GUEST VIEW: What does it imply to be an American?
By Lee H. Hamilton
I’ve been pondering loads lately about what it means to be an American, to have a shared stake on this nation and its fortunes. In some methods, I suppose the query is unanswerable: We’re an unlimited, various nation, and we every reply the query in our personal approach.
But I additionally suppose there are traits many people would acknowledge—traits in frequent that resonate throughout communities and divisions, no matter our age or political views. You can begin, for example, with a perception within the promise and beliefs of the USA, in its Structure and legal guidelines, and maybe above all within the freedom, independence, and alternative that many People take into account their birthright.
But all alongside we’ve balanced this quest for liberty with a way of accountability to the group round us. As an American, you settle for sure obligations: to forged an knowledgeable vote; to respect the legal guidelines and in the event you disagree with them to work by means of the system to vary them; to defend the Structure; and to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others, whether or not or not you agree with them.
This final attribute will not be a nice-to-have add-on. It’s baked into our system. The success of American democracy rests on all kinds of values: open-mindedness, an knowledgeable citizenry, honesty, competence. However one of many issues I’ve additionally seen wherever I’ve traveled within the nation is a stressed and spectacular want to make issues higher—to enhance our communities and the lives of the individuals who reside in them. On the entire, People possess a assured perception that change is feasible—that as a nation, we make progress over time based mostly on the efforts of extraordinary individuals and political leaders alike. At its coronary heart, the American system—our consultant democracy—is about how we resolve our variations so as to transfer our cities and cities, states, and the nation as a complete ahead.
What this implies ought to be apparent: We resolve our issues collectively, by working with every kind of individuals, making an attempt to forge frequent floor, construct consensus, and talk our beliefs and concepts successfully. Ultimately, which means the nation is dependent upon a set of frequent virtues in its residents—mutual respect, tolerance, empathy, civility, humility, resolve, a willingness to step as much as challenges and meet them sq. on—that underlie our capacity to make progress collectively.
I understand that on this day of utmost political division, all of which will appear a bit starry-eyed. There are many People who haven’t any persistence for these on the opposite aspect, and who haven’t any want to attempt to perceive or sympathize with them. But the essential want we confront as People has not modified, and that’s to make use of the political system to resolve our elementary challenges.
There are every kind of fault strains in American politics proper now—between those that need to use the political system to develop particular person alternative and supply a fairer likelihood on the future and those that need authorities to guard their livelihoods and lifestyle, between those that need to make voting simpler and those that need to limit it, between those that embrace a diversifying nation and those that fear about its implications in their very own lives. Sorting by means of these variations and resolving them is an ongoing problem. However being an American means confronting that process, doing our greatest to search out options that the majority People can reside with—and recognizing that the possibility to do all this as extraordinary residents is among the items that being an American bestows on us.
Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana College Middle on Consultant Authorities; a Distinguished Scholar on the IU Hamilton Lugar College of World and Worldwide Research; and a Professor of Apply on the IU O’Neill College of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. Home of Representatives for 34 years.