By Chef John Michael
4 years ago I chose to become an American. It was not a decision I took lightly. As a permanent resident alien I had most of the same rights and protections as a citizen. I made the decision because I decided after 22 year of living in this country it was as much a part of me as the place of my birth. I do not regret that decision. I am not always proud of what America is. I am not always proud of what America does. I am not always proud of America’s leadership. I became a citizen because of the idea of what America can be, that is why I am proud to be an American.
This is not a perfect country; it is, like most countries, deeply flawed in many ways. What makes America great is not its reality. What makes America great is the idea of America. I say idea though it would be better to say ideas. Ideas sufficiently numerous and nuanced that it is almost impossible to encapsulate the entirety into a Facebook post. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Such wonderful ideas. Lofty, idealistic, possibly unattainable but we strive for the idea. That is the greatness of America. That is why I am proud to be an American.
In his book Epic of America, James Truslow Adams defines the American Dream as the “…opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement… to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position… a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers”. In 1931 these barriers were mostly thought of as ones of class, of hereditary. Here, we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here, you can be something. In 2018 we include race, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, age,… a wonderful idea worth striving for. This is the greatness of America. This is why I am proud to be an American.
“A more perfect union” What a ‘revolutionary’ concept. From it’s conception America was built on the idea of trying to create something better. Has ever a nation had a finer beacon to hold aloft, one that will assuredly stand the test of time for as long as the union remains intact. This idea I believe to be the most powerful of all because it is the most attainable by virtue of not being an absolute. All of the other ideas as laid out in the Constitution, Bill of Rights and American Dream are somewhat absolutes and as such are somewhat impossible to attain within the bounds of society and human nature as we know them. Still fine, amazing, uplifting ideas worth working towards. In 1789 the goal was to create a more perfect union than had existed before. I believe in concept they achieved that goal. It should be the goal of every politician and citizen to continue to strive toward a more perfect union, not just more perfect than any other on the planet but also any within our own history as a nation. This mission to do better, to be better is why I am proud to be an American.
4 years ago I chose to become an American. I am proud to be an American not because of what it is but because of what it tries to be and what it can be. No other nation has such lofty ideals. We are not there, some days it feels like we have never been further away, but we can get closer every day with our thoughts, with our actions and with our votes