American Creed is a documentary that premiered in 2018, which was all about defining what it means to be American. Multiple individuals shared how their backgrounds influenced their views on the definition of “American.” A few adults who shared similar values throughout the documentary despite their differences are Tegan Griffith, David M. Kennedy, and Condoleezza Rice. The key value they all shared was service. Although it’s no secret that our system is made in such a way that it’s meant to keep the poor, poor. We also can’t deny service is a key way to move up in society, as seen by the families of the three people previously mentioned.
Our American society is known for its low social mobility and it’s up to every generation to serve to get a chance to move up in the social pyramid. Tegan’s family displayed this perfectly. Three generations ago, the Griffith family didn’t have much money. They resorted to serving the country in order to put food on the table and gain resources. Joining the military would mean spending less time with family, experiencing traumatic events, and potentially risking your life. Tegan’s father was in the military all her life, and she grew to know the importance of the military. She didn’t simply view the military as protection for her country, but she viewed it as an opportunity that saved her family. Hence why, both Tegan and her brother joined the military. They’ve seen the benefits that come with being of service to this country, and they’ve decided to pay it forward to the next generation. If Tegan’s ancestors didn’t sacrifice their time, and potentially their lives to provide for their family, Tegan would’ve grown up in a different environment. When she’s looking through family photo albums with her parents, they seem to be in a house. If Tegan’s father didn’t work to serve this country, they would have potentially not been able to afford a house. A few may argue that the military doesn’t pay very well. Although that’s true, it’s worth noting the benefits. Some resources include lower-priced or free healthcare, basic allowance for housing, childcare, tuition-free education, etc. Even though the military doesn’t pay the best it could, they provide resources that help individuals in service spend less for various commodities. This further proves how service is greatly rewarded. Joining the military doesn’t only mean serving the country, but serving the following generations.
David M. Kennedy’s family is another great example of the advances that come with service. The majority of Americans know who the Kennedys are due to various members’ political statuses. Despite their current high status, they didn’t start off with a huge amount of wealth. Kennedy’s father, George Kennedy, fought in World War I, and in return, he earned a fortune of land. George didn’t stop fighting for social mobility as soon as he earned his piece of land, instead, he decided to invest in a mining factory. The Kennedy family thought this would be their golden ticket to opportunity. Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit America with no mercy. The mining company ended up going bankrupt. In the documentary, David recalls seeing his father’s personality change. Most would see George’s effort as a failure. Even though the mining company did backfire, it wasn’t a complete loss. The documentary doesn’t further elaborate on George Kennedy’s pursuit for success, but it’s known that David became the first in his lineage to receive a college education. He grew up to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian & served as a US senator. This demonstrates how George successfully served his son and the generations to come. His attitude towards America may have changed during the Great Depression, but one could assume he fought for his son to have a better life beyond just the mining company. It’s unknown if George himself was able to move up in society, but it’s clear he did his best to work hard for his family. This further confirms the value that comes with service. Many of our families are working while we’re receiving an education. They’re serving us by providing shelter, food, and other necessities. Although working a dead-end 9-5 job for five days a week isn’t ideal, working is filled with hope. Hope that the rising generation will take advantage of the opportunities. George succeeded through David and the advancements he made for the rest of the family lineage.
Despite Kennedy being white and Rice being black, they share a few similar values. Both their families started off with little to no fortune. Rice’s great-grandmother was a freed slave and her family went on to be working class. Rice’s grandfather worked in cotton fields and used the money earned to go to college. Earning his degree gave him the opportunity to escape poverty, leading him to found schools and churches. Working in the cotton fields has always been brutal, especially in the olden days. Field workers had fewer rights and the wages were terrible. Even though the odds might’ve been against him, Rice’s grandfather persevered. He showed determination because he saw what could be if he succeeded. He worked hard to get himself an education, but in doing so made it easier for future generations to access good quality education. Fast forward to now, Rice was also able to receive her college diploma. She’s a professor of political science at Stanford, and she served as Secretary of State for President Bush. It’s no doubt that Rice’s grandfather’s service got her to where she is today. This shows how even though Kennedy and Rice didn’t become successful overnight, they both value their ancestors for the services they partook in to make their futures better. These perspectives are significant because even though social mobility is low in America, that doesn't mean we shouldn’t strive for better. If we don’t have hope, then there’s no point in complaining. Service doesn’t only benefit us in the present, but the generations to come. We must have hope that my service will sprout and produce good fruit. Americans should start to pay more attention to these perspectives because this is how change happens, by being of service. If Rice’s grandfather didn’t work in the cotton fields and fought for an educational opportunity, then Rice wouldn’t have the status she does now. If Kennedy’s family didn’t fight hard for what they wanted, even if it meant losing along the way, Kennedy wouldn’t be known as an award-winner and U.S. senator. Right now, our parents are serving this country and their work managers so we can be in a classroom. They’re serving because they have hope that by giving us an education we could be better off than they are. They’re not fools for having hope because we’ve seen through Rice, Kennedy, and Griffith that it’s possible. Immense fortune won’t come right away, but small successes will lead to prosperity. As a result of these perspectives, we should see the value of serving as not just something beneficial for the person being served. But rather as something that’ll help in self-improvement. Each generation is self-improving from the previous, and personal growth is what causes prosperity.
Tegan Griffith, David M. Kennedy, and Condoleezza Rice admit in the American Creed that service is what has helped their families prosper. Service is humbling in many ways, from Kennedy’s father losing his mining factory to Rice’s grandfather working restless hours in the fields. They all come from different backgrounds but are able to share the same sentiment, and that is that service has brought them prosperity.