Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 16: Becoming Free
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Webisode 16
Ronald Reagan meets Mikhail Gorbachev
President Reagan speaks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the White House during their Washington summit in December 1987. The friendship between these two men would help to bring a thaw to the Cold War that had dominated global relations for over forty years.

Becoming Free
Richard Milhouse Nixon served as the thirty-seventh president of the United States. His foreign policy accomplishments rank his tenure as one of the most dynamic in presidential history. Inheriting the war in Vietnam from previous administrations, Nixon first sought a military solution, but then turned to diplomacy to end United States' involvement. By approaching Communist China in a historic visit in 1972, Nixon drove a wedge into the powerful Soviet/Chinese block, which began to diplomatically isolate the various Communist dominated countries around the world. This strategy not only ended the war in Vietnam (1973) but also led to the first nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union and limited the spread of soviet influence in the Middle East.

For many years, Nixon's involvement in the cover-up of a politically motivated break-in known as the Watergate scandal overshadowed his accomplishments. Faced with the threat of impeachment over Watergate and sensitive to America's strained political resilience, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.

The impeachment of Richard Nixon created distrust in the presidency. Although Gerald Ford helped restore confidence in the office, he could not secure his own election after he completed Nixon's term.

Jimmy Carter, the newly elected president, worked tirelessly to secure peace in the Middle East. He convinced Menachem Begin, the prime minister of Israel, and Anwar al-Sadat, the president of Egypt, to sign a peace treaty. Despite the tenuous peace between Israel and Egypt, trouble grew between the United States and Iran. Militant Muslim students, under the leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini, assaulted the United States embassy in Tehran and took fifty-two hostages. Carter responded by refusing to import oil from Iran and attempting a military expedition to release the hostages, which failed. The Iran hostage crisis led to an oil shortage in the United States and caused difficulties abroad.

War between Iran and Iraq (in which the United States supported Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein) and international pressure led to the release of the hostages on the day Ronald Reagan took office as the next American president. Reagan, too, faced growing problems with terrorism. In 1983, a suicide bomber killed 241 United States Marines in Lebanon.

Instead of concentrating his efforts on terrorism, President Ronald Reagan tried to gain peace between the United States and its old enemy, the Soviet Union. To this end, Reagan engaged in peace talks with Mikhail Gorbachev, the soviet premier, urging him to tear down the Berlin Wall.

The soviets finally tore down the wall during George Bush's (Reagan's successor) presidency. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, students in China rebelled against their government. The Chinese government sent an army to suppress the rebellion in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The harsh reaction of the Chinese government led to great outrage in the West, but little direct action could be taken. Bush led the country to war in the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Storm. While this action reduced Saddam Hussein's power, the region remained unstable, as Bill Clinton became the new chief executive.

Sitting among a class of second graders at a school in Sarasota, Florida, to highlight his administration's education programs, President George W. Bush was visibly shaken at 9:05 A.M., when Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, told him a second plane had hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Via television, as the world looked on in horror, the terrible events of September 11, 2001, unfolded. President George W. Bush, forty-third president of the United States, placed the nation's armed forces on high alert to face an unprecedented terrorist threat. Over the next several days and months, in speeches that outlined the events and America's response, the president rallied the nation and formulated the beginning of a new policy of pro-active defense.

The United States is a country founded on freedom. Our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights all discuss and ensure these freedoms. Yet despite this, America has never entirely become the reality for which we strive. The history of this nation is a story of moving towards freedom, coming ever closer and closer, without actually reaching the ultimate goal. This story of the striving for freedom will continue as long as this country stands.

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