In a fresh interpretation of post-World War II America, Goldfield examines the generation immediately after the war.
The unprecedented surge in American legislative and cultural history is brought to life as Goldfield explores the presidencies of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon Baines Johnson and the lives of ordinary Americans. He argues that the federal government was instrumental in the great economic, social, and environmental progress of the era. Following the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, the returning vets and their children took the unprecedented economic growth and federal activism to new heights. This generation was led by presidents who believed in the commonwealth ideal: that federal legislation, by encouraging individual opportunity, would result in the betterment of the entire nation. In the years after the war, their administrations created an outpouring of federal legislation that changed how and where people lived, their access to higher education, and their stewardship of the environment. They also spearheaded historic efforts to level the playing field for minorities, women and immigrants. But this dynamic did not last, and Goldfield shows how the shrinking and redirection of federal policy limited the opportunities of subsequent generations.