You don’t have to belong to a particular political party to be a patriot. More important is having some knowledge of the people who formed the nation and appreciation for the leaders and events that helped shape it over 243 years.
Not all our leaders were heroes, and none was perfect. U.S. history includes no shortage of flawed humans. But it also includes lots of people who helped us grow into a better nation.
Here’s a quiz about six events that were significant in making us the country we are today.
1. When did the United States give women the right to vote?
Around the world, many governments and cultures denied women basic civil rights for centuries. It wasn’t until 1919 that Congress approved the 19th Amendment, which was ratified by the states in 1920.
The law gave U.S. women the right to vote, an accomplishment that took more than 70 years of political activism, protests and even imprisonment.
2. Who was president when the United States doubled its size with the Louisiana Purchase?
The country added about 827,000 square miles in 1803.
President Thomas Jefferson’s initial aim was to ensure American access to the Mississippi River and the port at New Orleans. France had just wrested what was called the Louisiana Territory, including the river, from Spain, putting Americans’ use of the river in doubt.
When approached, France surprisingly offered to sell all the land to the United States for $15 million.
Jefferson’s envoys quickly agreed, and the United States suddenly became a continental nation.
3. What are the three branches of government?
On the federal and state levels, our governments are organized to keep a person or group from seizing too much power.
To achieve this system of checks and balances, the founders approved legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. To oversimplify, the legislature makes the laws, the executive carries out the laws, and the judiciary evaluates the laws and arbitrates disputes.
4. When did the United States ratify the Bill of Rights?
When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, it was approved without the Bill of Rights. However, many of the states signed on to a new U.S. government with the understanding that the Constitution would be amended to ensure the rights of individuals, such as the right to free speech and the right to be safe from unreasonable arrest or seizure of property.
James Madison, a primary author and advocate of the Constitution, introduced 19 amendments to Congress in its first year. Twelve were sent to the states for approval. The states ratified 10 as of Dec. 15, 1791, and they became our Bill of Rights.
5. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. In what state was the final spike hammered in?
Completion of the railroad connecting East and West was celebrated with much hullabaloo in northern Utah. By then railroads already had spread through the eastern United States, making travel and shipment of goods much easier. Growth of railroads in the West following the Civil War further accelerated the pace of white settlement through the Midwest and West.
6. The United States was the first nation to set aside land for preservation and public enjoyment with a national park. What president added the most sites to the National Parks system?
Republican Theodore Roosevelt usually is credited as having the most robust record.
According to the Interior Department, under Roosevelt’s leadership, the U.S. created five new national parks, 51 bird sanctuaries and 18 national monuments. Roosevelt also started the National Wildlife Refuge system and preserved more than 100 million acres for national forests.
An avid hunter and outdoor enthusiast, Roosevelt understood the value of nature: “It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds. We pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals – not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.