Made in America

The way in which life in America has positively influenced the opportunities available to my family and the surrounding community.

By Gwen K. from Royal Oak High School in Michigan

For many people, America is a land that can present many opportunities, and can be looked to for a new way of life and sense of community. My family immigrated to America in the early 1900s, and was presented with a better life, just as many other immigrants have been. The city of Detroit has a history filled with different ethnic groups, ones who have built the city and have created it’s success over time. One of the defining characteristics of being American is the way in which a community can be built, and shared values of patriotism and hard work connect everyone. My view of America has been greatly influenced by the outcome (thus far) of my family’s endeavors, and the way in which the city of Detroit came to prominence, and has been making an effort to rise above recent adversity.

My family follows the typical story often associated with the idea of the "American melting pot." Both of my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Czech Republic, bringing with them nothing but small, battered suitcases carrying reminders home, and looking to start anew. Eventually, they were able to build a life for themselves, and my grandpa was able to start his own business, as did my father. In fact, my grandpa was successful enough to sell his company at a relatively young age and retire early. This story, which is paralleled in many families in the U.S., is the story my family is built upon. The values of hard work and perseverance have always been important in my family, because we have learned that they can result in prosperity. It's because of this that I associate the opportunity for success and self-advocacy with being American. My family has been able to accomplish this as a result of the economic opportunities that come from simply living in America. My father further went on to say “our lives would have been completely different if we still lived in the Czech Republic. We would be working in a very different profession, and unable to pursue what we want.” The favorable circumstances we have experienced because of our place as Americans shaped my view of America to be a positive one. Similarly, many other Americans have come to associate life in America with opportunity, especially within a community.

The city of Detroit was founded in the 1700s, and was an economic center from its early beginnings.. It was one of the most prosperous cities in America, and in the 20th century, the establishment of Ford Motor Company provided many jobs to immigrants and local workers. Additionally, the economic boom provided by World War 2 enabled success for many residents of the city. For a time, Detroit exemplified the American dream. It drew in a new community of new immigrants and American-born citizens, and presented them with immense opportunities for success. The way in which Detroit was shaped by various groups shapes the idea that America enables the creation and strengthening of communities built on shared values. When the city’s economics took a downturn in recent time, this community created was able to bounce back by banding together and overcoming negative circumstances. One community within Detroit, for example, created a resident-led initiative to provide grants to young people within community to enable to them to pursue entrepreneurship. The residents of this neighborhood came together in an attempt to not only support individual success, but also to foster economic growth in the area. The idea that citizens of Detroit come together in support of these values further exemplifies the way in which Detroit’s history shows a community that works together to overcome challenges. The stories of self-created success that arise from Detroit are remarkable in that they might not be possible in other nations around the world. While some may choose to see it as negative that citizens are relied upon to initiate change as a negative thing, it actually is positive. The way in which individuals in the community have continued to grow, generally regardless of the city’s success has greatly shaped the way I view America. If not for the perseverance of an entire community, I might see America as a place in which adversity and prejudice can overtake prosperity. However, because Detroit has once again begun to experience progress, my view of America and it’s freedoms has been a positive one.

Recently, the city of Detroit has promoted the growth of small businesses and restaurants in the downtown area. Some of the best examples of success from hard work and perseverance have come from directly within the community. Among many examples of success explained in Crain Business’ “40 Under 40” one woman is described as having started her own inclusive makeup company, another as a successful real estate agent, and others as gaining a political or economic platform they are able to use successfully. The way in which success is shown through many different careers gives further support to the idea that hard work is the key to prosperity in America. Success was accessible to a variety of demographics shown in the article; the biggest similarity across the board was the spirit of hard work present in all featured as the most influential business figures in the city. Through my family history and the history of the city of Detroit I was able to conclude that one the most significant parts of being American is the way in which the opportunity for success can help a community, and shared values connect everyone. This creed was created for me based upon my family’s ability generations ago to build a new life in America, and the way in which communities and individuals are able to succeed in varying circumstances. 

Royal Oak High School

AP Lang 2019

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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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