Classroom activity: US Becomes a World Power


The time period, from 1898 to 1920, sees the United States become more involved around the world as industrialization spurred the need for more resources and markets. It was widely believed that the U.S. needed to gain access to world markets and expand their navy in order to compete in the global economy. The first part of this time period saw the U.S. go to war with Spain over their control of Cuba. The result of the war was Cuban independence and the acquisition by the U.S. of the last Spanish colonial possessions in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The later part of this time period ended with the world engulfed in its first world war fueled by nationalism, imperialism, military arms race, and entangling alliances. While the U.S. tried to steer clear of involvement, the nation was forced to enter in the later years of the war.

Directions: Use the content from the Texas Citizen Bee website to help answer the following questions:


Sanford Dole

  1. In what capacity did Sanford Dole serve with regards to the territory of Hawaii?
  2. How you describe Sanford Dole’s position with regards to the residents of Hawaii when Hawaii was annexed to the United States?

Henry Cabot Lodge

  1. What did Lodge believe was necessary for the United States to become a world power?
  2. How would you describe the difference of opinion between Lodge and President Wilson with regards to U.S. foreign policy?

Alfred Thayer Mahan

  1. How role did Mahan’s book The Influence of Sea Power on History play in the United States becoming a world power both politically and economically?
  2. Who was influenced by Mahan’s book?

General John Pershing

  1. How did Pershing get the nickname, “Black Jack?”
  2. As commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, sent to Europe when the United States entered World War I, how did General Pershing demand the U.S. troops be used to defeat the Germans?

Teddy Roosevelt

  1. What did Roosevelt mean when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” when describing his foreign policy?
  2. As President of the United States, how did his actions increase the power of the federal government?

Woodrow Wilson

  1. What was Wilson’s policy concerning the U.S. entering World War I?
  2. How did Wilson hope to prevent another world war from occurring?

Alvin York

  1. For what action did Alvin York win the Congressional Medal of Honor?



14 Points

  1. How did Wilson hope the three goals of his 14 points would help prevent another war such as World War I?
  2. What was the major reason that the Treaty of Versailles was not ratified by the U.S. Senate?



Schenck v. U.S.

  1. What was the intent of the Selective Service Act and the Espionage Act passed by Congress in 1917?
  2. How were both acts involved in the arrest of Charles Schenck?



  1. Which person from this era do you feel most impacted the United States politically at this time? Socially? Economically?   Defend your answers.
  2. Which three people from the era best represent the characteristics of the period from 1898 to the 1920’s? Defend the reason for your selections.
  3. How do the 14 Points and the case of Schenck v. U.S. reflect the era of the U.S. Becomes a World Power?
  4. If you had been a member of the U.S. Senate asked to ratify the Treaty of Versailles based on Wilson’s 14 Points, how would have voted and why?
  5. How has the precedent of “clear and present danger” been used with regards to limiting the First Amendment’s right of freedom of speech?

Click here for a PDF copy of the questions.