American Dreams by HW Brands Essay

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American Dreams by H.W. Brands

American Dreams chronicles the history of the United States after the defeat of the Axis powers until the present day. After World War II, America emerged as the major world power. It had an atomic capacity and had been less scarred, economically and politically, than Europe. How America managed this new role and how Americans' self-perceptions of themselves have changed over the subsequent decades is the subject of H.W. Brand's brief social history.

The book is organized into three sections. The first section, called Visions of Omnipotence (1945-1965), details the heady postwar time when America was first beginning to establish its authority in the world. It played a critical role in revitalizing the fortunes of Europe through the Marshall Plan and contained communism through the establishment of NATO and the Berlin airlift. This was also the era of the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fears about the Cold War simmered beneath the surface of the optimistic rhetoric of Kennedy's New Frontier and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. For every Berlin Airlift that was successful there was also a Sputnik that sharpened American resolve to improve its military capacity in relation to the Soviet Union.

The second section, The Twilight of Liberalism (1965-1986), details how the idealistic dreams of the early 1960s began to crumble and fragment in the wake of the social divisions generated by the Vietnam War amongst the American body politic. Politically, America became more stratified, as the South turned away in anger from the Democratic Party that had supported the Civil Rights acts. The title of Brands' book refers to Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech." Delivered during the March on Washington, King's dream exemplifies the ideals of American liberalism. This dream was often forgotten and betrayed as America grew less certain of its collective values and path. For all of his famous crassness, Texan Lyndon Johnson also had an ambitious dream to end poverty -- a dream that utterly collapsed after America became increasingly involved in Vietnam. The…

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Work Cited

Brands. H.W. American Dreams. New York: Penguin, 2010.

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