From Humble Beginnings: My American Creed

Posted by Jared J. Alaska

In this presentation I explore how my humble beginnings, growing up in a poor community, have molded my idea of the American creed. I share the journey that I plan to take and how I will use my American creed to help others going through tough things like me.

From Humble Beginnings: My American Creed

Slide 1 (intro)

I would like to start by referencing a quote by former Secretary Rice that I feel really speaks to the overall theme of my project. She asserts that “as I would travel around the world, the one thing that always attracted people to the United States of America was this idea that it did not matter where you came from, it mattered where you are going. You could come from humble circumstances. You could still do great things.” In this project I will be showing you my life story and how it has challenged me to work hard for what I want in life. I will also be exploring how I plan to use my experiences to help other people going through the same struggles. All these factors play into my American creed.

Slide 2

To give a little context to how my family got where we are, I'm going to give a brief family history. I only have very limited knowledge of my mom’s side of the family, so I'll start with my dad. My dad grew up in a extremely loving but poor family in 96, South Carolina. His parents were Mike and Lecia. Family had always been more important to my grandpa rather than material things like money. My grandpa Mike never went to college so he took care of his wife and twelve kids working a construction job. It was rough growing up in the neighborhood my dad was raised in. My dad had a dream of making it out of that kind of lifestyle so he worked hard in school and was eventually accepted into Clemson University. My mom was also born to an extremely poor family. She grew up in a very shady part of Seattle. When she was a teenager she ran away from home to escape the life she was living. That's how she found my dad. My parents had their first kid when they were both eighteen. My dad decided to drop out of college so he could get a job to support my older sister Breannah.

Slide 3

My humble beginnings started out like my father in the poor side of Rock Hill, South Carolina. My dad got a job at a company called Velux constructing windows to take care of our family. It was a very low paying job. My family was so poor that we had to share a two bedroom house with another family. My sister Breannah and I had to share a bed and my whole family was in one tiny room. The neighborhood we were living in was in a side of town where crime happened on a daily basis. Things could get very violent sometimes so I'm glad that I was born into a Christian family of love. From the very beginning, my mom has always told me to act right and not get involved with the stupid things other kids are doing outside.

Slide 4

Ever since I was young, my parents always let me know how important education is for my future. My dad’s family always taught me that the world's mine if I am willing to work for it. He has also told me that I’m capable of doing so much more than he did.

One of the hardest parts of growing up in Rock Hill is the education system. The problem isn't with the teachers they are just fine. The problem is trying to stay motivated and true to yourself while everyone around you is convinced that education will not fix anything for them and that we’re not capable of achieving greatness because of where we are born. So for me it felt impossible to get the grades that I needed for success while also attending a public school in Rock Hill.

In American Creed, Principal Prevett expresses that "we are a country where access to proper education can change everything.” In this particular portion of the film Principal Previtt is expressing how urgent education is for children who are growing up in rough-parts of town. I can relate a great deal to Principal Previtt on this subject because I grew up just like those children. About twenty minutes away from my house there is a private school called York Preparatory Academy. The education and the lifestyle of the school was exactly what I needed to stay motivated in terms of what I wanted in life. The problem is there are only three ways to get into this school. You can be accepted through an extremely selective annual raffle, pay an extremely high annual fee, or make it onto a sports team and have your whole family admitted to the school. So for two years all my friends and I trained extremely hard in soccer so we could tryout for the team. When I was in the 7th grade my friend Kobe and I finally made the team.

Slide 5

This was also around the same time that I got into high elevation mountain climbing. I told my dad that I dreamed of climbing Mount Everest and the Seven Summits. Just to show you how amazing my parents are, my parents and I saved money for three years so that I could go to Tanzania and climb the tallest mountain in Africa to experience my new-found dream. While I was in Tanzania, I had a truly humbling experience of seeing true poverty in a place where hope for a wealthy future is impossible. Somehow these people were still some of the happiest people I have ever met. This experience is one of the key events that is keeping me motivated for my future. I am blessed to be born in a country where my future is not dependent on what my home circumstances are like. I want to one day have the money to travel the world chasing my dreams and my future family's dreams.

Slide 6

At this point in my life, everything seems to be going almost perfectly to plan. I am going to use soccer to get me through high school and into college. But life finally catches up with me and shows me that it's not quite that easy. It was the beginning of my freshman year. The fall soccer season was about to start. Everything was going perfect until I broke my leg. My position on the team was immediately replaced. I was told if I worked hard I could come back the following year as a goalkeeper. I was also allowed to stay enrolled at the school. But this meant my dreams of playing college soccer were over. This really weighed heavily on me. I started hanging out with neighborhood kids, causing mischief and getting into trouble because I had nothing to do after school hours. I also had a heartbreak when two of my really close friends died at the same time. I really started getting down on myself. I pretty much gave up on myself and my future. My mother was able to teach me a very important lesson that is excellently captured in the American Creed documentary. Dr. Kennedy says "American identity from the earliest commentators on earth has been all about freedom and aspiration and clearing the ground for achievement and fulfillment of dreams and we're hesitant to blame any factors beyond ourselves for our failures that we inevitably encounter.” Dr. Kennedy is basically saying that Americans are known for fighting for their dreams. He is also saying those who don't accomplish them can blame no one but themselves. My mom taught me something very similar; she says you can choose to let this hard time break you and live an average life and we will still be proud of you but when you look back on this and you're mad because you realize you had the potential for so much more, you are not allowed to blame anyone but yourself because you can truly do great things. Eventually I decided to save my money to go to school in Alaska and refocus.

Slide 7

So how does all of this play into my idea of the American creed? My idea of the American creed can be summarized into two quotes both from American Creed. The first quote is by Terrence Davenport. He reaffirms that "the thing that should unite Americans is our fight. Not to just make things right for ourselves but to create a path, an easier path for the people that come behind us.” Mr Davenport is expressing that we as Americans don't only fight for what we feel is what we need in life. We fight for everyone who wants the same things we do, to show people nothing's impossible. I plan to go to college at Clemson University and finish what my father started. I want to be a doctor and travel the world chasing everything planet Earth has to offer. Most importantly, I want to set an example for my two little sisters, my friends, and everyone who I grew up like me: dreams are meant to be chased and anyone can catch them no matter where you are born. Dr. Rice asserts that "there is something in some people that makes them wanna overcome no matter what circumstances they find themselves in." She is expressing that we as Americans are fighters and I couldn't agree more. When I think of people who represent America I think of people like George Washington, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These American heroes are all fighters. They came from horrible circumstances and fought to the end for what they wanted. I aspire to be a fighter just like them. My idea of the American creed is to be a person who is willing to fight hard for what I want in life and then show others how to fight for what they feel is right and what they want, too. I am proud to call myself an American.

Published on May 22, 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.

Writing Our Future projects are designed by educators for educators and the young people they work with. Intended for use in schools, libraries, and other educational settings. All projects are COPPA compliant and educator-managed. NWP is committed to supporting young people’s writing and civic participation by providing a safe and supportive environment for youth writing, media creation, sharing, and publishing.