Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

Hubble Space Telescope and Space Shuttle (artist's conception). National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution


Détente with the People's Republic of China under Richard M. Nixon's presidency represented the beginning of a new era of global political change, the long term consequences of which remain unclear today. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union and the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe ended decades of Cold War, peace and a "new world order" have remained elusive for the United States. The nation has been pulled into one international crisis after another, from Iran to Iraq to the Balkans.

On the domestic front, the political and constitutional system of checks and balances established by the revolutionary generation were strained by the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs. This period also saw a jockeying for political power by Democrats and Republicans offering competing solutions for the nation's persistent economic and social problems. Social and cultural change has continued. The nation's gates were reopened to immigrants from Asia and Central America, and renewed reform movements were launched to carry out the environmental, feminist, and civil rights agendas that lost steam in the 1970s. The nation experienced a resurgence of religious evangelicalism, and technological innovation and corporate reorganization massively altered the character of work.

Presidents From This Era
Richard M. Nixon 1969-1974
Gerald R. Ford 1974-1977
Jimmy Carter 1977-1981
Ronald Reagan 1981-1989
George Bush 1989-1993
William J. Clinton 1993-2001
George W. Bush 2001-
Objects From This Era
White House Secret Service uniform hats
Anti-Vietnam War sign
Richard M. Nixon's resignation
Set from "Meet the Press"
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's swearing-in robe
Ronald and Nancy Reagan hosting a state dinner
Clinton/Gore "Cheesehead" hat
Movie still from "Air Force One"
Judiciary Committee roll-call sheet for Clinton impeachment
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