The strength of the United States of America is largely based in the democratic system of government. The strength of a democracy is based in the ability of the people governed to participate and determine the course of action for the government.
A democracy would not be possible without people to create, argue and decide upon ideas. Without the diversity and differing opinions, there would be no growth and change in the U.S. Individuality is one of the greatest treasures an American can hold on to.
In the mid 20th century, African Americans were changing in status. Before and during the Civil Rights movement, prominent black Americans were taking a stand. As people marched in Alabama and the nation?s capital, they strove to show the nation that they were who they were, individual, but they were an American like everyone else.
Muhammad Ali, a legendary boxer, said, ?I am an American. I am the part you won?t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.? He is saying, I am my own person. I exist as myself and I am not the same as you. Yet, we are all Americans. I preserve my individuality. That is the virtue of Americans.
Years before the Civil Rights movement, the founders of the America we know today were discussing the necessity of opinions. These opinions sprouted from Americans? first amendment right; the right to choose what to believe.
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States said, ?A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.?
When the framers of the Constitution sat down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and discussed how to fix the current system of government, one issue was not touched. The system of government would be a democracy. The men knew that in order for this nation to be successful, the citizens would have to be allowed to retain their individuality and opinions.
After almost 200 years of freedom of expression, the people in the 1950s became part of an era of conformity. The American Dream, with white picket fences, stay-at-home mothers, and family dinners, became the goal for many middle class Americans.
During this time, though, people rebelled against the norm. Jack Kerouac, author of ?On the Road? said, ?Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.?
This is true; great things come about by people willing to forge his or her own path. Why, then, does society form trends and norms and averages?
Abolitionist Lydia Maria Child explained it in this manner. ?Nature made us individuals, as she did the flowers arid the pebbles; but we are afraid to be peculiar, and so our society resembles a bag of marbles, or a string of mold candles. Why should we all dress after the same fashion? The frost never paints my windows twice alike.?
Though every human, including me, conforms to the societal norms, I believe one of the greatest virtues of American society is people?s ability and inner drive to be unique. This individuality gives new ideas, new technology, new hope, new entertainment, and new dreams for the future.
In only a few hundred years, America has grown from a group of colonies to the leading power in the world. This couldn?t have been accomplished without every person?s right to be distinctive. Individuality creates change. Individuality creates beauty.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche said, ?The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay of the privilege of owning yourself.?