American Opportunity

An evaluation of the American stereotype

By Joseph K. from Royal Oak High School in Michigan

As someone born in America, I think it would be easy for me to look over things that I’ve had for as long as I remember: it would be easy to take things for granted. By living in America, I believe, many people are sort of lulled into a state of greed and ungratefulness. It suddenly doesn’t bother us when we throw away that last little bit of food that we just couldn’t finish at dinner. It’s this sort of mindset that has stereotyped the American lifestyle for decades.

This issue is one that I have been aware of for a long time, and the person I have to thank for that is my grandmother. Her mother (my great-grandmother) was someone who grew up during the Great Depression, which essentially conditioned her to save and cherish everything, since she had so little for so long. After she had kids, she passed that aspect of her life down to my grandmother when she was young, who then stressed that onto me at a young age. I remember my grandmother always trying to tell me not to eat so fast, to savor foods, experiences, and opportunities. She has always urged me to be open to new experiences, to try new things, even if it might be out of my comfort zone.

She was trying to raise me to be a grateful, charitable person. She was aware of the American stereotype, and she did her best to influence my character to challenge that stereotype.

To her, and our ancestors, America represented a land of unrivaled opportunity. My great-great-grandmother came to this country from Poland - she had no skills, and hardly any assets - she hoped that this new country would prove to be a better life for her than Europe. Sure enough, after she landed in North Carolina, she found work for a man, who would eventually become her husband, that owned a tailoring shop. She worked closely enough with him that he would eventually teach her everything he knew; they would find a house, settle down, have kids, and live a respectable life. Had she stayed in Poland, she never would have had such opportunity.

This story is one that my grandmother was aware of, and it helped to build up her appreciation for this country. She knew that she was lucky to be here; lucky to have the freedoms provided to her by the Bill of Rights, lucky to be able to choose her own career path, lucky even to be able to walk down to the corner store and buy a pack of gum for less than a dollar. This is where my American Creed lies. Before getting all politically polarized and worried about all these modern complicated issues, I’d rather talk about a basic principle.

It can be very beneficial to many people to return themselves to this basic idea. So many people are caught up with solving other problems in this country that they forget what America stands for. This is the land of opportunity, and some take that for granted. I run into people like this everyday, people who so desperately want more that they forget what they already have. Whether it’s the newest iPhone, smartwatch, tablet, it doesn’t seem to be enough with this new generation. I am guilty of this as well: just in the past few months I caught myself thinking “my car is really old and worn down, I wish I had a newer one”. I had to stop myself and remember that I didn’t even have to pay for my first car, I got my mom’s handed to me. Some people don’t even have a car, not to mention a license. I am incredibly fortunate to have the things I have, and I may not be guaranteed those things if I lived in a different country.

I’m not saying all of this so that you go donate to some charity, or get rid of all material possessions, or feel guilty for being “ungrateful”, I’m only saying it because I don’t think it’s worth it to feel bad about not having the latest a greatest technologies and trending items. I also don’t want you to see this as me telling you not to strive for greatness in life; that’s the only way you’re going to make a better life for yourself. I just ask you to appreciate every opportunity for greatness that you get in life.

For me, my grandmother, and for many people, America represents the land of literally the most opportunity that you can get anywhere. In your quest to do the best you can with your talents and skills, don’t get caught up in the fact that you might not have every single last thing you want. Appreciate and cherish every opportunity you get, and you’ll live a happier life.

Royal Oak High School

Miller's Thrillers

AP Lang and Comp Hour 2

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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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