What made me an American? Certainly, being lucky enough to be born in this country helped, but that only made me a citizen, not an American. Becoming an American is a long process of learning to love this country, respect the laws, and take pride in what makes us a nation. This is why many immigrants are Americans and many born in the United States are not truly members of this country.
But what made me an American? Was it my interest in American history, the hours spent with books about the Revolutionary period and glued to episodes of Liberty’s Kids? Was it the countless times my parents took me to various national parks and landmarks during my childhood? Was it the Fourth of July parades and infinite little league games that made up my summers or singing old Christmas carols out of the Norman Rockwell book at Christmas time? How much did Charlie Brown and my real life friendships affect my development as an American?
Was it growing up in the shadow September 11, 2001? Despite the fact that I was only in first grade, I remember the charged atmosphere of the day, being let out of school early for seemingly no reason and being confused by the terror in the parents’ faces as they rushed to ensure their children’s safety. Was it the sense of civic duty taught to me by my parents? The sense of duty I learned tempted me and my friends to try and vote at the age of seventeen only to be found out and stopped by my parents before committing voter fraud.
Was it the beautiful works of political philosophy written by Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton that I read throughout my time majoring in political science? Could it be listening to Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton soundtrack on repeat for four days in a row leaving me with a perfect knowledge of every word to every song in the show? Both are excellent possibilities.
Was it the summer barbecues and making s’mores at bonfires? Was it driving a mile away from home last night to get a good view of the town’s fireworks because the neighbor’s refuse to trim their tall pine tree urged on by a need to celebrate my nation’s birth in the proper manner? In truth, it seems to me as though each and every thing I have written and infinite more experiences that, when taken together, made me who I am. Becoming an American is not the same experience for every American. The only qualification is to truly understand the principles which created this nation, to love this country with all of your heart, and to want what’s best for the country and her survival.
Happy Fourth of July everyone.