An American is not identified by race, skin color, language or any other social definition. America is cosmopolitan with people from all walks of life, speaking different languages, with different skin colors and different social classes. It is, therefore, not a name given to specific people of a certain origin or language, but it can be given to anybody who exhibits the expected values. Thus, speaking English is not a significant proof of being American but the values, norms and moral behavior one holds.
A census carried out in 2000 showed that in every five US residents one speaks foreign language when at home which was an increase as compared to a census carried out in 1990. It further revealed that 55% of those who communicate in languages other than English at home are still good in speaking English. The total percentage of these together with those who speak only English even at home comes to 92%. Therefore, although there are many languages spoken in America as revealed by the census bureau of 2006 -2008, which showed that there are around 325 languages, the truth is they mostly speak English, as it is a neutral communication language.
There have been various proposals to make English an official language, but none of them has been successful. Accordingly, 82 % of the US population regards it as mother tongue while 92% can speak it fluently; this has not though been made to be officialised as a national language. A move by the former President George Bush to make it an official language was highly opposed mostly by the Spanish speaking Americans, as Spanish is the second largest used language in America (Doyle, 1990). The fact is there are a number of people who have already adopted it as an official language, but it is not yet a rule and thus still remains the widely accepted though not official.
Values that defines American.
One can be regarded as an American as per the freedom he or she is entitled to as enshrined in the constitution or elsewhere. In the US, there is a freedom of speech and expression, religion and decision etc. one is free to worship whatever he or she wants to and can choose to be Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Jewish. Freedom of speech enables Americans to express their innermost thought without any fear of being condemned and thus ideas of the least person in the society can be expressed and heard. The prosperity of Americans can be traced back from the time of independence, which recognized the right that each human being has to happiness in this life no matter how inferior he or she may appear to be.
Equality is one of the important things that Americans strive to achieve and maintain. People from different races and origin are treated alike no matter how superior or inferior they are. As a matter of fact, everybody is entitled to good health, good housing, education and is being relied upon by all the institutions in the country that provide these services which were created by the events in the laying of the moral foundations. It is the right of each American to be treated and be given the respect he or she deserves no matter the race or social background.
Generosity of Americans is boundless. They have helped almost all the nations in the world whenever they needed help, which is another distinction factor of Americans. It is only 20 years ago when the Soviet Army overran Afghanistan and through American assistance and supplies Afghans were able to win back their country. They provide to the poor in most parts of the globe as long as they deem need be. They provide assistance in the form of grants, military during wars and peacekeeping, food donation to arid parts of the world like Africa, funds for reconstruction after catastrophes and moral and spiritual support when need be (Robertson, 2000).
A big number of Americans believe in the presence of a supernatural being that is controlling the universe. A recently carried out survey showed that 83% associate themselves with a religion, 43% claim to attend service weekly while about 58% pray weekly. This shows that a big percentage believes in a supernatural being and as a rule, everyone has a right to chose what to believe in. About 60-70% of the population is Christians while the rest is distributed to other religions and beliefs including Muslim, Buddha, Hindu and Taoism among others.
American culture is embedded in competition and thus Americans strive in exploiting their full potential. Making the best out of what or where they are since its foundation. The aggressiveness of Americans is well portrayed in the American dream which is an idea suggesting that every person can succeed through hard work and that everybody has the potential of living happily and successful. The American dream come into being way back in the early 1600’s, and some people have developed critics about it saying that it has bases on racism, class and ethnic origin, and that it is not attainable to other people. Regardless of this, those people who believe in the American dream, can attain anything through hard work and making money is important and attainable no matter the situation, level or education.
Americans cherish economic freedom as a natural system of liberty. Many of them prefer to be their own bosses and not to be controlled by employers. This has in turn led to a lot of innovation and novelty in America as everybody struggles to have his own investment. This attitude was long applied by the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian in their time who believed in maintaining the republican freedom as stated in the bill of rights. This group though feared that it might fail to maintain the freedom as time went on because of the fact that people might be swallowed into the big upcoming business. Due to this fear, many people turned to government and unions to protect them as these businesspersons were slowly narrowing their freedom.
The question of Americans cherishing their political freedom is a bit complicated. It worth noting the words of Jefferson, when he stated that there were rights that have been God given and no man had had an authority to change them, including freedom, liberty and pursuit to a happy life. Lately few Americans know or believe that freedom comes from the government and that anything that the government does is right. It is forgotten that the only purpose of the government is to protect the freedom that was given to humankind freely. It is thus a challenge that we all should try to understand our rights and to be able to cherish political freedom.
Like any other culture, the Americans have traditions, too. These traditions can be classified into freedom, family and American culture. These traditions are the roots of the ancestors and are followed by Americans to mark different celebrations. The Americans believe that an eagle represents freedom and displaying it shows that one is celebrating ones freedom of choice, which is a right of every citizen in the country. It is traditional to see sculptures of eagles in prominent places and homes of Americans. The power of this tradition is still manifested on the back of the coins where there is an eagle with spread wings (Robertson, The history of America, Volume 1).
When it comes to traditions in the family, we can pick on the yellow ribbon. In any other culture, it might not mean anything to display it, but to Americans it is an important symbol in their lives. It is a symbol of loyalty to the family, friend and loved ones who are welcomed into the house. The yellow ribbon came from a prisoner who was returning from Andersonville prison, which prompted Tony Orlando and Dawn to compose their song of the year “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”. Since then the yellow ribbon has been regarded to be of symbolic nature and that Americans owe to respect.
Statistics have shown that a big percentage of Americans are Christians. It is obvious that they do identify with Christmas. This percentage has been deteriorating as time went by, and thus the number of those who identify with Christmas, too. The reason for this trend can be well related to the fact that most of the Christians have moved from identifying themselves as Christians to no religion at all.
Independence Day is the day when Americans celebrate their freedom, liberty, and in other words, it is the nation’s birthday, so many Americans identify themselves with it. Many of those who celebrate are usually children and according to a survey carried out by the Harvard University it was revealed that July, 4 turns children to be republican rather than democrats. All in all Americans still do identify themselves with it.
The Veterans Day is when all Americans take time to remember those people who struggled and died for the sake of the country’s freedom. Most of these people are unknown and were buried at an identified place, where later the amphitheater was built around the tomb. Every year on November, 11, at eleven, Americans gather around this tomb to show respect to these long gone heroes as the Presidential wreath is laid upon the tomb.
In conclusion, an American does not need to be a specific person as long as one exhibits the values and norms that Americans have. Therefore, I feel that I can perfectly fit to the description of being an American no matter my race, religion, skin color but my content in character.