American history, or really history in general, is not always marked by outstanding events, stunning personalities or remarkable speeches. Much of the history of a nation is slow steady improvement, set backs, then how people recover from those setbacks. But in the context of American history, there a number of truly phenomenal moments when everything changed.
These are not just one day events, although they are just that sudden, But these are events that once they transpired, Americans thought of themselves, the world and their place in that world completely differently. And it’s worth noting what those events were and how they changed America forever.
Obviously the revolution itself and the founding of the country changed a small group of colonies who thought of themselves as Englishmen far from home. When the independence of our country was done, that vision was completely different. We were now a proud new nation, a new nationality with it’s own view of the world, with it’s own hopes and dreams as well.
World War II was the kind of event that once we underwent the trials, struggles and demands that such a war demands of a people, we could never go back to seeing ourselves the same as we did before the war. Our victory against japan, Germany and their allies gave us the confidence that we could affect World history for the better. It also gave us a great sense of responsibility. When we dropped those bombs on Japan, everybody on the planet began to understand the horrible power that was now in the hands of mankind, for a season in the hands of America and the huge responsibility for the fate of mankind that came with that power.
Pearl Harbor, while part of World War II, deserves mention on it’s own because of the fundamental change in how America viewed itself in relation to the world. Prior to that attack, America viewed itself as invulnerable. Like a teenager who thought that they could never be hurt, we had never been attacked on our homeland before. But Japan proved that they could not only attack us, but could hurt us very badly. Yes, we responded with a fury, but from that moment forward, we knew, that we, like everybody else in the world, that we were vulnerable. And that we had to start behaving differently in a world full of both friends and enemies.
Outside of the military world, the famous “I have a dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the march on Washington on August 28, 1963, did not just change the black community forever. It changed the way the African American community saw their future, and it gave hope and inspiration to a struggling civil rights movement, that spurred it on to victory. But it also changed all Americans, as we began to see ourselves as many cultures, many races and many orientations. It was the beginning of acceptance in this country. But, that is a process that is far from being over.
In modern times, the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, on Sept. 11, 2001, had a dramatic effect on the hearts and minds of America, and indeed on the world. We are still learning how that effect will ultimately show itself, as the ripples of shock, fear, anxiety and reprisals are still going on. But, to be sure, as with Pearl Harbor, the effects on our feelings of our place in the world, and our vulnerability, will be changed forever.
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