What does it mean to be American? People often associate this word with opportunity, money, and freedom. When asked what it means to be American, Tegan Griffith, in her interview called Marine Life in the Midwest, describes how being American is about making an impact on the US by serving the country or practicing your rights to protest and speak. She says that “The American ideal of citizenship is service to others, either through military service or volunteerism, or advocacy” She is basically saying, to be American is to have an impact on your country. Although I agree that having an impact is one of the most important things about being American, I noticed one thing she said was that this was the American ideal of citizenship. I believe that she may be leaving out some perspectives when she says this.

Citizenship is a big deal for many Americans. But, can you be an American without it? Jose Antonio Vargas is the author of the essay, My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant. This essay describes him growing up and learning that he is not a US citizen. His main point was that, on the surface, he is just as American as everybody else, except he isn’t a registered citizen. He contributes to society like everyone else, he works hard for his jobs, he just wishes his country would accept him. The details in Jose Antonio Vargas’ essay are an example of why Tegan Griffith might not have the full picture of what it means to be American. There are many Americans who might not get the same freedoms.

Similarly, In her recitation of The Hill We Climb at the presidential inauguration, Amada Gorman described being American as being able to unite with each other to overcome challenges and make the country a better place than it was before. I think that this is a good representation of what it means to be American. One of the most important things about this country is that everyone contributes and works together to make America a better place. Part of that is overcoming those challenges too. 

From what I have gathered from these sources, I can confidently say that to be American means to be a positive force in our nation. However, I think that it should also be our responsibility as Americans to ensure that all Americans have a voice, since not everyone receives the same freedom that we are all promised. All three sources reinforce the idea of a positive impact on the country, and I agree that that is important. In my opinion, one of the more important sources was Jose Antonio Vargas’. He allowed us to use a different perspective when looking at what it means to be American. My identity as a young adult Asian living in Berkeley has affected my experience in America. I can’t say that I understand everyone else’s perspective since I would consider myself quite privileged to be living in a place like Berkeley. However, after reading My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant, It strengthened the idea that we need to consider all perspectives when answering questions like these.



  1. Ali 4 weeks ago

    Hi Julian! Great essay! I really liked how you incorporated several different outlooks on what people define as being “American”. If I had any advice, it would be to make the essay sound a little more professional. For example, instead of saying “She is basically saying, to be American is to have an impact on your country.” You could try to use some conjunctive adverbs, such as “in summary” etc.

  2. Mark 4 weeks ago

    Hello Julian!
    I thought that this was a very interesting post! I especially agreed with your statement on our collective responsibility to make change and do better.
    America has often failed to live up to the values it proclaims. However, America has undergone radical change and development through democracy in the past. I agree that America requires that “everyone contributes and works together to make America a better place. Part of that is overcoming those challenges…” We all have a responsibility to make the United States better and I agree that is what America is about.
    I also agree that we must appreciate all perspectives in America — it is not any one narrative.
    Thank you for your post!

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