EL COLEGIO DE MICHOACÁN, A.C. Unidad de Idiomas READING COMPREHENSION EXERCISE —LEVEL 2— THE U.S.A.: 1945-THE PRESENT Of the Western powers, only the United States emerged from World War II virtually unscathed materially. The war had put billions of dollars into circulation, ended the long depression, and destroyed much of the nation’s foreign competition. The end of the war found big business and a high-spending military machine in close alliance an
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    EL COLEGIO DE MICHOACÁN ,  A . C .   Unidad de Idiomas   READING COMPREHENSION EXERCISE — LEVEL 2 —   THE U  . S .  A .:   1945- THE PRESENT    Of the Western powers, only the United States emerged from World War II virtually unscathed materially. The war had put billions of dollars into circulation, ended the long depression, and destroyed much of the nation’s foreign competition. The end of the war found big business and a high -spending military machine in close alliance and firmly entrenched. For most of the three decades after 1945, the U.S. enjoyed great economic prosperity. The pinnacle of prosperity came in the early and mid-sixties. Under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the government pursued liberal policies of social reform to attack poverty, implement new educational programs, build low-income housing, and increase government support for medical services. These policies put the U.S. more in line with other Western nations that had already established such social and “welfare state” institu tions. However, the expansion of new social programs and unquestioned prosperity would come to an end in the 1970s and 80s with new economic and political problems. Indeed, underlying the prosperity and confidence of the decades after World War II were a series of problems that often resulted in anxiety, unrest, fear, and violence. The first problem for Americans was the Soviet Union and communism; the so-called “ Cold War ” . From the very beginning of the postwar era, Americans feared the Soviet Union and communism. Many  journalists, military leaders, politicians, and business and professional people exploited this fear. During the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin fanned this fear into hysteria. In the eyes of McCarthy and his millions of followers, the American government, defense industries, armed forces, and educational system had been infiltrated by Communists and their fellow travelers. In 1957, just as McCarthyism was subsiding, the American people were shocked by the news that the Soviet Union had orbited a satellite: Sputnik  . The implication was that the lean, eager Russians had forged ahead in nuclear weapons and delivery systems while the soft, contented Americans had slept. Of course, the U.S. had for some time been working on a satellite of its own and in 1958 successfully orbited one. In 1961, the Soviet Union and the United States sent men into space and began to race each other to the moon. This race was won by the United States in 1969 at a cost of some $40 billion. Americans were strongly concerned over repeated Communist successes in Asia while, closer to home, the Communist takeover of Cuba in 1959 caused grave anxiety. The Cuban rebel leader, Fidel Castro, overthrew an American-supported rightist dictatorship. In 1961, the American government encouraged and aided an unsuccessful attempt by Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime and the following year, by heavy threats, forced the Soviet Union to dismantle the missile bases it had constructed in Cuba. This was the most frightening of all the confrontations between the two nuclear powers, both of which had sufficient nuclear capacity to destroy all the people on Earth. America’s next problem was the long -festering failure to integrate its large Black population. By 1945, Afro-Americans numbered some 20 million  – about a tenth of the total population  –  and although considerable advancement in material wellbeing and social equality had been made, the gains fell far short of the promise. T HE CURVE OF EXPECTATION WAS RISING FASTER THAN THE CURVE OF ACHIEVEMENT . Black veterans returning from World War II were particularly frustrated. In 1954, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in the public schools and later specified forced busing as a means of implementing the decision. In the following years, the civil rights movement was born, as Blacks struggled for greater equality within American society. White resistance varied in close proportion to the number of Blacks in the affected population: resistance flared up first in the Deep South and later in the large industrial cities of the North. Federal troops and marshals were used to overcome white resistance in the South. Millions  of whites in the large northern industrial cities fled to the suburbs, leaving many cities primarily black. In 1964, Congress passed civil rights acts that guaranteed voting rights and broadly outlawed racial discrimination. Nevertheless, this legislation did not end the turmoil that had been unleashed. Riots occurred in major cities in the 1960s, reaching a climax in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the most prominent of the Black leaders. In the 70s and 80s, the position of Blacks in U.S. society evolved but the record is mixed. On the one hand, the elevation of many Afro-Americans to positions of political leadership and the growing numbers of Blacks in middle class jobs and residential areas indicate important change. On the other, Blacks remain over-represented in the growing core of inner-city unemployed who live below the poverty line. Violence was by no means limited to the Blacks or to the United States. During the decade of the 1960s, youths all over the world were in revolt. However, violence and the crime rate were higher in the United States than in any other country, and were constantly increasing. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and his brother, Robert, a major candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, in 1968. College and university students staged protests, which often turned violent. Among the factors contributing to this unrest were continued racial inequality, widespread poverty alongside great wealth, inflation, wasteful destruction of natural resources, and growing dissatisfaction with American involvement in the war in Vietnam. While some of these problems became less immediate in the 70s, new ones arose. In 1974, confidence in the American political system was shaken by the Watergate scandal, which revealed widespread misconduct and crimes in the highest levels of Presi dent Nixon’s administration. Numerous high officials in the Nixon administration were forced to resign and were convicted and imprisoned. In August 1974, after it had become obvious that the president would be IMPEACHED  by the full House and convicted by the Senate, Nixon resigned. