Significant Events in the Development of History in the U.S.
The United States has a rich history, marked by the remarkable accomplishments of ordinary people whose actions made them extraordinary. Throughout its history, the United States has become a tapestry of excellence. By reviewing some of the significant milestones of its past, we can discover how our nation has become what it is today.
1. The Social Security Act
In 1935, the Social Security Act was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was intended to provide income for elderly people in our nation. The program used the payroll taxes withheld by employers to support people during their retirement. Its significance to the development of our history has been monumental: it began by eliminating much of the poverty previously suffered by the elderly but has evolved over the years to touch every age group.
President Roosevelt’s altruism was inspired by the aftermath of the nation’s Great Depression. His influence on Social Security extended its reach beyond its initial recipients, including benefits for unemployed people and funds for children of single mothers. By 1965, the program had evolved into our current programs of Medicare and Medicaid.
Although Social Security continues to provide income for millions of people today, its administration has become complex. Many who apply for Social Security benefits are denied benefits because of the intricacies of the application process. A new type of lawyer – social security attorneys – was created to assist people in this process. These attorneys became the advocates for people seeking benefits for themselves or their children.
2. The Dust Bowl
Another economic milestone in the development of American history featured the effects of several devastating droughts. These droughts occurred after a series of dust storms. This series of events happened in the middle of the southern U.S. during the 1930s. During this era, the affected people lived in extreme poverty, until they were assisted by Federal Aid.
As the nation began experiencing the financial downfall which eventually led to the Depression, the price of grain fell dramatically. Wheat farmers tried to compensate by plowing their grassland to provide more space to grow wheat. Using farming apparatuses like a grain leg (a device that lifted grain from the field to transport it to a storage location), the wheat farmers tried -in vain – to fortify the nation’s grain supplies.
In 1932, reporter Robert Geiger invented the nickname ‘The Dust Bowl’ to describe this period and its decimating effects. Since these events coincided with the Great Depression, the financial impacts of the drought were even more intense. In 1933, Federal funds began reversing the adverse effects of the storms for those involved.
3. The Great Recession
The Great Recession of 2007 was a more recent economic event with a widespread negative financial impact. This financial crisis was due to an avalanche of adverse financial events, such as a drop in housing prices. When decreased property values caused an onslaught of homeowners to give up their mortgages, the banks could no longer lend money to businesses. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has cited this Recession as the worst financial period since the Great Depression. (1)
The echoes of financial ruin caused by the Recession impacted credit availability. Banks could no longer provide credit as readily since banks had to prioritize paying down their debts. Although President George W. Bush initiated some banking bailouts, they did little to alleviate the frustrations of most struggling homeowners. Voters reacted to the financial crisis by shifting political loyalty to the Right, and the rise of the ‘Tea Party’ began a political schism that has only become more solidified in today’s political arena.
Because of international trading, the effects of the Recession spread to other countries, but its impact remained most destructive in the United States. During this era, although the real estate listings were filled with low-priced houses, fewer people could qualify for mortgages to buy them. Despite a desire to buy a home, the decreasing home values caused people to feel compelled to rent instead of buying a home. The housing market has since regained momentum, but the aftereffects remain in many parts of the country.
4. The New Deal
After the Great Depression, the U.S. desperately needed economic recovery and a return to financial sanity. President Franklin Roosevelt initiated several programs he called ‘the New Deal.’ His purpose for the New Deal was to provide financial relief for the poor, correct the country’s economic direction, and renovate our financial infrastructure.
During the initial period of the program’s enactment, 15 pieces of legislation were enacted. The FDIC (Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation) – a significant development in financial history – was created to prevent depositors from losing money in case of a future bank failure. Programs devoted to agricultural recovery and restoration of national parks and forests were also enacted. The most extensive of President Roosevelt’s programs was called the NRA (National Recovery Act.)
The NRA put people back to work and proposed to make wages and hours fairer for the workers. Its influence brought about the practice of collective bargaining. Workers from many industries – from steelworkers to concrete contractors – joined together to complete large projects like the Hoover Dam and the Lincoln Tunnel.
5. The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, and it outlawed workplace discrimination against disabled people. The purpose of the law was to guarantee equal rights to the disabled and make it more possible for all people to make a living. This impactful development of history became a game changer – for employers and for disabled people who would otherwise be disqualified for many good jobs. An amendment to the law, in 2008, mandated that employers need to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled people to do their job.
Over time, this law has evolved. Changes have been made to expand the definition of ‘disabled’ to include mental health challenges and sensory deprivation, such as blindness and hearing impairment. This change necessitated changes in the design of chairs and desks. The law also causes the addition of handicapped-accessible bathrooms, mobility handrails, and computer programs that enable sensory-impaired people to perform the duties of their jobs.
