America's Next Century

January 9, 1976

Report Outline
Current Interest in Futurism
Outlook for Individual Americans
Prospective State of the Nations
Potential U.S. Role in the World
Planning for America's Future
Special Focus

Current Interest in Futurism

Sense of Uncertainty About the Nation's Future

When the united states began its centennial year in 1876, the national spirit was high. Americans were justly proud of their past and confident about their future. It was a time to look forward, with hope and anticipation. The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition later that year was an exciting smorgasbord of the technological marvels that would revolutionize American life in the years to come. “America's independence had survived its first century, the nation's great progress was obvious, and the future seemed assured,” wrote historian William Peirce Randel in describing the 1876 New-Year celebrations. “It was a time to make merry as never before.”

In contrast, America begins its bicentennial year in 1976 with a nagging sense of doubt about the past and uncertainty about the future. Many Americans are deeply concerned over the national condition today and sincerely worried about the years ahead. Some are unhappy with what America has come to represent among its own people and in the eyes of the world; many would rather look backward with nostalgia than forward with anticipation. Still, they wonder what America's next century will bring for the individual citizen, what it will mean for the state of the nation, and how it will change this country's role in the world. There is a widespread feeling that America is at a kind of turning point, facing some hard choices in the near future which will demand harsh departures from, past and present policies. The American dream has changed, to say the least.

Some of the reasons why Americans feel this way are evident. The nation is still suffering from the effects of simultaneous inflation and recession which have violated all the rules of the economists. It has not yet come to grips with the full meaning of the long, divisive Vietnam War—the first clear loss in the nation's history. The Watergate scandal led to the first presidential resignation in U.S. history, and now Americans are being reminded that similar abuses of governmental power occurred under a succession of previous presidents. The nation's foreign and domestic intelligence services are being exposed to unprccedented public scrutiny, and their record of involvement in assassinations, character defamations and invasions of privacy has shocked many persons. In the words of F. David Mathews when he was sworn in as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, this is “the age when things did not work out as we thought that would.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 15, 1999  The New Millennium
Feb. 19, 1999  Y2K Dilemma
Jan. 09, 1976  America's Next Century
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics