What does it mean to be an American? When reflecting on this question, it’s interesting to notice how the answer might differ depending on your background. American creeds created and believed in by the people are what morally drives the United States through day to day activity. These creeds may vary among different citizens due to the fact that they go through different life experiences and defining moments, however the common goal is to find an answer on how to live a life as a good American citizen. Even after identifying the variety amongst United States citizens, it is clear that there are still moral obligations to be followed by everybody, one of which being that everybody who claims to be an inhabitant of this country, should be able to understand the most important creed, which is to respect everything that composes the U.S., from your neighbors to your authorities.
Dating back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and leading up to the creation of the U.S. Constitution, citizens have created these moral guidelines to adhere to, in order to create a well-functioning society. As the years change, the hope is that the people of America do not stray too far away from the original principles. William Tyler Page, an employee in the House of Representatives, stated back in 1917 that, “I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies” (Page). This body of work titled “The American’s Creed” was so accurate to the fundamental beliefs of the government, that it was eventually accepted by the House. Page explains how to be a good citizen through respect of the government. A government backed by the people is much stronger than one with no support, therefore in order to build up a strong country, the government needs to be respected. American citizens for the most part are good at having national pride, which is a direct reflection of approving of the government.
The United States proves to be accurate followers of part of the total American Creed, however, as a whole there is work to be done in order to confront the other factor, which is to respect your neighbor. As more history passes, it is evident that not every person is respected, whether it is based off of their race, gender, or any other dividing factor. This means even though there is a moral code set in stone for the country, it gets broken quite often. One of America’s most famous activists, Martin Luther King, Jr., stated in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” (King). The creed that Martin Luther King Jr. is speaking about is clearly similar to the one being discussed in my personal American Creed. The speech is mainly about a dream of equality in the future, which can only come when everybody is respected as on the same level. Although he wished for better days in the future, it unfortunately cannot be confirmed that his wishes have come true, but with improvement being made since the 1960s in terms of the Civil Rights Movement, it seems to be that the United States is on the correct path. People in America need to be respected just as the government is.
People can often be willing to respect the government and show national pride, but not the citizens. They may claim to love their country, but if one truly desires to love their country, they would need to first understand and respect the members of it. One cannot go without the other, which is why the American Creed cannot go without both components. People cannot pick and choose which aspects of the country to respect, because they would not be fulfilling the American Creed to the full extent. The solution of what an individual must do in order to live out the American Creed is clear: one must strive to fully understand those that are different from them. Once an understanding is in place it is then possible to grow to become acclimated with their surrounding citizens and grow to respect them. The best way to demonstrate through action is by asking questions and actively trying to experience different culture. It is important to have an open mind towards not just what is regular, but to things that don’t directly relate to your average lifestyle. Every person that follows this creed allows for the words of William Tyler Page and Martin Luther King Jr. to live another day. Without followers, the creed will die, along with America’s moral operating system.
King Jr., Martin Luther, Dr. "I Have a Dream Speech." Freedom March in Washington, D.C., 28 Aug. 1963, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. Speech.
Page, William Tyler. "The American's Creed." 1917. Address.