American values most important to the continued development of our culture are Social Equality and Equal Opportunity to obtain basic human needs. The United States has historically been called the melting pot of the world. People of numerous different ethnicities, cultures, and religions founded the United States in search of a place where all would be accepted. This rich diversity has set the stage for an equality focused society.
Social Equality is one of the most important values because it is a belief that we all share and strive to earn as individuals. Everyone in the world would like to be treated with respect. When a group of people who are bound together by a common religion, race, or belief feel as though they aren’t being treated fair it’s their right to do something about it and change the way the American culture views their demographic. For example, in the nineteenth century women didn’t have the right to vote. They proclaimed that they were not being treated with equality since men could vote and women could not. They took action by creating The Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. The Declaration of Sentiments was similar to the Declaration of Independence in which it describes the rights of Americans and their grievances against their oppressors. The Declaration of Sentiments, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, states “He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.”(Women’s). Women demanded the right to vote so they could be represented fairly in politics and government, similar to men. Women of this Convention stood for equal representation between the sexes within their society. The right to vote symbolizes that every voice matters and can make a difference. When Social Equality is threatened the citizens of the United States have the power to change the law.
Secondly, Equal Opportunity to obtain basic and essential human needs is also a value and belief worth speaking out for along with Social Equality. These needs include safety, law and order, governmental stability, economic stability and shelter from the elements (McLeod). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a committee that focuses on fairness in employment and oversees the protection of the Equal Opportunity value. The EEOC is in charge of enforcing legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Equal Pay Act was created “To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.”(United). The Act puts men and women on an equal base for economic opportunities by ensuring that people can not be paid more or less because of their gender. If men and women are both paid the same wages then they have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs, housing, education and social stability.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is another example of Equal Opportunity protections. The Civil Rights Act prohibited “segregation in public places, and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin”(History). This act was important because it not only prevents gender discrimination but racial discrimination too. The Act puts all Americans on an equal playing field to earn jobs. Equal opportunity is important because it supports the idea of Social Equality and it sets the tone for how we as Americans treat each other.
Unfortunately Equal Opportunity to access human needs is not being extended to immigrants today. Michelle Obama said “Barack knows the American dream because he’s lived it… and he wants everyone in this country to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.”(Transcript). Though Americans are all different we are all deserving of respect and the chance to achieve the American dream no matter where we come from.
We as United States citizens need to face the inequalities in opportunity and extend them to all. If we abandoned our core values then we are abandoning the American creed that each one of us is created equal and deserves the opportunity to achieve our highest potential.
History.com Editors. “Civil Rights Act of 1964.” History, A&E Television Networks, 4 Jan. 2010, https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-act. Accessed 15 October 2019.
McLeod, Saul. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” SimplyPsychology, SimplyPsychology,https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html. Accessed 15 October 2019.
“Modern HIstory Sourcebook: The Seneca Falls Conference, 1848.”Fordham University, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/senecafalls.asp. Accessed 15 October 2019.
“Search.” Citation- Report of the Women’s Rights Convention, Held at Seneca falls, N.Y., July 19th & 20th, 1848 – UW-Madison Libraries, University Wisconsin- Madison. https://search.library.wisc.edu. Accessed 15 October 2019.
“The Equal Pay Act of 1963.”U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, USA.Gov, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/epa.cfm. Accessed 15 October 2019.
“Transcript: Michelle Obama’s Convention Speech.” NPR, NPR, 5 Sept. 2012, https://www.npr.org/2012/09/04/160578836/transcript-michelle-obamas-convention-speech. Accessed 15 October 2019.
United States. Department of Labor. Office of the Solicitor. Legislative History of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Amending Section 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as Amended, Public Law 88-38, 88th Congress, H.R. 6060 and S. 1409. Washington :U.S. G.P.O., 1963.
Woman’s Rights Convention (1st : 1848 : Seneca Falls, N.Y.). Report Of the Woman’s Rights Convention, Held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19th & 20th, 1848. Rochester :Printed by John Dick at the North Star Office, 1848.Tags: Okemos High School
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