earth orbit. The small satellite produced only one major discovery (The Van Allen radiation belts). Despite its small size the small metal cylinder marked the beginning of the space age that defines all of our lives today. Without satellites most of our electronic gadgets and global communication would not work. Although the US wasn’t the only contributor to improving technology I think this is the perfect example to show how the US used its growing power for good and pushed for new technological advances that benefited and still benefit the whole world.
My personal memory I connect to this is when I joined Facebook. Since I never owned a smartphone or flip phone I was never into texting because it simply takes too long on older phones. So when I joined Facebook it was my first social media network and the first time I was texting and communicating with friends on a daily basis from my house. I became a lot more integrated through Facebook since everybody used it to organize events. Nowadays I barely use Facebook but I used to spend and as I now know waste a lot of time on social networks. I think it shows of my growing maturity that I know not to spend too much time online and actually only use social networks to communicate with friends that I don’t see everyday.
MLK delivers his “I have a dream” speech in Washington (1963)
When MLK gave his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington the whole world listened. He gave his speech in front of 250,000 demonstrators demonstrating for Jobs and Freedom. Today his speech is the best known speech in US history only challenged by Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. MLK and this speech have become the symbol of the civil rights movement around the world. I think this event is important in showing how slowly but steadily the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum and how american values changed and people were ready to leave the prejudice and hate of the Jim Crow Era behind.
My personal memory for this event are the first two months after I moved here. In those two months I learned to accept that I am in the US and there is no point whatsoever in being angry about moving here. I learned to not see it as something bad to be here but to value my time here and even though it is hard sometimes and I never wanted to move it is a good experience I can take with to college.
Congress approves Gulf of Tonkin resolution (1964)
I picked the approval of the resolution instead of just choosing the whole Vietnam war because I think the resolution shows what was wrong with the Vietnam war from the beginning. Congress approved the resolution that gave president LBJ the right to do whatever is necessary to stop further aggression. The reason for the fast approval was the fact that there were reports that north vietnamese submarines repeatedly attacked US army ships. Later it came out that LBJ and his advisors misled congress into approving the resolution. The fact that the war was already started on a lie just shows why the people were fed up with the government and demanded change. I think the Vietnam war represents two major course questions. Firstly it shows that the US didn’t always use its growing power for good and secondly it shows a change in values in young generations at that time.
The only memory I have that could be connected to Vietnam since it is also connected to dishonesty and lying is when in 6th grade one of my “best friends” lied to me. For reasons I never knew he tried to avoid me and didn’t invite me when our whole friend group hung out. Since then I can’t stand it when people try to make up stupid stories and excuses for why they did or didn’t do something. Due to that occasion and the way my parents brought me up honesty is a very important value for me.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is signed (1965)
This Act was very important, and still is, to US history as it completely changed the demographic makeup of the United States population. The Act abolished the quota system that had previously regulated US Immigration and was discriminatory towards Asian, South American, and southern European Immigrants. The new act favored Immigration based on reuniting families and attracting skilled laborers. Without this piece of legislation the United States wouldn’t even be close to as diverse as it is today and would’ve missed out on many technological and economic contributions by Immigrants. I think this act if one of the things that makes the US exceptional and it shows a change in values. It makes the US exceptional as it paved the way for the diverse population today.
My personal memory that connects to the immigration act is when in 8th grade a boy in my class came out as gay. 8th grade is very early for someone to have already fully developed their sexual identity and it was a very courageous move by that person. I had never met anyone who was gay or significantly different in any other way and I think knowing someone well for years and then finding out he is gay made me very tolerant towards any kind of difference in people. I strongly believe that everybody should be able to live their life however they want as long as they don’t endanger anyone even if some people may be offended for religious I other reasons I think it is none of their business. I think that this experience of knowing someone for years but not really knowing him shaped my identity and what I value.
US Embassy in Tehran is Occupied (1979)
In 1979 radical Iranian Students took over the US embassy after the fall of the brutal Iranian dictator Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi who was backed by the US. For the next 444 days the world watched as the helpless American citizens were humiliated. This event is so important as it didn’t only cost Jimmy carter his second term but also laid the basis for the United State’s aggressive middle eastern foreign policy up till today. Through the revolution and the hostage crisis Iran went from the United States strongest ally in the middle east to one of its biggest enemies. The whole situation in Iran before the hostage crisis shows that the US also used its growing power and influence to enrich itself disregarding the conditions the people in Iran had to live under.
My personal memory that I think relates best to the crisis is when my grandfather died 5 years ago. At the time I was only 12 and didn’t really know what was going on since my parents didn’t tell us how sick my grandfather really was as it wasn’t sure yet whether he would make it or not. About 2 months before he died he unexpectedly fell into a coma and never woke up again. It was very tough since I never got to say goodbye to him. I think his death really showed me how I missed out on spending time with him and kinda just going careless through life and not appreciating the people around me. I believe that this experience made me more mature as I am more aware and more appreciative of the people in my life.
The Pneumocystis Pneumonia Report is published (1981)
Pneumocystis Pneumonia was and still is the most common opportunistic disease affecting people with HIV/AIDS. When the report was published that diagnosed PCP in 5 gay men it was the first time that doctors and scientist were researching and trying to find the HIV virus. These 3 of these 5 men died although they were all perfectly healthy. All 5 individuals had no relation to each other so all that was known was that the sickness presumably was connected to gay lifestyle in some way. In 1983, to prevent the transmission of AIDS the Public Health Service recommended to avoid sexual contact with persons known or suspected to have AIDS. The emergence of this super virus for which science had no cure changed America forever. It reshaped almost every aspect of american culture and society, it forced americans to talk about end of life issues, started patient activism, and started discussions about medical privacy. AIDS also forced conversations about sexuality and homosexuality. And many believe it laid the groundwork for current debates over gay marriage and gay rights. Today AIDS has killed more americans than WWII and every subsequent conflict and it is still spreading rapidly in many third world countries.
My personal experience that changed me somewhat in a way like aids changed the US is when I was 11 and my Dad showed me his picture collection of his road trip through India in 1990. He showed me a picture of the Ganges river in Calcutta. In the picture he was standing on a big bridge over the ganges and under him was a constant flow of dead bodies in the water right next to the people who did the holy washing. The bodies are from families who are too poor to bury their dead so they just throw them into the river. Seeing those pictures really shocked me and I think the degree of poverty that makes you throw your family members dead body into a river is truly shocking for anyone of any age. Seeing those pictures definitely shaped my identity as in teaching me a lesson about appreciating what I have and never taking anything for granted.
The most unique part of American culture I experienced so far in my time here is Thanksgiving. Before I moved here I had actually never even heard of the term Thanksgiving as it is nonexistent outside of the US. For last years Thanksgiving my whole family was invited to the Thanksgiving dinner of an American family and it was a completely new experience to all of us. Despite having already lived in the US for more than a year I had never seen most of the food served. Things like pumpkin pie or squash soup were dishes I had never even heard of since they are apparently only common on Thanksgiving. All in all the food was very good and I really enjoyed the whole day. I really like the meaning of the holiday as a day were the whole family gets together and celebrates and is thankful for everything they have. Thanksgiving is a crucial part of American culture as people reflect on their life and think of their ancestors and the history of their country. I think Thanksgiving is an awesome american holiday and I would love having a similar one in Germany where the only holiday on which the whole family gets together is Christmas.