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By WKamps
On July 6, 2017

Lesson Plan: The Future of US Foreign Policy

Pew Research Results on Global Perceptions of US Presidency

Summer 2017 analysis of the shifts in global perception from Bush to Obama to Trump.


President Donald Trump has titled his foreign policy approach “America First.” Many see this as a complete and total reversal of the last half-century of American diplomacy, while others see this as the next step in a developing trend that may have started with former President Barack Obama. In this lesson, students will identify and summarize the foreign policy doctrines of former presidents Bush and Obama and the effects of those choices on certain geopolitical events. Students will also define and evaluate the emerging “Trump Doctrine,” using the statements and actions of the Trump administration before and after the 2016 election.


  • Step 1:

    Show students the latest results of the Pew Research Center on the changes in foreign perceptions of the US from President Obama to President Trump.

    Video Clip: Pew Research on Global Perceptions of US (11:58)

    Have students break down their reactions into three categories, using the handout below:

    Handout: SIT Analysis Chart (Google Doc):

    Use student reactions to develop a discussion on their opinion regarding the US role in the world. Be sure to direct students to consider the complexities of these statistics, and what weight these results may actually carry in shaping US foreign policy.

    • One Surprising fact or idea
    • One Interesting fact or idea
    • One Troubling fact or idea
  • Step 2:

    Using the same SIT chart, have students view the following clips regarding President Trump’s foreign policy agenda and posture.

    Students may also do a close reading using this excerpt of Trump’s “America First” speech. (Google Doc)

  • Step 3:

    Complete the third column on the SIT chart, analyzing the commentary regarding President Obama and President Bush and their respective doctrines.

  • Step 4:

    Utilize the following discussion and/or writing prompts to assess the student understanding of the material.

    • To what extent is Trump reacting to the past presidencies of Obama and Bush in regards to foreign policy? How justifiable are the approaches he has taken so far?

    • How do the actions taken by these previous presidents impact the national and international attitudes about American intervention?

    • To what extent do foreign perceptions of the US matter in an age of “America First” rhetoric from the Trump Administration?

    • Consider the Pew Research results with the statements made by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Could the US actually gain status around the world through tougher language and a lack of predictability? Explain.
  • Extension Activities:

    • Present students with a series of international case study scenarios and have them craft potential Trump responses to those events. Consider events in North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, the South China Sea, or Afghanistan, to name a few.

    • Simulate a class debate with students playing foreign policy advisors to Bush, Obama, and Trump. Instruct students to research and prepare arguments for the benefits to their respective “doctrines.”

    • Students can construct a comparison essay between the emerging Trump Doctrine and that of previous 20th century presidents, such as Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Reagan.

Additional Resources


  • America First
  • Collaboration
  • Confrontation
  • Doctrine
  • Foreign Policy
  • International Affairs
  • Interventionism
  • Negotiation
  • Preemptive Strike
  • Unilateralism


Executive BranchForeign Policy


High SchoolUniversity