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford, a conservative Republican leader who granted Nixon full pardon for all crimes he “may have committed while in office.”  At almost the same time, economic problems stemming from the cost of the Vietnam War, from an unfavorable balance of trade, from growing inflation, and from the fourfold increase of oil prices between 1973 and 1974 began to catch up with the United States. The country was entering a new period of declining growth rates, increasing unemployment, and rising prices; indeed, it was losing its dominance in the world marketplace. In 1976, Ford was narrowly defeated by Jimmy Carter, but Carter ’ s administration confronted spiraling inflation, a threatened fuel shortage, a high rate of unemployment (particularly among Blacks and youths), a sense of disillusionment over the Vietnam War and its end, and broad distrust of all levels of government; difficult problems that were never solved. The Carter administration was further burdened with trying to free American hostages from a hostile Iran, and a new rise of oil prices. In 1980, Ronald Reagan and the Republican party were elected to power and initiated a series of conservative policies in an attempt to undo several of the liberal reforms of the previous decades: defense spending increased; a harsher line was taken toward communism; American arms and forces were sent to several areas around the world; workers and the unemployed were attacked, and tax reforms that benefited mainly corporations, the wealthy, and the middle class were enacted. The recession that began in the late 1970s deepened, with unemployment figures higher than in any years since the Great Depression of the 1930s. After 1983, the economy began to recover, but the relative prosperity was acquired at the cost of enormous governmental deficits. In 1988, George Bush was elected president, promising to maintain the conservative policies of the Reagan administration. –   A Short History of Western Civilization (Part Twelve: “Global independence  in the Contemporary World, 1945- Present”)   by Harrison, Sullivan and Sherman; McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990  EXERCISES : A.- Read the text and then indicate if these statements are TRUE   (T) or FALSE (F). 1. After World War II the United States enjoyed great economic prosperity. T 2. Under presidents Kennedy and Johnson liberal policies of social reform were pursued. T 3. Senator Joseph McCarthy was a champion of communism. T 4. In 1957, the United States launched the first satellite in history. T 5. In 1961, the United States was the only country that had sent a man into space. T 6. In 1962, the United States forced the Soviet Union to dismantle its missile bases in Cuba. T 7. By 1945, the Black population in the United States numbered 15 million. T 8. Congress guaranteed voting rights for Blacks and outlawed racial discrimination in 1964. T 9. In 1968, Martin Luther King became a senator. T 10. During the 1980s there were no Blacks unemployed in the U.S.A. T 11. American involvement in the Vietnam War was very popular in the U.S.A. T 12. During the Carter administration (1976-80), there was high inflation and unemployment. T 13. Reagan’s presidency initiated programs to protect nature, workers and the unemployed. T 14. When elected president, Bush promised to maintain Reagan administration policies. T 15. From the 1960s-1980s there were more Republican presidents than Democrats. T B.- Multiple choice: indicate the best answer according to the information in the text  . 1.- What period is described as “ of greatest prosperity  ”?   a) the 1950s. b) the 1960s. c) the 1970s. d) the 1980s. 6.- This term refers to the rivalry between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union from the 50s to the 90s …   a) The Cold War. b) The War of Vietnam. c) World War II. d) The Cuban Missile Crisis. 2.- What does “ THE CURVE OF EXPECTATION WAS RISING FASTER THAN THE CURVE OF ACHIEVEMENT  ”   (paragraph 6)  mean? a) People had unreal or exaggerated expectations. b) Reality didn’t correspond to people’s hopes.  c) Achievements   exceeded expectations. d) Results were better than people expected. 7.- Before the Civil Rights decisions by the Supreme Court (1954)  and Congress (1964) , Blacks were…   a) segregated in different public schools from whites. b) not guaranteed the right to vote. c) subject to severe racial discrimination. d) all of the above. 3.- Who was President of the U.S.A. from 1974-1976? a) Gerald Ford. b) Jimmy Carter. c) Ronald Reagan. d) Richard Nixon. 8.- Of these men, who was NEVER president of the U.S.? a) Nixon b) McCarthy c) Ford d) Carter  4.- Which of the following is NOT   mentioned as a problem for the Carter administration? a) spiraling inflation b) high unemployment c) distrust of government d) increased defense spending 9.- The word IMPEACHED  (paragraph 9)   means: a) remove an elected official from office. b) convict of criminal activity. c) sanction. d) sentence to imprisonment. 5.- What event caused people to “ MISTRUST ”  the American political system? a) The War in Vietnam. b) The assassination of President Kennedy. c) The American hostages in Iran. d) The Watergate scandal. 10.- What does “ only the United States emerged from World War II virtually unscathed materially  ” mean ? a) The U.S. did not suffer the loss of many soldiers. b) The U.S. was not responsible for World War II. c) The U.S. did not participate in World War II. d) The war did not ruin U.S. industries and economy. C.- Consult your dictionary and write the meaning of the following words from the text: 1. unscathed ______________________________________________________________________________ 2. entrenched ________________________________________________________________________ 3. low-income ________________________________________________________________________ 4. underlying ______________________________________________________________________________ 5. journalists ________________________________________________________________________ 6. successes ________________________________________________________________________ 7. encouraged ______________________________________________________________________________ 8. festering ________________________________________________________________________ 9. overcome ________________________________________________________________________ 10. turmoil ________________________________________________________________________ 11. unleashed ________________________________________________________________________ 12. widespread ______________________________________________________________________________ 13. fourfold ________________________________________________________________________ 14. burdened ________________________________________________________________________ 15. hostages ________________________________________________________________________

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