Everyone has their own definition of what it means to be American. Some might say that this is the land of the free, the land of opportunity. Others were raised with the principles of being honest, respectful, and kind. Over the course of history, many events have shaped the country we live in today. And while there has said to be change, the truth is many are still fighting for the same things being fought for ten, fifty, even one hundred years ago, to this day. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio describes the hardships she faced growing up as an immigrant in her article, “For the Child of Immigrants, the American Dream Can Be a Nightmare”. One powerful statement she makes is, “What makes me American—what makes the children of immigrants American in the most fundamental of ways—is something we learned from watching how unkindly America has treated our mothers and fathers. Our entire lives have been spent trying to deserve America. America needs to earn us, too.” (Villavicencio). She is the very example of what it means to be American. To keep persevering when one obstacle after the next keeps blocking your path. Hard work. Dedication. In this country, we all have opportunities, some more than others. What you make of them, however, plays a big role in what it means to be American.
Damien Cave and Todd Heisler did a documentary called “Final Days on Being American”, in which they interviewed numerous people who each gave their own answer to this big question. Surely, no two answers were the same. However, there is one common theme that can be pulled from them. We all come from different backgrounds, different childhoods, cultures, and experiences. Looking at the responses, you can see that these factors play an essential part in the opinion of each individual.
Lastly, it is often said that America is a “melting pot”, yet we all don’t blend into one simple definition of “American”. In Anthony B. Major’s article, “Life Is Like a Salad Bowl (or Should Be!)”, he refers to this idea as a “salad bowl”, instead. Touching on this, the fact that we each are all unique individuals, with our own values, ideas, and opinions makes us who we are. Hard work. Dedication. Sacrifice. These are all pieces of the bigger picture. In the end, we all have a choice of who we want to be. Somewhere down the line, that’s what makes us American.
Villavicencio, Karla C. For the Child of Immigrants, the American Dream Can Be a Nightmare, Vogue, 17 Apr. 2018, www.vogue.com/article/child-of-immigrants-daca-personal-essay.
Cave, Damien, and Todd Heisler. Final Day on Being American, New York Times, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/us/the-way-north.html#p/39.
Major, Anthony B. Life Is Like a Salad Bowl (or Should Be!), Huffington Post, 14 Aug. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/the-university-of-central-florida-forum/life-is-like-a-salad-bowl_b_5675446.html.
Image From: Youth Voices Media Library