American culture, values, and creeds are all have different meanings to Americans. They are what makes you different from someone else, but there are values that everybody feels are important, freedom and equality. The ideas of freedom and equality have been around in American history since the beginning of this country. Many of our founding articles have been focused around these two core values.
Freedom. Freedom can take many different shapes or forms, but to an American, freedom means that there is no limit to what you can do. Americans value their freedoms and that the government cannot take those freedoms away. This idea of individual rights and freedoms goes a long way back. Before America was even founded, the would-be-Americans had the concept of freedom. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”(US 1776). The colonists believed that their natural rights, rights that every human being should have, were being taken away. This concept of individual rights and freedoms helped create the land of the free, America. In current times, our freedoms are what defines America. We have the freedom to achieve our American dream, the freedom to do, say, write, and believe whatever we want to. That is what people looking from the outside see. They see their bright, shining futures in our personal freedoms.
In America, we are still struggling with the idea of equality. Many minorities do not feel that they are getting treated the same, or getting the same rights that other Americans are getting. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is a very memorable speech. The most being when he states “ … that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth”(Lincoln, 1863). Lincoln wants a country that is for every American, and ran by every American. That meant, no matter where or who you were, you would have the same rights as everyone else. As time went on, our value of equality has taken a downward trend, but the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage movement, and very recently, the gay rights movement has brought up the notion of equality again. The civil rights movement, lead by Martin Luther King Jr., showed that equality should be for everyone. This idea that everyone should be equal, sparked the women’s suffrage movement, which led to many important changes in society. Both movements attempted to gain equal rights for everyone no matter their gender or race. The American value of equality is not only meant for Americans. Immigrants that come to America to escape their previous governments unjust and unequal treatment of certain minority groups (Binkowski). Even if you aren’t American on paper, the belief of equality surely does make you American.
Every American has the right to have different values, creeds, or culture, but that in it of itself is a core American value. To be able to believe in what you stand for is a part of freedom, and freedom is an important part of what makes someone feel genuinely American. Differing beliefs can lead to some disagreements between people, but everyone should have the right to be treated equally under the law no matter what gender, race, or religion you believe in. That is the basic concept of equality and how it is viewed by Americans. Being an American shouldn’t just be legal documents or social security numbers, it should be a feeling of being free from the shackles that bind you to a life of inequality and injustice. That’s what it means to be American.
Binkowski, Brooke. “What Brings Immigrants to America?” Smithsonian Second Opinion, Smithsonian Second Opinion, 25 Oct. 2017, www.smithsoniansecondopinion.org/immigration-america/what-brings-immigrants-america-conversation-lisa-sasaki-180965162/.
“Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.
Gilpin, Caroline Crosson. “What Do American Values Mean to You?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/15/learning/what-do-american-values-mean-to-you.html.
History.com Editors. “The Gettysburg Address.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 24 Aug. 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/gettysburg-address.