Family and an American Identity

Posted by Ryan L. Michigan
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An exploration of the relationship between family values and how those values influence who we are as Americans.

America is one of the most diverse nations in the world. People with origins all across the planet call America their home. This diverse population results in many diverse viewpoints on what it means to be an American. Unique cultures result in unique ideas. However, there is one constant throughout all of this, and that is the importance of family. In particular, family history. Family history provides the traditional and cultural foundation for Americans to establish their own personal identity within their community and their country.

Family values and American values are both extremely important in the lives of many people. A study, conducted by Barna Group, showed that family is the most important factor relating to one’s personal identity. This was followed, in second place, by being an American. The study involved a survey of 1,000 U.S adults asked to rate different factors on how much they influenced their identity. Participants were given choices of, “a lot,” “some,” “not too much” or “not at all” to describe the different factors. The study resulted in 62% of them having family as influencing their identity a lot, while, 52% had being an American as influencing their identity a lot. This study highlights the importance family has on personal identity. On top of this, it shows a relationship between family and being American. They both are the dominant factors that shape who we are as people. Due to this dominance in people’s lives, family values and American values tend to blend. Family values, such as family history, and American values, such as freedom, tend to form their own unique American ideas. In my own life, for example, my family’s history influences my ideas about America through the way that both my parents grew up in very different situations but still succeeded and prospered. Everyone has their own American creed based on their family and American values that make them who they are. This shows how family and being American are related when it comes to personal identity and values that make up an American identity.

Family history is incredibly important. History does not separate, but rather, is always combining new elements and ideas. In an interview with Mary Leinweber, my mom, I asked how she felt her family history has influenced who she is as a person today, and how she still expresses this history. She responded by saying that she was very proud of her Irish and Polish history. She went on to say how she still feels connected to her history through traditional foods and music. She is a member of the Gaelic League of Detroit and has even taken our family on a trip to Ireland. She thinks that it is very important for people to embrace their family history and to let it be a guiding factor in their lives. She believes that her American identity does not conflict in any ways with her family values. Instead, she believes that her family history has blended with her American identity to create the person she is today. My interview with my mom showed a unique perspective on the importance of family history in shaping who we are as people. My mom grew up rather poor. She did not have a lot of the privileges growing up that many American kids have. As a result, she had to rely a lot on her family, which involved learning and practicing family traditions. Along with this, she did not develop any cynical or negative views about what it means to be an American. Despite her growing up poor, she still embraces being an American as well as her family history.

My dad, Mike Leinweber, is Irish and German. His family history has been one of embracing the American dream. In an interview, I talked to my dad about his family history, and how he feels this history plays a role in his views of being an American. My dad told me about how his childhood was less focussed on his past, and more focussed on looking to the future. Both his grandpa and father were extremely successful self made men. As a result, he grew up in an environment that was all about the American dream. If you work hard, you will succeed. As a result, less emphasis was put on his Irish and German ancestry, and more emphasis was put on being an American. He told me how, even with this emphasis on being an American, his history was not completely abandoned. He is also a member of the Detroit Gaelic League, and actively embraces his family history through food and music. This interview with my dad provided a different perspective on the influence of family history. As opposed to my mom, my dad grew up wealthy and embraced more of the American dream. However, Despite these differences, both my mom and my dad agree that their family history does influence their American Identity.

Family history history holds influence beyond tradition and culture. Family history can help teach and develop values that are very important. According to familysearch.org, “Knowing, recording, preserving, and sharing our family histories can provide countless benefits to individuals, families, and entire societies.” The cite goes on to describe how values such as “Compassion”, “Resilience” and “selflessness” all can be influenced by one’s family history. On top of this, family history can help people connect and contribute to one’s ideas of self worth and core identity. All of this goes to show the extent to which family history influences us as people. Beyond tradition and culture, this history provides important values that are at the core of being an American, and values that help us grow and develop into better people.

It has been shown that family values contribute the most to a person's idea of self identity. Along with this, family values and American values are closely related. Family history provides the foundation for which we can form our own American Identity. Everyone’s family history is different. It is through these differences that we develop our own unique ideas about what it means to be an American.

Published on May 26, 2019
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