On Being An American

Mar 24, 2010

It was an interesting time to be in Washington DC this week. The new healthcare legislation was signed into law. Activists protested Israeli settlement policies. Preparations were being made for an upcoming Nuclear Summit.

A group of high school students saw all of this taking place as they celebrated what it means to be an American.

Twenty-seven of the top winners of the Being An American Essay Contest earned trips to DC – and brought along a teacher and a parent - during an event hosted by the Bill of Rights Institute, and sponsored by Amway Global.

We joined the group on Tuesday as they toured the city and visited the US Congress. Our own representative from Michigan, Congressman Vern Ehlers, visted our luncheon on Capitol Hill, along with other members of congress.

He was there to meet Hannah Diendorfer, a junior from Saranac, Michigan. Her essay explored the civic value of Perseverance, with a focus on American hero Harriet Tubman. Her definition of an American included someone, “Always striving for something better and never giving up.”

We talked to students who were seeing DC for the first time, many from small towns and small schools – even some who were homeschooled. Their visits to the institutions and monuments around town brought them closer to the places and ideas they had been reading about.

On the final night, we were all hosted at a formal gala to celebrate the contest. The top 9 winning students from each region were announced to standing ovations, and recognized from several prominent Washington speakers who talked about what being an American means to them.

It’s hard not to be proud of our country in Washington DC. The democratic process is alive and clearly visible in that town. And seeing it all through the eyes of smart, passionate students from around the country makes history become real again, and reminds me of the freedoms I exercise every day.

Thanks to the Bill of Rights Institute, and congratulations to all 90 winners across the US!

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