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President Gerald Ford
In the early 1970’s, The Watergate Scandal was creating massive tension in the USA. Not only had President Nixon become entangled with the Watergate Scandal, in which men under his leadership broke in to the Democrat Headquarters, in the Watergate building, to steal information, he also possessed hours upon hours of recorded meetings, on tape, that had the potential to link him to other forms of illegal activity. President Nixon had resigned office and his Vice President, Gerald Ford, became President. Ford pardoned Nixon of all crimes connected to various scandals. Ford’s initial action as President was controversial. Many felt that, if others went to jail for scandals like Watergate, Nixon should as well. Therefore, Ford faced massive opposition and unpopularity at the start of his Presidency in 1974.
Not only did Ford have deal with the negative opinion of pardoning Nixon, the economy also struggled while he was in office. Unemployment was radically increasing and inflation was drastically growing. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had also increased oil prices, further damaging the economy. Ford started a Program called WIN, “Whip Inflation Now.” The plan called for the USA to cut back on foreign oil consumption and government spending was reduced as well. Ford also encouraged Americans to increase their savings and spend less. These efforts failed. The economy still struggled under Ford’s watch.
Ford continued the “Realpolitik” approach of Henry Kissinger, who was Secretary of State. Kissinger asserted that the USA must cooperate with large nations, even if they are Communist, like China. During his Presidency, Ford continued this Realpolitik approach and interacted frequently with Communist nations. During the Helsinki Accords of 1974, in Helsinki, Finland, the nations of the West, such as the USA and Britain, entered into more dialog with the Communist USSR concerning Eastern Europe and the Baltic States in particular. Ford signed the agreement. It asserted that Eastern Communist nations would seek more cooperation with the Democratic Western nations. The goal was to reduce the clear tensions that developed between the Communist East and the Democracies of the West. Many feared increased cooperation with the USSR meant the USA was giving in to the USSR’s domination of Eastern Europe and opened a path for the USSR officially to annex the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These nations were disputed areas. The Soviet Union tried to control them. Yet, many world leaders asserted the Baltic States deserved to be independent nations and not controlled by the Soviet Union.
After World War II, the Democracies of the world, including the USA, were concerned about Communism spreading in Asia. Eventually, China fell to Communism as did North Korea. Then, Communism spread down to Vietnam. The USA got involved to try and keep South Vietnam from falling to Communism. The war became very unpopular in the USA as it lasted from the 1950s to the 1970s. President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon had to deal with various military campaigns in Vietnam. On January 27, 1973, at the Paris Peace Accords, the USA agreed to evacuate its troop presence in Vietnam. This did not end the war. Yet, it ended the USA’s involvement in the conflict. President Gerald Ford took power in 1974 and the USA continued to keep American troops out of Vietnam. In April of 1975, the North Vietnamese military seized Saigon, the South’s capital. Ford was the last President to be in office while the Vietnam War was occurring. South Vietnam surrendered to the North and fell to Communism in 1975. Over 58,000 Americans had died in the conflict. Millions in North and South Vietnam had been killed as well throughout the war.