“Proud to be an American.” We hear this phrase so often, and yet, do we really know what it means? What, exactly, does it mean to be called an American? Are Americans set apart solely because of their citizenship or are there a certain set of beliefs - an American ideal - that makes us unique? Or perhaps, as suggested by some, we, the inhabitants of the United States, all possess a distinctive, risk-taking gene somewhere within our DNA that provided us with the motivation to leave everything we had ever known and start anew in a foreign land – namely, the United States of America.
The American legacy, one of heroic accomplishments and courageous feats far exceeding anybody’s expectations, is not one to be reckoned with. And yet, the fact remains that we are a nation of immigrants. There is nobody – not even the Native Americans – who/whose ancestors did not emigrate here from a foreign country at some point in time. Knowing this, some have been led to believe that anyone and everyone who lives in the US possesses the same distinctive, risk-taking gene somewhere within their genetic makeup. Perhaps somewhere within our DNA there exists a gene that motivated us all to leave our homes, take a risk, and start fresh here in the United States. But on the other hand, is it really possible that an entire nation made up of people of all different ethnic and racial backgrounds would share the same distinctive gene within their genetic makeup? After all, what are the chances of that happening? And even if that were true, a stable country with a functional government would never be able to succeed if it was based entirely off of daring, risk-taking people.
On the contrary, there are those who believe that Americans of foreign birth or origin may bear some form of allegiance to their home country rather than full loyalty to America. President Woodrow Wilson himself regarded “hyphenated Americans” with suspicion, saying "Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready." But who says that one can’t be an American and sympathetic to one’s homeland at the same time? We came to America to seek out the opportunity to succeed, the prospect of living a better life than we may have been able to live had we stayed in our home country. Furthermore, if we prejudice against “hyphenated Americans,” then aren’t we basically prejudicing against our founding fathers and all first generation Americans who came here and started the nation in the first place? Who then, is a true American?
But perhaps there is no need for one to possess a certain gene or be born in the USA in order to be an American. The fact remains that we are a nation of immigrants; one of many cultures, languages, races, and ethnicities (as previously stated). Our diversity and the risk we took in coming here to the USA sets us apart from all others, whether or not we share the same DNA strand or were born here.