What does it mean to be an American? Well, let’s go back to the late 1700s. America was first founded on July 4th, 1776 and Christopher Columbus the first to set foot on this great country. Along with the founding of our country was the Declaration of Independence, that would give birth to the country we live in as of today; The United States Of America, the land of the free. Throughout the years we’ve been through the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Louisiana Purchase, the American Revolution, 9/11, Civil Wars, 2 World Wars, Apollo 11 and many more events that have shaped our country today. These events, plus many more, are what has made our country the most, if not, one of the most powerful and resilient countries in the world. It’s a privilege to live in such a country where people have freedom and liberty. Although, having freedom and liberty does not define someone as an American, a true American has the desire to pursue their dreams and happiness while helping others throughout their own personal journey because these characteristics are what makes America the most unique and promising out of all the other countries in the world.
America is called the land of the free for a reason. We were the first to have an unlimited government, individual rights, and popular sovereignty. We were also the first to have the Bill of Rights that gave people freedom, liberty, and equality. If you believe people went along with these rights and Americans had no problem with them, you are naive. According to the New Human Freedom Index article, the U.S. ranks 20th in human freedom, falling behind countries like Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand , and Canada. The reason for decline in their freedom rank mostly comes from a long term drop in economic freedom and the rule of law. If you were a woman growing up in America in the 1800s you didn’t have as much of a choice to do anything but have a family, work at home, and cater to your husband. Women didn’t have as much freedom as men. At one point, women could not legally vote, which led to the Women’s Suffrage movement. This movement began in 1848 and lasted nearly a century with protests and riots before being awarded with the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. And even after the Women’s Suffrage, women were still fighting for equal rights. As recently as 2017, lawmakers attempted to restrict access to abortions and controversial comments made by President Trump leading to a Women’s March to advocate for women’s rights. The nationwide protest was an enormous success with a 3 million population turn out and one of the largest and most peaceful protests in U.S. History. This example is how Americans are not just about having freedom and liberty, but for Americans to achieve a common goal that has helped others do things they weren’t able to do.
Another example of what it means to be an American is the honorable Commencement speech by Condoleezza Rice at SMU. Rice talked about what it takes to be successful and that the students at SMU were very fortunate to have the resources to help them achieve their goals. In one of Rice’s statements she talks about how America at one time had little hope of liberty and justice “but because individuals kept faith with the ideas of equality,” (Rice) America has persevered. Rice encourages students to “remain optimistic no matter what” and take advantage of their education at such a prestigious university. Rice also explains to the students how Martin Luther King Jr., when speaking about segregation, didn’t have to say what the United States needed to change but it’s what “the United States had to be what it said it was.”(Rice) This quote really hits on the stance that America needed to live up to its name as the land of the free. Too many times people have dehumanized other human beings because of their race and ethnicity and because they don’t “share the same basic aspirations of all human beings.”(Rice) Although people are different than others with different aspirations, we all have a common goal and that is to have freedom and live a life with purpose. Young men and women have the opportunity to make change in the world with the unlimited resources available. In this type of environment, people can thrive and make anything happen and improve society. Rice is an example of a once young woman that had a dream of making a difference in the world and believed in what she wanted to achieve. Even though times were tough and there were multiple setbacks, she prospered and made her dream of becoming the United States Secretary of State as a female African American, a reality.
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Some citizens consider what it means to be an American is to certainly work hard to succeed. Yet, some do so that prevents them from succeeding because of the way they grew up. In the book, Enter Title Here, Reshma is very self-absorbed and has a very obsessive personality, yet, shows persistence on achieving a goal she strives for and her only hope for happiness. Reshma carries the idea that she deserves whatever she wants and that “you do absolutely everything it takes to make it happen”(Kanakia 13). Even though this mindset is good to have, she abuses her power and doesn’t grasp the aspect of doing things the right, appropriate way. Reshma believes that to become successful is “looking good and seeming smart,” and “your resume and how well you interview”(Kanakia 109). Throughout the book, many of Reshma’s friends and family try to convince her that being successful is by working hard, doing things the right way, and that she should live her life rather than making poor choices that keep her from succeeding. But Reshma is so determined to “prove everyone wrong” (Kanakia 13) and show everyone she can achieve her goals anyway she wants, that she doesn’t ever enjoy her life. Towards the end of the book, Reshma finally realizes that her family and friends were right and that she needed to change. Although she doesn’t succeed in the end, Reshma still has a family that loves her and supports her and will help her achieve anything she strives for. She ends up doing things she likes and has a supporting cast behind her. Reshma is an example of an American that was first misguided, but by family and friends wanting her to succeed, she was led into the right direction.
Most citizens have a dream of becoming successful and become widely known to be an inspiration to others. To be an American also means to have the “American Dream”. In the article, Is the American Dream still achievable?, Rosmarie P., a young activist and writer, explains that the American dream is about achieving your dreams and being recognized by others for what they are, regardless of race and gender. Some Americans believe that the American dream is unreal because of “discrimination and unequal opportunities” that are a barrier to their success. But what some people fail to recognize is that they can overcome these things like poverty and being different than others and still become successful. “It is in one’s hands to shape life, seize opportunities, get an education, resist failure, set goals and ultimately become somebody.” Americans can achieve anything they set their mind to and even through hardship and times of despair, keep steady in their pursuit to success and happiness. This idea can be backed up with factual claims in the article that “36% of Americans say they have achieved the American dream,” whilst “46% say they are “on their way.” Also those who have achieved the American Dream are to be mostly older and well educated than those who are on their way. All races or ethnic differences share the belief in the same American dream and that the dream is not out of reach. Rosemary also gives an example of someone overcoming hardships to achieve accomplishments and becoming the most recognizable public figures in the world. The American dream is not dead and is possible due to “equal opportunity.” This article is an example how the meaning of being an American is achieving your dream and pursuing happiness by believing in yourself and living life to the fullest. And by doing so impacting the people around them and becoming an inspiration to all.
My goal in life to be happy and make it to the NBA or become a Civil Engineer. I believe in doing things that will help others and make them happy. I’ve always been able to keep a positive attitude in everything I do and I hope for others to do the same. Everyone has a purpose in life and Americans are just lucky enough to live in a country that has unlimited resources to help make those things possible.