American Values Essay - Things To Consider

The phrase “American values” gets thrown around a lot, especially during election seasons. America is unique as a nation and a culture, and it is often very concerned about what is or isn’t “American” activity. In the 1950’s, during the cold war, the U.S. government even formed a committee to investigate subversive activity, and named it the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” There is something rather odd about this, isn’t there? Isn’t one “American” just by virtue of the fact of being a citizen of the United States. But America has always considered itself as much an idea, or an ideology, as a country. Here are some issues concerning American values that you can consider when writing an essay.

  • “American Exceptionalism”: From its earliest days in the puritan colonies in New England, who borrowed the image of the “shining city on a hill” form the bible, up to now, America has considered itself as nation set apart from the rest, with a unique mission to lead by example and spread democracy, liberty, and equality to the world. Is this idea inherently supremacist and jingoistic? Is the claim of being exceptional legitimate? How different is the culture of America from the British and European cultures from which it originated?
  • “The American Dream”: This is the idea that, because of the freedom of “the pursuit of happiness” enjoyed in America, anyone should be able to become anything they want as long a they work hard. How realistic is this notion? What is the origin of this idea? How does it shape American culture today? How does it inform how politicians present themselves to the public? What American movies, novels, or television shows explore this idea?
  • Consumerism: The United States has often been considered a materialistic nation obsessed with making money and buying things. Is there any validity to this claim? How is this related to the “American Dream.”
  • Liberty and Equality: These are the two values most commonly touted as important by Americans, but they are also often seen as incompatible. Is there a trade-off between the two? Which does America seem to value more?
  • Religion: Compared to otherwise similar cultures like Great Britain and Europe, America is an overwhelmingly religious nation, and it has been mostly dominated by Protestants. How does this aspect of American life inform its culture and values?

Published on  March 25th, 2017