I was struggling with writing this because to me, being an American means you’re a citizen of America. That’s not a wrong answer, yet it’s not the one I assume this essay was looking for. So I asked my mom, and she talked about the commitment to the country and gave me a long talk about many complex aspects of our government. While evaluating both of those answers, I realized the obvious. They were completely different. The question asks what it means to be an American, but the answer is defined in the opportunity to all have different answers to that question. Living here, we all have the freedom to think and say what we believe. We are encouraged to have different opinions and speak up for what we want. Being American is not defined in values and perspectives that particularly unite us all, but being a citizen of the United States gives us liberty to have different beliefs and have those opinions be respected, and that is what illustrates being an American. 

Going back in history, even our own Constitution brought much debate and divided the people of America during its time of drafting. In the end, that means many different viewpoints are represented in our government today. For example, right now there are presidential debates going on. Those are meant to help the people decide who they want to vote for. These debates are prime examples of what our country stands for. The Voting Rights Act installed equal voting rights for all in this country, regardless of race or ethnic group, and because every group is different, there is no one dominant consensus regarding many things within our nation. That is why our voting rights are so important. Throughout the voting process, not only are the candidate’s opinions heard, but the people are as well. 

Because our country is so diverse, it brings about another staple to American life, that being respect. “Some people say America has no culture of respect. They mention other societies where respect and honor are big values. We do have these values in America, and I’d argue we have them in their purest form, but you can’t demand them. You must earn them and maintain them, like all good things in a society with democratic values with capitalist ideals” (Pant). I think that this quote does a great job embodying the role of respect in America. Our country revolves around the spirit of self efficiency, and nobody will just be given something without hard work, even respect. However, once earned, it is very important in our culture so as to have more civility as our nation moves forward.

Works Cited

“Voting and Election Laws.” USAGov, https://www.usa.gov/voting-laws

“America’s Founding Documents.” National Center for Constitutional Studies, https://nccs.net/blogs/americas-founding-documents/americas-founding-documents.

“Issues of the Constitutional Convention.” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/constitutional-convention/issues-of-the-constitutional-convention/.  Pant, Rajiv. “Respect and the American Way.” Web Site of Rajiv Pant, 31 Jan. 2009, https://www.rajiv.com/blog/2003/10/15/respect/.

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


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