National History Day®(NHD) offers year-long academic programs that engage over half a million middle- and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Since 1974, NHD has continuously improved history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators. The largest NHD program is the National History Day Contest that encourages more than half a million students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice. Students enter these projects at the local and state levels, with top students advancing to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park.

2024 Theme: Turning Points in History

While each year’s contest brings a new theme, they will always hold relevance to our collections, those of other Presidential Libraries, and the resources of the National Archives. This year's contest theme, Turning Points in History, is no different. This theme is broad enough in scope to encourage the investigation of topics ranging from local to global history. To understand the historical importance of their topics, students must ask questions of time and place, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. What factors contributed to the turning point? What events led up to it, and how did it signal change? Has this change been sustained, progressed, or regressed? What impact did it have on the people who experienced it, and how did they affect it? Regardless of the topic selected, students must present a description of it and draw conclusions about how their topic affected individuals, communities, nations, or the world, changing the course of human society. The following are suggested topics related to the Carter Administration that fit within this year's theme:

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)

With a stroke of a pen on December 2, 1980, Jimmy Carter signed into law what many hail as "the most significant piece of conservation legislation in United States History." The culmination of years of tense negotiations between the Federal Government, the State of Alaska, and Alaska Natives, ANILCA preserved more than 100 million acres of land in America's "Last Frontier" and laid the foundation of the 49th State's economy supported by ecotourism and resource extraction.  

Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act was the turning point in the legislative history of the U.S. as the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as national monuments; this was a critical tool for President Carter in securing passage of ANILCA.

Camp David Accords

Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, met with Jimmy Carter, President of the United States of America, at Camp David from September 5 to September 17, 1978. These three leaders made a commitment unprecedented in modern diplomatic history to establish peace between Egypt and Israel that stands as a turning point in the Middle East Peace Process.

Diplomatic Relations With China

Described by President Carter as "the most significant accomplishment" of his administration, the normalization of diplomatic relations with China was a turning point in U.S.-Sino relations, providing for the exchange of information and ideas between the United States and the most populous nation on Earth.

Diversity in the Carter Administration

President Carter was committed to transforming the federal government to be reflective of the diverse society it serves. Through congressional legislation and executive action, he drastically increased the number of women and people of color serving in the federal government, establishing a turning point in representative democracy (see page four in link above).

Energy Crisis

When mounting conflicts in the Middle East brought an end to decades of cheap fossil fuels, President Carter deployed all options provided by the Constitution to reach new diplomatic agreements to combat high fuel prices, rising inflation and unemployment. Students may interpret this event as a turning point in diplomacy, commerce, technology, and civic engagement.

Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 (ERA)

Strongly supported by President and Mrs. Carter, the ERA is a turning point in U.S. history, seeking to end questions of gender equality in our Constitution once and for all. While it remains unratified, it continues to be a focal point for gender equality activism and legal scholars alike.

Hostage Crisis in Iran

On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took approximately 70 Americans captive, initiating a turning point in U.S. hegemony and diplomacy. President Carter committed himself to the safe return of the hostages while protecting America’s interests and prestige. He pursued a policy of restraint that put a higher value on the lives of the hostages than on American retaliatory power or protecting his own political future.

Refugee Act of 1980

A turning point in U.S. immigration law and policy, the Refugee Act of 1980 created The Federal Refugee Resettlement Program to provide for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after arrival in the United States.

Panama Canal Treaties

These treaties addressed turning point in of global trade and commerce in the 1960s-70s by providing neutrality to vessels of all nations, and joint U.S.-Panama control of the canal until December 31, 1999, when Panama took full control of its operations. Numerous U.S. Senators took a calculated risk in supporting the treaty and President Carter, many of which would not retain their jobs during the following election cycle.

Do you still have questions about the contest or interested in getting individual or group assistance? Reach out to the Carter Library education staff.

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