Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

U.S Foreign Policy and the United Nations
Diane Haywood
Time Frame:
One class period and extension as desired for creation of individual essay or paragraphs.
Primary Source Analysis
Political Cartoons

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will be analyzing two political cartoons featuring the United Nations (one from the Korean War-Truman administration and one from the War in the Persian Gulf-circa Bush 41 administration).  After independent analysis, students will pair up or join small groups and share analysis and then discuss two questions about U.S. foreign policy decisions concerning the two events and the Presidential choices made about when and how to involve the U.S. in war.  The questions will delve into the Presidential decisions to cultivate allies from the world forum of the United Nations prior to making a U.S. foreign policy statement and taking the U.S. into war.  Students will also determine what type of foreign policy style the Presidents used as they made major policy decisions for the U.S.  To culminate the lesson, students will write paragraphs reflecting on the policy decisions and defending or disputing the choices made by the U.S President in each scenario.
  • This lesson will occur after the study of the types of U.S. foreign policy practiced in American history-isolationism, realism, idealism, neo-isolationism and during the study of the United States as a member of the global community.

  •  This lesson will enable students to demonstrate understanding of two types of foreign policy (realism and idealism) in American history and allow them to use at least one type of foreign policy in a real world event.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • Missouri Standards –SS1.5, SS2.3, SS4.1
  • National Standard-SS 2-Time, Continuity and Change
  • National Standard-SS 9-Global Connections,

KANSAS STANDARDS (Government-High School)

Benchmark 2: The student understands the shared ideals and diversity of American society and political culture.

3. (A) examines the fundamental values and principles of the American political tradition as expressed in historic documents, speeches and events, and ways in which these values and principles conflict (e.g., equal opportunity and fairness vs. affirmative action)

KANSAS STANDARDS (High School-US History)

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Classroom government text -Chapter on the United States foreign policy history
  • Attached power point with chronology of Korean and Persian Gulf Wars and student questions.

Editorial Cartoon Analysis Sheet from www.trumanlibrary.org   Go to main menu; click on “Education”; on left of site click on ‘Analyze documents’; go to Political Cartoon.  Print two copies for each student or print front to back. http://trumanlibrary.org/educ/cartoon.pdf

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Herb Block’s PC titled, “Those Are the flags of various Gangster Mobs and Millionaires”; https://cartoonimages.osu.edu/XpRWLpRq
  • Miami Herald PC with Bush changing the motto on the front of the UN building in New York

            Both attached to site, courtesy Truman Library and Bush Library

"George Bush Presidential Library and Museum :: Home." George Bush Presidential Library and Museum :: Home. Texas A&M University, n.d. Web. 11 May 2010.


"George Bush Presidential Library and Museum :: Home." George Bush Presidential Library and Museum :: Home. Texas A&M University, n.d. Web. 11 May 2010.

Technology Required:

power point viewer


Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Prior to this lesson, I will teach about the history of US foreign policy styles and when in US history each style appears with examples using chapter in text,  a lecture power point, class discussion, and note taking by students
  • The day of the lesson I will display and quickly share the chronology of each war in question. (attached power point)
  • The day of the lesson, each student will receive the political cartoon analysis sheet (two sided-one for each cartoon) and a copy of each political cartoon.  Students will have fifteen minutes to study cartoon and complete analysis sheet.
  • Students will pair up and share analysis and then discuss questions at end of power point-about ten minutes.  The floor will be open for class discussion as needed. I will be available to facilitate discussion and answer questions.
  • Students will answer final questions individually on separate paper in paragraph or essay form-length to be determined on class ability and/or the time the teacher determines to be used for lesson.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Students will receive credit for completion of analysis sheet in rational terms.
  • Students will receive participation credit for proper use of co-operative time and notes found answering group questions..
  • Teacher will grade essay with scoring guide of choice, making sure to give consideration to inclusion of specific examples of foreign policy styles, examples from the cartoons to support opinion expressed within paragraphs and valid ideas supporting the student judgment and critique of Presidential choices.