Life is full of adventures, adversities, and lessons all of which impact and alter our values and beliefs. Every person is born into a community, surrounded by people, and faced with multiple challenges, all having enormous influence on our ideas. We undergo these different scenarios in our lives to shape who we’re going to be and, as Americans, to find our individual American dreams.
“American” is a widely used term, and what is its meaning? Naturally you would hear this question and simply google, “American definition” but I’m not asking for the textbook definition. I am asking what is the essential significance to this word, what is YOUR interpretation of the word, and what does it mean to YOU to be an American? Yes, it is a pretty intricate question with numerous correct answers. This is what I, as an individual, imagine what being an American is all about.
Freedom; equality; diversity; as Americans we all share the same freedoms, the freedom to speak our minds, state our opinions, chase our futures, and many more. We as humans are naturally selfish and greedy, we have our values and wants that we desire to obtain no matter the costs. Within the novel, Shanghai Girls, The Chin family faces perplexity head on in times of hardship, and the two sisters, May and Pearl, forced to travel to America are supposedly to find success and glory in the “American Dream.” But what is the American Dream? There can’t just be one singular “American Dream” because people are diverse, each and every person is different to varying intensities. Within, Shanghai Girls, May and Pearl find their OWN American dreams and chase their OWN individual values and desires.
Walt Whitman’s, “I Hear America Singing,” is a wonderful poem where, in between the lines and within the words, reads how each person has a song to sing that is solely theirs. Stated in Whitman’s poem, “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,” this phrase illustrates how each person has a melody they wish to scream out, hum at the core, and express with others, and we have the right to do so. In America, I believe we should be able to convey our views without the fear of rejection or possibly the acceptance of rejection. For everyone has differing and clashing views but as Americans we must respect that, so that with respect comes in turn a feeling of harmony, as said within Whitman’s poem, “Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”
“Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes is a beautiful poem explaining that we are the definition of America, we are what makes America and we are the ones who will have to save our America. Said within the poem, “We, the people, must redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.” We create our America and we protect it because it is not the promises we make, or the words we say, that make America what it is; it is our actions as individuals and as a whole that define us as well as define our America.
Life is full of cheerful days, sorrowful days, and complicated ones. These seconds, hours, and days define who we are; make us learn; grow; and develop our ideas as well as our beliefs and desires. “American” means whatever you wish it to mean, its definition is you and me and everyone around you. Everyone has a song that they are strongly singing out with passion because WE make America.
See, Lisa. Shanghai Girls. Random House, 2009, pp. 3-309.
Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again.” Poets.org, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009,
Whitman, Walt. “I Hear America Singing.” Poets.org, 1966,