What Does it Mean to be American?

Our nation has a problem with understanding what it means to be American.

By Ben P. from Columbus High School in Montana

Our nation has a problem with understanding what it means to be American. When asked, most people will say that being an American is about being free and striving to accomplish the American dream. That I can agree with, but what is being free? At what point is the American dream accomplished?

In an article titled “What Does It Mean to ‘Be American’?” On facing history and Ourselves, Francine Sharp says, “Becoming American means following the rules. It means respecting your neighbors, in your own neighborhood.” If we only define being nice to our neighbors as being nice to the people in our own neighborhoods, are we saying that it is alright to disrespect the people who are not a part of our close knitted neighborhoods? It is unkind to choose to be nice to only one set of people while excluding others.

What is being free? Every American is by right free. This is true but not all people understand what being free really means. Being free is about having the right to choose for the most part. Everyone has the right to choose to do what they want when they want. Now there are rules and you can break them by making bad choices, but these are your own choices that come with the right of being free. Any one person can do what they want.

According to Kimberly Amadeo in an article published in The Balance, the American Dream is defined as an ideal that the government should protect every person's right to pursue their idea of happiness. This is also mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. This insures that the the American Dream is an idea the is only based on a person's own opinion. It is possible to seek some help in forming and opinion from an outside source, but the true american dream is about one's own developed opinion.

Amadeo also says that “The Declaration of Independence protects this American Dream. It uses the familiar quote: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.The Declaration continued, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’”(2) As this article states, even our forefathers were interested in protecting our rights to pursue happiness. This is important because the people who built America were devoted to protecting the rights of the citizens of the United States.

That is what I believe the American dream is. The American dream is about pursuing your own happiness through working hard and supporting yourself and your family as efficiently as possible. If a person has truly worked hard and Is happy with where they are in life, the American dream has been accomplished.

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https://www.facinghistory.org/my-part-story/what-does-it-mean-be-american (1)

https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-american-dream-quotes-and-history-3306009 (2)

Columbus High School

What It Means To Be American

This group is comprised of Columbus High School students in Columbus, Montana. They have written arguments with the National Writing Project's C3WP materials to answer the question "What does it mean to be American?" posed by Mark Meckler in the documentary film American Creed.

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Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

Writing Our Future projects are designed by educators for educators and the young people they work with. Intended for use in schools, libraries, and other educational settings. All projects are COPPA compliant and educator-managed. NWP is committed to supporting young people’s writing and civic participation by providing a safe and supportive environment for youth writing, media creation, sharing, and publishing.