That’s a complicated question. Some writers refer to them as the “Roaring” Twenties. The American historian Charles A. Beard has been referring to this period since the early 1920s for his new book, The Second World War and the Roaring Twenties. The American economist E. M. Seligman, who has been on the record as recommending the U.S. use its war bonds, has been citing it since the 1950s. “So there is a clear pattern,” Seligman has written in one of his speeches. “And it has nothing to do with a national crisis or war—though we can’t deny the effect of the second World War and the first World War on the political atmosphere of the period.” Indeed, it has become so accepted to refer to the 1920s as the “Roaring Twenties” that they are now commonly used to describe the Great Depression.
So what made the American people so enthusiastic about getting involved in World War I? Part of it, in fact, is probably because the Depression of 1920s was the last severe depression. The American people, at long last, had found some job, had made some progress in securing a home, had gotten their footing and were starting to get a little bit of a life again, had moved away from the Depression of their youth and had seen a few small glimpses of prosperity. The United States was at war, though a lot of the world knew it—and still do. Part of it was, once again, the American people’s sense of pride. The Great Depression of their youth was over. Their parents had saved up enough for many years—some had saved all their money, and some had done even better than that. And that was enough.
But most of it has to do with the sense that the American people could make a difference. Even in those days, when most Americans knew that the country had a limited opportunity for improving the country over the long term through the political system, they were quite hopeful about the future of government. Most of them hoped that the government might be responsive. They didn’t see it that way then, but I think they are today. It has always been part of the American character—most Americans are fairly optimistic in the sense that we have a chance to make the world a better place.
And that sense of the American people being able to do something about it is why the country fought. It was as much an opportunity to contribute to the world picture
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