The American Identity

There are four fundamental ideas that make people American; identity, hope, citizenship, and value. However, today’s culture has ventured far from this ideal.

By Briana H. from Columbus High School in Montana

The Declaration of Independence States, “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 to pursue Happiness.” Our country was founded on these words, the idea that everyone is equal and has the right to happiness. When this was written in the late 1700s, being American was a mindset composed of the desire to be free from tyranny and to start a new life--a better life.

Today’s culture has ventured far from this ideal. Now immigration is extremely difficult. The Statue of Liberty is no longer a beacon of hope for many. There is a poem that stands with the Statue of Liberty which reads as follows: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free[.]” This quote represents the open-armed American welcome that our country was first founded on. However, it was more of an idea than an actualization. America has never been truly accepting. In the past, women and people of color were excluded. In today’s culture people of certain races, such as Mexicans and Muslims, are still often excluded from mainstream American culture.

But in truth, our naturalized immigrants instantly become American. In other words, after citizenship is attained no person has the right to question their inalienable rights.Our country has no official religion because we accept everyone’s right to opinion. Being American means being accepted despite your race, religion, and/or ethnicity. Philosopher G. K. Chesterton states, “The United States, unlike European Countries, did not rely on ethnic kinship cultural character or a national type for a shared identity.” There are instances in our history and in today’s culture where America has fallen short in this aspect, particularly involving “different” people. If America wants to live up to its original ideals, then it needs to be more accepting of people of all races and religions.

America is a place of new beginnings and liberty. Today we don’t celebrate many first generation Americans; however, most families can trace their lineage back to their first generation. G.W. Bush once said, “Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.” This quote demonstrates that every American has the right to freedom and the American liberty is a gift from God.

In American culture human life is valued. In some countries women are no more than sexual objects meant to give birth and keep the household. Some countries control what career you go into. Other’s kill you for speaking out against your leader or even worse what you believe in. In America people are allowed to do what makes them happy. In short America doesn’t control every aspect of its citizens lives, but it controls just enough to keep the country from utter chaos. Every citizen is valued as a human being, not just another oiled piece to a machine that is their country. Teaching Tolerance talks about how Amendments XIII, XIV, XV, XIX, and XXIV show, that while at the beginning not everyone was considered equal, changes were made to the Constitution to make everyone equal.

There are four fundamental ideas that make people American; identity, hope, citizenship, and value. People are American because they believe in a better life and because they value others. America has become corrupt, we have fallen so far from our country’s ideals that the three main aspects of being American are relatively unheard of or unrelatable in the modern American household. Hate, discrimination, and exclusion are what run rampant in our streets and our newscasts, even our social media. America has fallen from its ideals, one can only hope that it returns to its foundations soon, or else it will crumble.

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.

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