What It Means To Be American

Posted by Micah R. Montana
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The word freedom comes to mind when we think of the question what does it mean to be American because America is known throughout the world as a country built on freedom.

“What it means to be American is a pretty complex topic,” to quote my English teacher Mr. Olsen. I didn’t fully understand what he meant by that until I started writing and rewriting this paper. When first analysing the question I didn’t think much of it and I figured it was a pretty easy question to answer. This question however, is like any other question and can have many different meanings depending on the person answering it. I’ve heard it defined as having freedom or being free. According to a survey done by George H. Gallup Jr. given to students from 13-17 about what it means to be American the majority of the kids mentioned freedom in their responses. One fifteen year old boy who took the survey said this, “Being an American means being proud of my country and defending our right to free speech and the freedom to be who we are. I will defend my right to be free to the death.” (George H. Gallup, 2016) The word freedom comes to mind when we think of the question what does it mean to be American because America is known throughout the world as a country built on freedom. The last line of our National anthem has the word freedom in it, “for the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” (Francis Scott Key, 1814) Freedom is a key part of America and is something we should cherish but it doesn’t answer the question fully, there is more to it than that.

Voting like freedom is an honor that you have in America. The right to vote is a very important issue that has been fought over throughout our country's history. In the beginning only white males who owned land could vote, then it expanded to all white males, women got the right to vote in 1919, and finally African Americans got the right to vote in 1969. The right to vote has been discussed and critiqued throughout the years leading up to equal voting rights. Below is a graph showing the voting percentages from the years 1916-2016:

According to this graph over the past hundred years, the voting percentages have not gone above 65%. That number seems a bit small for the amount of debates and arguments made to get equal voting rights. Franklin D. Roosevelt said this, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1902) This could happen if the percentage of Americans who vote keeps decreasing, we only have ourselves to blame for not using our right to vote.

America is a great country with lots of opportunities, I am proud to live here and be a part of this nation. I am eighteen now which means I can legally vote and I plan on doing so. I believe as an American citizen voting is a duty that I am obliged to and that everyone should when they are of legal age. As I’ve learned throughout my study of what it means to be American there are many different opinions and answers to the question. Each person has a different perspective on it, and we each have an individual opinion. Voting is one way to be able to use your opinion, and I believe that it is taken for granted. Voting is a huge part of this country and it shouldn’t be pushed aside. If no more than 65 percent of Americans vote during a presidential election, that is a problem. We must make voting more of a priority in society and get the voting percentages up to a higher amount. If voting is the way we choose who is president of our country, it should not be taken lightly. Voting is an honor, and it is a major part of what it means to be American. 

Published on Mar 7, 2018
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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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