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The debates regarding environmental protection, globalization, and the distribution of wealth continue to arouse impassioned debate. Issues that were heavily debated during the Clinton administration, such as welfare, continue to revolve around the desire to prevent fraud and dependency while ensuring adequate provisions for children. Both sides cite statistics showing that poverty rates have changed little between 1996 and 2011 to support their own conclusions about the 1996 reforms. Liberals call for more aggressive funding in hopes additional programs might end the cycle of poverty while conservatives claim that welfare itself helps to create a culture of dependency. A similar debate surrounds the issues of taxation and the unequal distribution of wealth that spawned the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the fall of 2011.
The post–Cold War period saw the greatest threats of history replayed throughout the globe. International instability, tyrannical dictators, economic crises, and attempted genocide have continued to shape US policies and identities at home and abroad. For the attentive student of history, the challenges of the past surround the present. America’s record regarding international affairs revealed the continuity of challenges and contradictions that had defined America’s emergence as a superpower. Aware of the service and sacrifice of those who placed America in a position of global leadership, the youths of this most recent generation continue to balance the priorities of defending those in need with supporting a nation’s right to self-determination. For a new generation of Americans, the lessons of generations past resonate in a renewed determination to create an America that lives up to its own lofty ideals. Armed with an understanding of America’s past, there is reason to believe that the next generation will arise and lead a nation whose greatest challenges and finest moments are yet to be written.