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How 9/11 Shaped U.S. Foreign Policy
Lesson Snapshot

Learning objectives
Students will learn that foreign policy changes over time. Students will understand that many factors play a role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

Grade level



NCSS standards

Time estimate
One class period

What you'll need (see Resources for links)

Lesson Plan

  • Engage students in a discussion of foreign policy and what factors go into shaping U.S. foreign policy. Working with the class, develop a concept map to identify the components that students think are important. These might include: economics, natural resources, human rights, world health, national defense, international relations, humanitarian aid, crisis events, policy reviews when policy is not effective, etc.

  • Distribute copies of the president's speech to the students. After they have read the speech, have them work alone or in small groups to answer the following questions:

    • What does President Bush say is the "most basic commitment of civilization"? What does he mean? Do you agree? Why or why not?

    • What countries were named in the speech? Were the comments positive, negative, or neutral about each?

    • What is the influence of September 11 on the speech?

    • What does he say in the speech about the role of the United Nations?

    • What actions does President Bush promise the United States will take? List specific examples from his speech.

    • What steps are outlined for fulfilling these promises? Are they military, humanitarian, or economic?

  • After students have answered these questions, return their attention to the class concept map. Ask the students which components the president addressed in the speech and which were not addressed. After reading the speech, do they want to add any categories to the map?

  • Using the map of the Middle East, locate and mark the countries that were identified in the speech. Why might Bush have selected these countries? How would you describe the United States' relationships with these countries?

  • Continue the class discussion with the following questions:

    • What do you think the president hoped to accomplish with this speech?

    • The major focus of the speech was the attacks of 9/11 and eliminating terrorism. Why did he mention other issues, such as AIDS, development, and Middle East peace?

    • Time has passed since Mr. Bush delivered this speech. Has America delivered on the promises he made? If so, which ones?

    • Have the policies he presented remained the same, or have they changed? If you believe they have changed, what have been the changes and why?


  • How well can the student articulate multiple factors that influence U.S. foreign policy after September 11 based on Bush's speech?

  • How well is the student able to draw inferences from the written text regarding U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East since September 11?

  • To what extent were the student's written answers complete? To what extent did the student participate in classroom discussion?


Core Resources:

Global Connections Essays:

Internet Resources:

Related Activities:

Extension activities

For the purpose of comparison, have students read President Harry S. Truman's 1947 speech that outlined what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. Compare the contents of this speech with the one by President Bush using the following link to The Avalon Project: Did Truman understand the international audience differently than did President Bush? Did Bush tune his address with the domestic audience primarily in mind? How has the world changed since 1947, and what affect might those changes have had on Bush's policy?

NCSS standards

Time, continuity, and change

  • Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.

Power, authority, and governance

  • Analyze and explain ideas and mechanisms to meet needs and wants of citizens, regulate territory, manage conflict, establish order and security, and balance competing conceptions of a just society.

  • Analyze and evaluate conditions, actions, and motivations that contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among nations.

Global connections

  • Explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.

For more information, see the National Standards for Social Studies Teachers, Volume I.

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