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What is an American?

             When faced with the formidable task of defining a term as broad as "American," one must expand their consideration beyond the word's literal meaning. According to Webster's Dictionary, an American is "a person from the United States or any of the countries of North, South, or Central America." While this definition is correct in the most literal sense, the term "American" has taken on greater meaning to people all over the world. For many, this one simple word brings to mind unique ideas of government, a quality of life, and a diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds that have come to be associated with the United States and its citizens.
             Recalling lives of oppression under tyrannical monarchs of the Old World, the first American settlers sought to return the power of government to the people. In doing this, they laid the foundation for a revolutionary experiment in governing: democracy. The idealistic goal of fairness and representation of all people was the cornerstone of this new system. With the First Amendment, freedom of expression (speech, religion, press, etc.) became another unique aspect of the U.S. Constitution. Though many governments have adopted this policy today, many still consider America the pioneer of expressive freedom. Perhaps the most important and revolutionary aspect of American government, however, is summed up by a short phrase of the Constitution: "all men are created equal." Before the U.S. Constitution was drafted (and even for some time afterward) no government on earth would grant equal rights to minorities. At the time of its introduction, the radical new form of government proposed by the first Americans contrasted sharply with the monarchies of the Old World, where political influence was far out of the reach of the average citizen. An American has a voice in his or her government and the right to equality.
             Just as the fertile frontier of a new continent created unimaginable opportunity for the early immigrants to America, the prosperous economy and democratic government of the U.

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