Americans are people from all walks of life. Today American culture is a combination of nearly every culture in the world. Acceptance of other people and respect for their heritage is changing both an American's individual identity and America's cultural identity. .
When I picture an American, I see millions of different people with attributes from whichever part of the world either they or their forbearers lived in before coming to America. If I were to paint a picture of an American, I could not give the person any consistent physical attributes. One way of accurately portraying an American would be to make a collage with pictures of every person living in this country. Many immigrants come to America because they want to lead better lives and live out the "American dream" of family, prosperity, happiness, and freedom. However, being granted citizenship does not necessarily make a person American. What makes a person living in America an American is that person's belief in the American dream and what America stands for: equality, rights, and freedom. .
The image of American culture comes in three basic flavors: a melting pot, a tossed salad, or a stew. The melting pot is where different identities are lost by assimilation into the mainstream mold of an American. A tossed salad has different elements that were thrown together by necessity but have no substance which binds the elements together. A stew has many different ingredients bonded together by boiling in a common broth. .
In a melting pot, immigrants to America and are culturally melted down and molded into Americans. The belief that people who come to America should assimilate into Americans was a mainstream idea until as little as fifty years ago. The melting pot image was created shortly after Americans became united politically. During this time, many immigrants either assimilated for their own reasons however, those who did not want to conform found that American society would not accept them unless they conformed.