The many generations of immigrants to this nation have been people of courage, endurance, and determination. We all have faced, but some more than others, ethnic, cultural, financial, educational, language, and social barriers when settling in the United States. Our belief in faith, freedom, family, work, and country has strengthened our national life and culture.
Regardless of race, most Americans’ common culture is composed of three central elements: The democratic ethic, the work ethic, and the Judeo-Christian ethic or similar religious ethic.
The democratic ethic has its roots in the Declaration of Independence. This ethic recognizes the truth of human equality and the fact that all people are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. The democratic ethic emphasizes freedom, tolerance, and respect for the rights of all. It also encourages everyone to develop his or her potential to the utmost.
The work ethic emphasizes the virtues of industry and diligence, a passion for excellence, respect for personal effort. Economic success in this country tends to promote respect rather than resentment and envy, and this has fostered a hearty spirit of enterprise.
The Judeo Christian ethic provides the fundamental ideals that historically shaped our entire political and social system. These ideals help make us a genuine community, but we are officially a secular nation.
Historically our culture was manufactured by the upper stratum of society. However, this is no longer true. One thing unique about our common culture is that it is not something manufactured solely by the upper stratum of society. It holds truths that all Americans can recognize and examine for themselves. These truths are passed from generation to generation: in the family, classroom, and religious institutions.
Our common culture remains strong and healthy. It will remain so as long as its fundamental premises are transmitted to succeeding generations. One way to do that is through our educational system. Here we can sharpen our students’ understanding of America, its history, and the opportunities and responsibilities of citizenship in a free society.
Americans do not share a common ancestry and/or a common blood. What we share in common is a system of laws and beliefs that shaped the establishment of this country. Our society won’t survive without the values of tolerance. And, cultural tolerance amounts to nothing without cultural understanding. The challenge facing America will be the shaping of a truly common culture that is responsive to the long-silenced cultures of color. If we give up the ideal of America as a plural nation, we’ve abandoned the very experiment America represents. This is too great a price to pay.
We must remember that America is a family. There may be differences and disputes in our family, but we must not allow it to be broken into pieces. We need to find strength in our diversities. We need to fight racism and get rid of it once and for all.
Signs of open prejudice continues to appear among the people of America. It is not a warfare among ethnic groups as we see in other parts of the world, but suddenly words like “turf” have become part of our language. America is not a melting pot. We are heterogeneous. We are a pluralistic society engaged in a great experiment whereby people of different ethnic backgrounds, ancestry, religions, and race come together as one ever new society.