flag of U.S.A. under white clouds during daytime

In the poem “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes, he writes about the dream of America and how it is not available for everyone. He points out that the American Dream is not a reality for many people in the country, such as poor people, immigrants, and Native Americans and declares that the country must change. Despite talking about the issues that face the country, he remains optimistic that things can improve in the future. At the end of the poem, he writes “O, yes, / I say it plain, / America never was America to me, / And yet I swear this oath- / America will be!” I thought it was interesting how it was mostly future-oriented. He talks about the idealistic ideas of America which are not true for everyone.

The second source is a poem by Amanda Gorman titled “The Hill We Climb”. “Let America be America Again” is about America is not the country it is often portrayed to be, but can become better. This poem, “The Hill We Climb” says that we are slowly climbing the hill to become a better country and that we are getting there.  She says that we must build a brighter future for the next generation. Gorman writes, “And yes we are far from polished / far from pristine / but that doesn’t mean we are / striving to form a union that is perfect / We are striving to forge a union with purpose.” They have the same general message about the country becoming better, but they have different perspectives on the issue.

Finally, “Denial is the Heartbeat of America” is an essay by Ibram X Kendi. In it he talks about the ongoing and constant denial of what America is. Kendi claims that all of the violence in the country we face today is part of America and that people are denying reality when they say” this is not who we are.” When talking about how this problem can be fixed, he writes, “And in the end, what will make America true is the willingness of the American people to stare at their national face for the first time, to open the book of their history for the first time, and see themselves for themselves.” This essay is the most similar to “Let America be America Again” as both talks= about the specifics of the problems facing America. The first two sources had a vision of the future while this third source was the author wanting to uncover how the negative sides of society are in fact a part of America.

In my opinion, America cannot be defined in a simple statement. America is such a large country with a diverse population, in terms of ethnicity, geography, background, and experiences. Everyone has a different perspective and opinion of what they think America is and what it should become. Just like this, American literature will be diverse and reflect different experiences of America. As these three writers talk about in their texts, many of the ideals that Americans have talked about have in reality not existed for many people. The common thread in their texts and in American society is social change and has been since the founding of the country.

Works Cited

  • Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again”
  • Gorman, Amanda. “The Hill We Climb”
  • Kendi, Ibram X. “Denial is the Heartbeat of America

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2 Comments
  1. Sam 2 weeks ago

    Love your work!
    In a world where it seems as if politics and culture are more closely defined by pessimism and gloom than ever before, a bit of optimism and a cool head go a long way. I appreciate your level headed approach to your sources, because it would seem as though with a topic as contentious as the definition as America, it can be easy to come to a preconceived conclusion rather than one based on evidence. Worse yet, it can be deceptively easy to twist sources to fit a preconceived conclusion. But you analyzed your sources, attempted to understand what they had to say, and drew conclusions thereafter. And I happen to agree with your conclusions; America as an idea is too broad to be defined by a single statement. And with such a uniquely perspective based argument, it would seem as though you find a middle ground that anybody of any political affirmation can understand and accept. Were you to expand on this topic, I would love to see more opinions weighed and analyzed.

  2. Milo 3 weeks ago

    Great post, Vilhelm!
    I found your reasoning as to why America cannot be defined is most right, as well as optimistic. In today’s age, we may find ourselves locked in a perpetual cycle of pessimism, especially when it comes to politics, where others often decry America for its problems. Rather than striving to fix it, however, they often just pigeonhole the entire country, complain about it, and leave it at that. Your opinion, however, acts to point out the wrongness of our country in the modern age, yet show the silver lining, and push us towards a better future. Rather than pigeonholing the country, you understand that you cannot simply lump such a word as America into one definition, as you said in the end; “n my opinion, America cannot be defined in a simple statement. America is such a large country with a diverse population, in terms of ethnicity, geography, background, and experiences. Everyone has a different perspective and opinion of what they think America is and what it should become.”
    If you were to ever write on this topic some more, I would love it if you maybe went into how others define America, and how they may be wrong or right in their own right. Having that contrast can be real interesting, and delving further into their reasoning of why can certainly be engaging.

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Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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