Student reflects on the meaning of being “American”

Ryan G. Murphy

I have been down the same roads as the American presidents.

Over and over I repeated this phrase to myself while on my first trip to Washington, D.C. I was 10 years old. My mother excitedly said to me, “Wow, Ryan, isn’t this amazing? We are walking on the same streets as Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan!” I heard this and felt alive.

For the remainder of the trip I made sure to touch every building, every fence, and every statue I could get my hands on.

I also made certain that I walked on every single tile of sidewalk in Washington in hopes that, by some chance, I was walking on the same exact spot as an American president. Patriotism ran through my veins and for the first time in my life, I was an American.

Now, 10 years later I wonder if I still feel the same way. Much has changed since then. My perceptions of American history are no longer limited to a fifth grade history book or a trip to D.C. In learning more, I realize now that I have doubts about America, and like many others, have had fears living in America.

Regrettably, my sentiments are not as intensely patriotic as they were when I was 10. However, in admitting that to myself, I am certain the principle remains the same … I am an American.

In this current time of hostility and economic recession many people have figuratively and literally turned their backs on America. Understandably, then, it may be difficult for America to restore faith in itself. This restoration may be a long and tedious process, but personally, I have extraordinary faith in what our country stands for, because I have strong faith in the individual American.

Each of us has a unique perception of what it means to be American. As such, during this time of war it is ever important that we do what is fundamentally American to us. Irrelevant is whether or not we support the war. Now more than ever, America needs us as individuals and as a whole to be American.

Actively support the war or actively condemn the war. Volunteer in favor of the war effort, or express your war concerns to a government official.

Regardless of your feelings on the war, be an active American. Use the freedom America has granted you so that we may retain our identity as a nation.

Some people have expressed concern that the current war effort will drastically change our nation. However, until each and every one of us is deprived of the freedom to express ourselves, America as a nation will remain unchanged.

Actively express the freedoms America has granted you so that in years to come 10 year olds from across the nation will feel proud they walked in the footsteps of presidents and also feel fortunate that they, like many others before them, are free Americans.