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Maxwell Ross
AP Government
Ms. Chandler
20 November 2016
What is an American? Well, this question seems to be popping up quite
frequently, especially at this point in time. With our new President-Elect being called
a racist bigot and the threat of mass deportation, we are at a critical point in this
country and we are faced with the unresolved question, What does it take to be an
American? I am not even going to try to answer that. You can decide for yourself
at the end of this paper. I am in no way going to try and persuade you. I am simply
going to give my opinion.
First, I would like to talk about the origin of the word American. American is
derived from the word America, obviously, which was a term that originally denoted
all of the New World. Over time, the word has evolved to denote people of the
United States of America. Some people argue that the usage of the word should be
widened to include anyone who lives on the continent of North/South America. So,
the people who live in Mexico and people who live in Canada, why are they not
considered Americans? Now, I know that most peoples answers would be,
Obviously, it is because they live in Mexico. They live in Canada. What about
Asians? If you looked at someone from Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, you
would characterize them into a group called Asians. What about the people from
Slovenia, Poland, Belorussia? They would characterized in a group called Europeans.
They are called this because they live on the continent of Asia or Europe. Well,
people of Mexico and Canada live on the North American continent. Why are they

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not Americans? A lot of people would that you can just tell when someone is
Mexican, Chinese, and Russian because of the way that they look. So we are now
classifying peoples identity with a country because of their looks? I am confused.
Let us go back to the 1857 case of Dred Scott versus the United States. This
case was about Dred Scott, a black man, wanting the right to citizenship. For
anyone who does not know, he lost. The dissenting opinion in the case was that,
No black, free or slave, could not and should not be considered an American.
Thank you Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis. Now it is very clear that the worlds
opinion, at least most of it, towards the African Americans has changed. However,
there are a ton, and I mean a ton, of races that reside in the US and identify
themselves as an American. Shall we talk about Chinatown, Little Italy, Koreatown,
or Little Guyana? How could you say that those people, tax-paying, law-abiding
people are less American than an upper-class white Christian? The simple answer is
that they are not. I do not believe that you can classify an American by religious or
cultural beliefs. Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Google. He is an exceptionally
successful AMERICAN. But he is Indian. Born there, raised there, and graduated from
college there. Is he less of an American than Joe, the white homeless guy on the
steps of the church? Woodrow Wilson said in his Address to Naturalized Citizens at
Convention Hall, A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national
group in America has not yet become an American. What did he expect? Did he
expect someone to completely assimilate into this culture? Did he expect them to
cut themselves off from previous religious connections, cultural connections, and
personal connections? I whole-heartedly disagree. There, of course, has to be some
assimilation into culture. Or else, you would not survive. However, there is a level of
self-respect to ignore conformity and live freely. The first amendment was written

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for a reason. It states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
government for a redress of grievances. The United States is, legally, not a Christian
nation. The motto, In God we trust, never appeared until 1864 when it was added to
the two-cent coin. President Wilson, in 1915, had no right to use such words unto
naturalized citizens.
Another major issue in this country at the moment is the refugee program
and the immigrants. I am still going to ask the question. Are these people
Americans? My answer is no. My level of acceptance starts when legal citizenship is
attained. As stated earlier, an American is not defined by religious or cultural beliefs
and I intend to keep that true until the day I die. I do believe that America is the
greatest country in the world because we can allow so many different peoples to
enter our country for a chance at a better life. I also believe that if you define
yourself as an American, you should believe in what this country believes in:
freedom. Without this belief, then there would be no diverse cultures in America,
there would be no culture at all. We have established this true country of the Land
of the Free. We are free. Religiously free. Culturally free. Free.
Americans. Who decides who we are? Who decides what we do? You make
your own definition.