For many years, America has been known as a “melting pot” (Zangwill, 1909) because of its ability to take a variety of disparate cultures and blend them into a uniquely American culture. As a result, although there are European-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans, these cultures have “melted” together because of their unique American experience, while in many cases maintaining elements of their culture of origin.
The primary source of this unique American culture is found in our founding documents, The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States. These documents provide a common set of values and principles from which developed the American culture. While these documents draw from religious principles and appeal to God as the source of the rights they espouse, they are not, at their core, religious documents. They codify a civil contract between the citizens of the United States individually and their government collectively. They set bounds beyond which government cannot go, and in so doing place great responsibility in the hands of the individual to be both responsible and accountable for their actions and for the outcome of those actions in their lives and in the lives of others.
American is in the midst of overwhelming change. It is becoming older; by 2050, 20% of Americans will be 65 or older. It is becoming browner; by 2050 whites will be in the minority with only 45% of the population. Non-traditional lifestyles and relationships are becoming more accepted; 80% of the population accepts interracial marriage, and 45% of voters under 30 accept gay marriage (Newsweek, 2009). As these changes accelerate, bringing change to the look of the American culture, some have wondered if that culture is destined to be replaced by some other cultural paradigm.
These changes that are occurring in the American culture are, for the most part, surface level. While it could be argued that changes in views toward marriage are based on deep seated values and beliefs, it is not those beliefs that served as the foundational, core values of our national culture. The core values of liberty and freedom, and the self-reliance that they produce, can be embraced by all, regardless of marital status or preference.
The American culture is not to be found in the way our country looks, or even who we choose to marry. It is found in the “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence: A Transcription). It is found in the freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly (The Bill of Rights: A Transcription). As long as Americans come together around these core values, it really doesn’t matter what color we are, what clothes we wear, what foods we eat, where our ethnic roots lie, or even who we marry. If we, as a nation, focus on these core values, rather than our surface differences, the American culture will continue, not only to exist, but to thrive.
The Bill of Rights: A Transcription. (n.d.) Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html.
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription. (n.d.) Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.
Obama’s America – Where We Are Now. (2009, January). Newsweek Magazine Special Inaugural Issue p. 78. As cited by Moran, Robert T., Harris, Philip R., Moran, Sarah V. Managing Cultural Differences: Leadership Skills and Strategies for Working in a Global World. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, Inc. 2011 – Eighth Edition
Zangwill, Israel. The Melting Pot. New York. McMillan, 1909.