What Does It Mean To Be American?


Samantha Ramirez, Herald Writer & Photographer

Being an American can mean so many different things. Everyone has their own way of defining an American. Living in America and being American is important and can come with many wonderful opportunities. However, it can also be a struggle. Being an American means making sacrifices for your country, working hard for your country and being a citizen in America. Some examples of being American are being a part of the military, growing up and living in America, and following and having rights because of amendments.

Being in the military and being a patriot can be one way to be an American but being an American is not limited to these professions. In the “Patriot,” the author John McCain writes about when he was a prisoner of war. He mentions Mike Christian and how he was a true patriot and American. In the text McCain states, “He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.” Mike Christain was not thinking about himself in this situation. Instead, he was thinking about the other war prisoners that needed to pledge their allegiance to the American flag. Later on in the text, McCain states that being an American involves “Duty, honor, courage. We must never forget those thousands of Americans who, with their courage, with their sacrifice and with their lives, made those words live for all of us.” There are so many people in America who are just like Mike Christian and John McCain. They sacrifice their life everyday for their country, which makes them American.

Growing up and living in America also makes you an American. You can be a different race but still be American. For example, Kesaya E. Noda is racially Japanese but she grew up in America so she is Japanese American. She was born in California but grew up in New Hampshire so she is just as American as anybody else in America. Noda writes an essay about what it’s like growing up Asian in America. In this essay she writes, “But now I can say that I am a Japanese-American. It means I have a place here in this country, too. I have a place here on the East Coast, where our neighbor is so much a part of our family that my mother never passes her house at night without glancing at the lights to see if she is home and safe; where my parents have hauled hundreds of pounds of rocks from fields and arduously planted Christmas trees and blueberries, lilacs, asparagus, and crab apples; where my father still dreams of angling a stream to a new bed so that he can dig a pond in the field and fill it with water and fish.” Noda and her family do things that every other American does. They celebrate similar holidays and traditions, they have neighbors they care about, they work just as hard as other Americans, and they have American dreams just like every other American. If you were born and raised in America, you have the right to consider yourself American if you choose to, regardless of your race or ethnicity. 

Being American also means you have liberties under the Bill of Rights. Any U.S. citizen has these rights listed under the Constitution of the United States. You are considered American if the Bill of Rights applies to you. The “Bill of Rights passes Congress” article by history.com editors states, “The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people.” Having these amendments ensures that U.S. citizens are protected and safe. According to Mass Legal Help, a citizen of the United States is someone who is “born anywhere in the United States or it’s territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And if you were born in another country and then naturalized, you are also a U.S. citizen.” This indicates that if you are from a different country but acquired citizenship or nationality in the U.S., you are considered an American. Because you are considered an American citizen, you have the rights under the amendments. 

There are definitely so many ways of what an American can be but these are just three ways I define Americans. An American is someone who is a citizen of the United States. An American is someone who is proud to be in America. An American is someone who fights for America. An American can be so much more than what we think. An American can be defined as something completely different to one person than it is defined as to another. For someone to be American, it doesn’t mean their family has to be from here. It doesn’t mean English has to be their first language, and it doesn’t mean they have to be born here. Americans come in so many different ways and no American is the same, which contributes to the wonderful diversity and “melting pot” of America.