Schooling opportunities we receive play a major role in defining our American life. My American Literature class has really opened my eyes to not only how different our culture is to others, but also how similar they are. We value our image; how we come across to others and how that has the potential to impact us is crucial. We value success; we want to do our best and achieve the most we can. We value education; according to the National Education Association, “…72 million children of primary school age are not in school, 60 percent of whom are girls. More than half these children live in fragile, conflict-affected states”. We want to get the highest education we can and learn more and more to become successful. We also value our safety; according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, over 37,000 people die in road crashes every year, and 2.35 million people are injured or disabled. “An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled”, and “over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year”. This shows how many people are injured every year, and is a driving factor for our necessity of safety. 

The desire to do our best and lead the best life we can is one of our biggest values as people. In the book, Lisa, Bright and Dark, by John Neufeld, there are many situations that Lisa goes through that portray what it means to be an American. One example is when Lisa’s friend, Betsy, talks about how Lisa has “bright” and “dark” days. She discusses how Lisa would have some days where she comes to school happy, social, and full of energy. However, some days she was closed off, quiet, and irritable. One example that sticks out in my mind is when Lisa was at a party with her friends, described as having a great time and laughing constantly. All of a sudden, Lisa demands that the music be turned off and starts yelling at everyone, complaining that everyone is always getting in her business, always staring at her, and wondering why she couldn’t just have a normal experience. She didn’t like everyone staring at her all the time because of the image of perfection that she gave off. When she left the room to gain her composure, she was able to get back to her usual self, claiming nothing was wrong with her and that she was completely fine.This is a good example of how we value our image, because even though Lisa was going crazy in her mind, she put on a smile and faked her way into making everyone think she was doing great. She gave off the impression that she was perfect and had her life together because she cared how everyone else saw her and she didn’t want them to see her differently. Sometimes, we value our image so much that we work too hard to make ourselves seen a specific way. 

So what does it mean to be an American? To me, being an American means putting your best foot forward. We want to protect our values and beliefs, so we put our trust in the government to do just that. Being an American means recognizing that, while we all have different beliefs, they are what makes our nation diverse and unique.

Works Cited

“Facts on Education for All.” NEA,

Neufeld, John. Lisa, Bright and Dark: a Novel. IUniverse, 2007.

“Road Safety Facts.” Association for Safe International Road Travel,


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