The United States became the world’s first modern democracy after its break with Great Britain (1776) and the adoption of a constitution (1789). During the 19th century, many new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation’s history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world’s most powerful nation-state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology. It is in North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico.
America boasts a population of 312,645,069. The US is also one of the most culturally diverse nations on the planet with the ethnic minority population at 34% of the nation’s total.
America’s government is a constitutional federal republic comprising of fifty states and a federal district. Within this framework the President of the United States (the head of state and head of government), United States Congress, and the judiciary share federal powers. In accordance, the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments and Federal and state elections operate as a two-party electoral system.
The federal government of the United States was established by the Constitution. American politics has been dominated by two parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, since the American Civil War, although other parties have also existed.
Personal freedom and human rights are entrenched in the United States Bill of Rights. Among the most important rights that everyone in America enjoys are:
Freedom of Speech;
Freedom of Religion;
The right to keep and bear arms;
Freedom of assembly; and
Freedom to petition
The Bill of Rights also prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, cruel and unusual punishment, and compelled self-incrimination. In addition, the Bill of Rights also prohibits Congress from making any law respecting establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
Although the US does not have an official language, the majority of the population speaks English as a native language. The Spanish language is the second most common language spoken by almost 30 million people. With approximately 337 different languages spoken by the population, almost every language and culture in the world can find some representation, and a home, in America.
America’s largest cities, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, all have unique styles, climates, economies and cultural characteristics. New York City is the largest city in the United States and among the largest urban areas in the world. Serving as one of the world’s primary global cities, this cosmopolitan city exerts a power influence worldwide over commerce, finance, culture, and entertainment. Los Angeles is the most populous and one of the most diverse counties in the United States, hailing people from all over the globe who speak 224 different languages. As the centre of culture, technology, media, business, and international trade, Los Angeles leads the world in producing popular entertainment. Chicago is sometimes called the “Second City” for its history, central transportation hub for North America, and dominant centre of finance, industry, and culture in the region.
America’s geography is highly varied. The West Coast is mountainous, and the Central plain vast. Hills and low mountains cover the East, with rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska, and rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii.
The economy of the United States is the world’s largest national economy. As of 2007, America’s GDP was estimated as US$14.55 trillion with a GDP per capita of approximately US$46,000. America has a mixed economy in that private firms make the majority of the microeconomic decisions while being regulated by the government.
In recent years the U.S. economy has maintained a stable overall GDP growth rate, a low unemployment rate, and high levels of research and capital investment funded by both national and increasingly by foreign investors.
The United States is rich in mineral resources, fertile farm soil, and fortunately a moderate climate. Extensive waterways and coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, flowing rivers from far within the continent, including the Great Lakes, provide additional shipping access and have helped shape the country’s economic growth over the years. This has helped bind America’s 50 individual states together in a single economic unit.
America’s close proximity to Canada makes cross-border trade easy and efficient. Most of the US’s exports are sold to the Canadian market. Indeed, although this is little known in America, Canada is by far the biggest trading partner of the United States. As well, America’s membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement has meant that American companies have almost unfettered access to the wider North American market.
The education system in the United States is under State jurisdiction. Broadly speaking, the American educational system is divided into four (4) parts.
Primary School: Kindergarten to Grade 8.
Secondary School: Grade 9 to Grade 12.
Colleges: Specializing in trade education and some professional qualifications.
Universities: Degree granting institutions for undergraduate to graduate degrees, and some professional qualifications.
Each State will have its own slightly different variation on this general description.