America in the 21st Century


I grew up during the Cold War, when everything seemed very tenuous. For many years, right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, I had vivid nightmares of nuclear apocalypse.

- Justin Cronin

The Berlin Wall wasn't the only barrier to fall after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Traditional barriers to the flow of money, trade, people and ideas also fell.

- Fareed Zakaria

America stood at the summit of power, emerging from the Cold War as an economic, cultural and military force without equal.

- Lincoln Chafee

After America won the Cold War, some believed we had come to the 'end of history,' and budget-cutters celebrated the so-called 'peace dividend.' As a result, we ignored the toxic mixture of militant Islam and terror that ultimately led to 9/11.

- Frank Gaffney

Since the attack on the United States on September 11 2001, and the US retaliation in Afghanistan and Iraq, there must be few people who have not felt a twinge of nostalgia for the Cold War.

- James Buchan

Since the end of the Cold War, America has been grasping left and right for an identity.

- Matt Taibbi

The shocking, paradigm shifting event of the 1990s was the end of the Cold War. As a child of the 50s and 60s, I presumed the eternal nature of the struggle with the Soviet Union. Like the works of Satan, they could be curbed by vigilance, but never eliminated. Then, in what seemed like an instant, Gorbachev released Russia’s powerful grip, the Berlin Wall was torn down by freedom loving Germans, and the whole “evil empire” came crashing down. We won, and we were the only superpower left standing! The dreams however, of a peaceful, democratic, American led post-Cold War world however have been challenged in the next 25 years by ideological and political challenges from the Middle East, economic competition from the Pacific Rim, and recently from the actions of a meddlesome, undemocratic and still powerful Russia. Domestically, although transformed by a technological revolution that has affected, for the most part positively, nearly every aspect of our lives, it has been a roller-coaster ride economically, while politically we have seemed to become increasingly and dangerously polarized. It is this era, from 1990 to the end of the Obama presidency that is the focus of our book, Viva La Vida: America in the 21st Century. Our book is the capstone to twenty-two years of A.P.U.S. History projects and seems to historically follow from last year’s book Back to the 80s. With only three weeks to complete our project after the AP test in May, we selected from volunteers a group of eight editors to plan our project and design, organize and publish the book. Topics covering the period 1990-2016 were chosen by the students, who then found serious historical works related to their topic. Their subsequent papers, which were subjected to multiple rounds of editing, are both a summary and an analysis of their books. Their articles were organized into chapters by the editors, and the resulting book (and the website) is their collaborative creation. The title “Viva La Vida” was chosen by our editors, not only because it was the title of a Grammy award winning album (2008) from a popular, post millennial rock group Coldplay and because it fit their smart phone technological theme, but because the song and it’s lyrics seemed to reflect the contradictions and disillusionment of the post-Cold War era. Our book is the creation of my two APUSH classes and is a tribute the hard work of the student writers and the dedication of the editorial staff, led by their fearless leader, Joyce Hsiou.

Steve Sewell, June 2017


Joyce Hsiou


Michael Franklin


Hala Ozgur

Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Justin Shin

Graphic Designer

Avadh Patel

Web Designer

Noelle Curtis


Kristine Nguyen


Michelle Chen


Annette Nguyen