When disabled employees have difficulty obtaining reasonable accommodation, they can turn to disability lawyers. These attorneys have knowledge of the ADA and can represent these people in their quest to acquire the ability to do their jobs. They can also work with disabled applicants who feel discriminated against during hiring. When disabled people can no longer work, attorneys can represent them during their application for disability benefits.
6. Woodstock Music and Art Fair
In 1969, a musical festival in upstate New York changed how people envisioned concert experiences. The three-day festival became one of the largest music festivals in history, but its significance extends beyond its musical performances. Approximately 400,000 people attended the gathering and transcended the musical performances to transform the experience into a celebration of peace and love. Coming, as it did, in 1969, Woodstock seemed almost an extension of the anti-war movement.
Many performances at the festival had historical significance. Two of the most memorable performances included Judy Collins’ song, ‘Woodstock,’ and Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rendition of our National Anthem. The festival’s music was immortalized in a 1970 documentary film, and it launched several of the festival’s 32 performers to an enduring legacy of fame. Woodstock’s contribution to the development of musical history is still felt in many of today’s performances.
Despite its success as a musical celebration, Woodstock presented challenges for its attendees. The unexpected influx of fans created a traffic jam, and the rainy weather created muddy conditions. Those who had prepared for the festival hadn’t expected such a crowd, and they didn’t have enough food. Underestimation of the crowd also meant they could not supply enough sanitary facilities – even with porta potty rental.
7. September 11th Attacks
Many dates are indelibly carved into the memories of U.S. citizens. September 11, 2001, is one of the most significant of those dates. That morning, Jihadi terrorists highjacked two planes full of passengers and purposely crashed the aircraft into the buildings of the World Trade Center. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon, while a fourth plane — possibly headed for the White House — had its mission thwarted by its passengers.
Any passenger flights in the air, that day, after the planes’ impact were ordered to land. September 11 became a development of our history which changed how we view personal security. As the nation reeled in its shock and grief, the need for better security was suddenly on everyone’s mind.
Many Americans realized the irony of terrorists attacking our country on September 11 (since ‘911’ is the phone number to call to summon emergency services). The country’s response was tinged with outrage, and the demand for private and corporate security companies increased. With time, the physical aspects of security services have become tied to technological security systems.
8. The National Park Service Organic Act
This law, nicknamed ‘The Organic Act,’ was intended to preserve our national parks’ scenery and historical monuments. The Act directs the National Park Service to care for lands and natural features found in 58 national parks. The law was signed into law in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. In addition to national parks, The Act also regulates care for other nationally protected territories, including national cemeteries and seashores.
The purpose of the Act is to preserve our parks and national territories for future park visitors. This development of our history shows how highly our country values natural beauty. The National Park Service is responsible for all necessary actions in caring for the parks, from trimming lawns to arranging for any needed tree removal.
Few people realize the origin of many of today’s computer networks is based on 1969’s ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network.) This development in our technological history was the first public computer network using a packet-switched method. Packet switching refers to the early practice of dividing computer messages into parts and then putting them back together when received.
At the time of its initiation, ARPANET was used for educational and research projects. Many computer experts believe our current internet wouldn’t be possible without the influence of ARPANET. With the success of ARPANET, other packet-switched networks developed. These diverse networks could only communicate with each other once TCP/IP was created in 1977.
Even though ARPANET is no longer used, it remains the foundation of our current computer systems. Today’s businesses find computers indispensable, and large companies need IT support services. Whether for employee education or troubleshooting network problems, IT support is an integral part of today’s business arena.
10. The Louisiana Purchase
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought the area known as the Louisiana territory from the French First Republic. President Jefferson wanted to expand our country toward the West. With this purchase, the President acquired 828,000 square miles of land. He began by requesting funds for the purchase of New Orleans.
Once the sale of New Orleans was approved, President Jefferson began to pressure lawmakers until they approved the funds to purchase the rest of the land in the territory. After the purchase, the size of the U.S. almost doubled. The most important feature of the acquisition was the Mississippi River, allowing traders to move their products out to sea. This development of history became the setting of states that now form the middle of our country.
Although the United now ostensibly had a considerably larger area for its citizens to occupy, blending that area into the U.S.A. took work. President Jefferson had to employ surveyors to confirm the exact coordinates of its borders. The area was full of French refugees and their slaves. For most of its early years, the lands in the Louisiana Territory became another arena for the national debate over slavery.
These landmarks are only some of the significant historical events that have brought our country to where we are today. Our shared heritage can remind us of the many remarkable people who brought about these events. Only time will tell what our future will be, but we can pray that our shared American resilience will allow us to emerge stronger than before.