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What Is an American? Essay

Thousands of Americans around the country ask themselves the same question; “What is an American?” National pride in one’s country is common, but does one truly know what one’s country is made of? The American people cannot be defined in one word. American society is created by many different shapes and colors to paint one massive masterpiece of freedom, justice and equality. America became a land for people who sought out hope, new life and opportunity. The foundations of American values and traditions began during the Puritan movement. The Puritan’s determination and unity still echoes in American culture today.

Furthermore, Benjamin Franklin’s thirteen principles of success shows the American principles of self-reliance and independence. In addition, Franklin also illustrates the American Dream. Franklin’s set of virtues that are paralleled today by a multitude of people. For instance, Francisco Jiménez, who grew in poverty, rose from the pure poverty of migrant workers. Like Benjamin Franklin, teachers also strive to share their knowledge with others. It is vital to appreciate the similarities between the Puritans, Benjamin Franklin, Francisco Jiménez, and teachers so that the American nation can carry on modeling unity and determination and delivering virtues such as hope and altruism for others to come.

Above all, the Puritan civilization is one of the basic foundations of American culture. Because of their unity and hardworking ethics, they built the basis of the average American today. Like most Americans, the Puritans came from Europe to escape religious persecution. They found solace in America and created a civilization where everyone is equal. By uniting together, the Puritans found they could form a society that would thrive in the worst of situations. As Leland Ryken states, in Worldly Saints: some of the ethics that the Puritans used and lived by are positive elements in society today. Puritans, such as Anne Bradstreet, portrayed how simplistic Puritan life was. In her most famous poem, Upon the Burning of Our House, Bradstreet expressed her feelings towards God and material possessions.

The Puritan woman described the moment her house set on fire. “I blest his Name that gave and took, /That layd my goods now in the dust: /Yea so it was, and so ’twas just. /It was his own: it was not mine; /Far be it that I should repine.” It is clear Bradstreet feels material possessions are not of importance. Moreover, Puritans should be credited for their hard work, patience, thriftiness, and organization. They never opposed education, in fact; they looked up to educated people. “Learned” was one of their most frequently used positive titles for an educated person. If it weren’t for the Puritans the American people of this century would not have the opportunity to attend Harvard University. Indeed, the Puritan movement has influenced modern America.

In addition to the Puritan movement, Benjamin Franklin can be looked to as the symbol of the true American people. Franklin was born as the Puritan movement was dying out. He, like many Americans today, was poorly educated. Surprisingly, he was self-taught. Like America itself, Franklin couldn’t be described with one or two words. He was a scientist, inventor, philosopher, and diplomat. He contributed to America by inventing bifocals, the lighting rod, the first library, and the Franklin stove; the list is endless. He never stopped working, or progressing. He created a yearly almanac; Poor Richards Almanac. The almanac contained weather reports, a calendar, poems, and sayings.

He did not accomplish so much for himself; this selfless man created all those useful inventions for everyone. Furthermore, in Franklin’s autobiography he describes thirteen virtues which helped him succeed in life. Qualities such as, tranquility, temperance, order, and industry can be used in this era by Americans. Similar to a variety of Americans, Franklin shows the determination to succeed. In addition to laying the virtues to succeed, Franklin also exemplified the idea of the independent self-made man. This reflects American people today. The poorest person an America can achieve wonders by hard work and diligence. Overall, Benjamin Franklin truly defines what an American is by his hard work and dedication to the American people.

Just as Benjamin Franklin reflects American people today by his selflessness, hard work, and diligence, Francisco Jiménez echoes America by his determination and hope. Similar to the Puritans, Jiménez immigrated to America with his family from Tlaquepaque, Mexico. Like the Puritans, his family sought out opportunity and freedom in the land of liberty. As a child he worked in the fields of California. He spent most of his childhood moving around California; having no permanent home. In his best-selling book, Breaking Through, Jiménez writes about life from an illegal immigrant’s perspective. At age fourteen he, his older brother and mother are caught by immigration police. They are forced to leave their home, and travel all night to arrive at the Mexico-USA border.

In Arizona, he, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sisters fought against the devastating poverty; also worked for drawn-out hours of labor, and obvious prejudgment. Oddly enough, Jiménez pulled through with hope and determination, and went on to have an illustrious academic career. Graduating from Santa Clara University, he went on to study at Harvard University receiving both a Master’s Degree and PhD from Columbia University. He became chairman of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Santa Clara University, also as director of the Division of Arts and Humanities. Furthermore, Jimenez shared his many works with the entire world hoping to make an impact. Surely Francisco Jiménez echoes many Americans in history and Americans today because of his determination and hope.

While Francisco Jiménez represents hope and determination, American teachers represent the altruism and generosity of America. In the dictionary, a teacher is simply defined as an “educator”; someone who merely educates others. An American teacher is more than an educator; they are potters shaping America’s future. The young Americans today are influenced by the people who teach them. Instead of choosing a different career for themselves, many decide to teach for the sake of others.

Like Benjamin Franklin, teachers have no desire of keeping their knowledge to themselves. Their only wish is to share it with others to benefit, not only themselves but, the rest of American society. For instance, Charles William Bardeen dedicated his career to advance the education system of the United States. He shows he is selfless and only wants to improve America. Surely, American teachers are a symbol of America because of their altruism and generosity.

All in all, America is defined by more than one word or object. It is of extreme importance to recognize the resemblances of the Puritan movement, Benjamin Franklin, Francisco Jimenez, and all American teachers so that American society can continue to model unity and determination, and delivering virtues such as hope and altruism for others to come. It is apparent that many Puritans, such as Anne Bradstreet, showed hardworking ethics and unity still echo in modern America.

Benjamin Franklin also reflects Americans today because of his hard work and selflessness. Like Benjamin Franklin, Francisco Jimenez shows the undying hope and determination of a true American. Just like Franklin’s bigheartedness, teachers also parallel altruism and generosity in American culture today. Overall, America will never be defined with one or two words. America is put together like a puzzle. Each piece containing a unique spectrum of color, but all the pieces fit together perfectly and all of those pieces, no matter how small, have a part in creating what an American is.

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