What does it mean to be an American? (Speech Analysis)

Well, the speech, “What is an American?”, clearly demonstrates the true meaning of what defines an American and what doesn’t. These remarkable words were said by Harold Ickes, President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, during a gathering at Central Park in New York. He spoke out, encouraging the citizens of America during a time of possible world domination by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. “What constitutes an American? Not color nor race nor religion. Not the pedigree of his family nor the place of his birth. Not the coincidence of his citizenship. Not his social status nor his bank account. Not his trade nor his profession.”

To begin with, it is prudent to understand that all Americans deserve the feeling of freedom no matter what the circumstances. Ickes says, “We Americans know that freedom, like peace, is indivisible. We cannot retain our liberty if three-fourths of the world is enslaved. Brutality, injustice and slavery, if practiced as dictators would have them, universally and systematically, in the long run would destroy us as surely as a fire raging in our nearby neighbor's house would burn ours if we didn't help to put out his.” This means, being an American means fighting for your freedom and that of others no matter the race. An American can solely be recognized by their ability to risk their own lives for liberty and justice. Being an American also means providing help to your neighbor (who may or may not be different from you) and showing good citizenship so bigger problems aren’t created.

Next, an American can be more than just someone who was born in America. “What is an American?” states, “If we are to retain our own freedom, we must do everything within our power to aid Britain. We must also do everything to restore to the conquered peoples their freedom. This means the Germans too.” This shows that although they were born in different places of the world, that is not what defines them as an American. Without their freedom as a rightful American, we would be alone- no friends and no allies. Not being born in America is not what it is about. It is about the true characteristics of an American. From near and far, fighting for freedom and being honest as well as dependable is what truly counts.

So, what does it mean to be an American? It means that no matter one’s race, or where one was born, or even how much money one has, they will fight for their freedom as well as others. They will risk their life to be true and honest for their neighbor. To conclude, the speech, “What is an American?”, written by Harold Ickes, truly does help one understand what a characteristic of an American is.



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