Race, ethnicity, and culture define almost every nation on earth. Not America, it is defined by values. What are these values you may ask? Well, they can be found by looking at something as small as a penny. First, there is E Pluribus Unum, a latin phrase meaning “out of many, one”. This 13-letter motto, adopted after the birth of America in 1776, referred to the 13 colonies unifying into a single nation. Over time, however, this phrase came to be understood as one people from many backgrounds. This seems fitting as America is defined as a “country of immigrants.” The E Pluribus Unum Project, a website dedicated for those who wish to learn about American life, states “Over the years ‘E Pluribus Unum’ has also served as a reminder of America’s bold attempt to make one unified nation of people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.”
In other words, America doesn’t care about what ethnic or national background you might have. When an immigrant moves to a European country, they never feel fully accepted into society. They will never be considered fully Spanish by fellow Spaniards or fully Dutch by fellow Dutch or fully German by fellow Germans. Even the children or the grandchildren of those immigrants may never feel fully integrated. However, an immigrant that migrates to America will feel like an American – just like you and I – the moment they become a citizen. This belief is the reason why it seems that immigrants assimilate faster in America than in other countries. And you can bet that their children and grandchildren will feel American as well. Though, we might not have practiced E Pluribus Unum as we have preached it in our nation’s history, the ideal was still there, and it has been applied to every immigrant in America.
Next, there is liberty. The big ideal that never can seem to be encapsulated by a single definition or phrase. Google defined liberty as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views” or “the power or scope to do as one pleases.” This is one of the basic American principles that can be traced all the way back to the American Declaration of Independence where Thomas Jefferson famously stated “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Though one might argue that this isn’t an ideal central only to America, as the French Revolution enshrined liberty as well fighting for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, as is their motto.
And that’d be right, America isn’t the only country to celebrate liberty, we’re the only country to celebrate “E Pluribus Unum”, Liberty, “In God We Trust”, and capitalism. The difference is how everyone starts, and where everyone ends up. Everyone in America is born equal and all are equal before the law, however ending up equal is not a guarantee. If America were to force everyone to end up equal, then that would mean a loss of liberty, which is exactly what happened after the French Revolution. America gives people the equal chance to take their talents and work ethic to create a living for themselves, however it does not make everyone end up with equal earnings, as that will abridge upon the foundations of liberty. This explains why professional athletes earn more than teachers (sorry D Russ and Penny A), it might not be equal, but that is what liberty allows.
Next is “In God We Trust”, which might seem about controversial, especially since many in America have other religious beliefs other than those of the Abrahamic faith, or perhaps don’t even believe in any religion at all, however allow me to explain. While America never had a state religion, it was founded upon the religious principle that God is the source of moral values. To quote the Declaration of Independence again, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This suggests that these rights were given by God, not men, because if men can give rights, then that means men can take away rights. Rights that are subject to government restriction or license are called privileges rather than rights. The United States government wasn’t established to give its citizens rights or privileges, rather it was established specifically to protect the rights that was given to us by God. ‘That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” to quote the Declaration of Independence again.
Finally there is capitalism, which represented by the penny itself. Capitalism is an economic system that in which a country’s trade is private owners for profit, rather than by the state, otherwise known as free enterprise. This idea coincides with the american idea of liberty, as in this economic system one can take their abilities, work ethic and luck to create their own business or way of making money, and without (mostly) the interference of the government, this gives everyone an equal chance to earn their own money and the liberty of what to do with that money. As capitalism and liberty are closely related to one another, it is quite hard to have one without the other.
These 4 ideals are principles with which American was founded upon, and we have created a national superpower upon it. Capitalism, “E Pluribus Unum”, liberty, and “In God We Trust” is what makes up the American identity, and envelopes what many believe to be the greatest nation on earth, despite the rough bumps along the journey. Thank you.