It was last last year and it was two weeks before the end of the year. I was in the process of introducing the Vietnam war to my students and told them this was one of the major conflicts during the Cold War. I didn't think anything of it at the time but the more I talked it became clear from the looks on a lot of my students faces they had no idea what I was talking about when I referred to the concept of the "Cold War". I finally had one brave student interject and ask what exactly I was referring to when I said "Cold War"?
I was shocked to learn that over half my classes had no idea what I was mentioning when I talked about the Cold War. So much of what we cover in this class has a direct result of what happened in the Cold War. The conflict itself started shortly after WWII and did not conclude until the late 80's into the early 90's.
Reflecting back made me realize this year how more than ever the origins of the Cold War are so important in understanding the direction the United States after its abrupt and unexpected end. As we go forward as a class it is important to interpret the influences that the Cold War had on our past, present, and future conflicts. As the semester goes forward communism will give way to new monsters to destroy and the development of a new foreign policy to deal with such monsters.