Essay About American Values

The relationship among these values—the rights and the responsibilities—creates the fabric of the American society. Rooted in the beliefs and visions of our Founding Fathers and reinforced by historical experience, these cultural values are what distinguishes our country from all others. By the time the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, he was able to see these American values in action.It is this fabric that defines the American Dream—the belief that if people take responsibility for their lives and work hard, they will have the individual freedom to pursue their personal goals and a good opportunity to compete for success. They are what make us “Americans.” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Almost 200 years later, his book Democracy in America is still cited as one of the most insightful and definitive descriptions of American values.

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The historic decisions made by those first settlers have had a profound effect on the shaping of the American character.

By limiting the power of the government and the churches and eliminating a formal aristocracy, the early settlers created a climate of freedom where the emphasis was on the individual.

The Declaration of Independence (1776) One of the most intriguing questions about the United States is what makes people “American”? Historically, the United States has been viewed as “the land of opportunity,” a place where immigrants could have individual freedom, an equal chance for success, and the ability to have a better standard of living.

With immigrants arriving from all over the world with vastly different cultural traditions, values, and customs, what holds the country together? In order to have these benefits, however, they had to take care of themselves, compete with others, and work hard to fashion a new life.

Although receiving financial support from charity, family, or the government is possible, it is usually expected to be for a short time, and it is generally not admired.

Eventually, most Americans would say, people have a responsibility for taking care of themselves.By freedom, Americans mean the desire and the right of all individuals to control their own destiny without outside interference from the government, a ruling noble class, the church, or any other organized authority.The desire to be free of controls was a basic value of the new nation in 1776, and it has continued to attract immigrants to this country.The United States came to be associated in their minds with the concept of individual freedom.This is probably the most basic of all the American values.In order to be in the mainstream of American life—to have power and/or respect—individuals must be seen as self-reliant.For example, if adult children return home to live with their parents because of economic conditions or a failed marriage, most members of the family expect this to be a short-term arrangement, until the children can find a job and be self-reliant.There is, however, a cost for this benefit of individual freedom: self-reliance.Individuals must learn to rely on themselves or risk losing freedom. Traditionally, this has meant achieving both financial and emotional independence from their parents as early as possible, usually by age eighteen or twenty-one.In so doing, they defied the king of England and declared that the power to govern would lie in the hands of the people. In 1787, when they wrote the Constitution for their new nation, they separated church and state so that there would never be a government-supported church. Also, in writing the Constitution they expressly forbade titles of nobility to ensure that an aristocratic society would not develop.There would be no ruling class of noblemen in the new nation.


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