Columbia University American Character Discussion

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INSTRUCTIONS

The following questions/challenges are variations of themes, which
illustrate aspects of the American Character. Challenge # 1 is required.
Select three others and share your reflections and viewpoints. In your
discussions you should share your understanding of the relevant
components of the American Character. Each Response is required to be taken seriously and throughly answered.

America has experienced serious tensions in the promotion of its
creed. Prepare a report card on America’s performance and status.
Use the following tensions/conflicts and give America a grade (A, B,C, D, F) on each one as you evaluate the country’s efforts to fulfill its mission.

Racism
Sexism
Liberty
Equality
Constitutionalism/Democracy
Access to Opportunity/the American Dream
Cultivation and Appreciation of Diversity
Global Leadership
Explain the basis for the grade. If America were your
student, what advice would you give to improve the
grade? Based upon our class discussions and the reading
assignments what do you consider are America’s greatest
challenges in the twenty-first century? Have we fulfilled
the promise expressed in the American Creed? Can you
identify any unfinished business, which commands
America’s urgent attention? Discuss.

2. Comment on the following statement. “America was founded as a
nation not defined by blood or soil but by ideas. In its founding
moments America said it correctly but did not behave in complete
accord with its stated ideals. Yet, its greatest strength lies in the
profound recognition by many of its citizens in the inconsistency
between words and deeds and in their passionate commitment to
work hard to close the gap.” Discuss your views regarding the
accuracy of this statement. Identify the gaps and describe the work of
those Americans who believed in the “American Ideals.” What is the
meaning of the expression- “America is a country in continuous
revolution”? Discuss examples. What would you identify as
America’s greatest strengths or virtues as expressed in deeds not
words? What would you consider to be its greatest weaknesses,
threats and tensions?


3. Is Lady Liberty who stands in the harbor of America’s largest city
still alive? Why? Why not? Soon, the country must have a
Comprehensive Immigration bill. What are some of the issues, which
must be addressed in that bill? Reflect on the diversity characteristic
of America. We are a country of many cultures. What is the glue that
holds all these different groups together? Should we strive to merge
these different groups into one “soup puree” or “fruit smoothie”
through some process of assimilation? Alternatively, should we
pursue the goal of promoting America as a “salad bowl” in which the
diverse cultural histories and values are appreciated?

4. America’s current foreign policy is described as a “moral obligation
to spread democracy around the world” or to “extend the blessings of
liberty to all people on earth”. What is your view of this policy?
What is the source of America’s moral authority in representing
itself as the “leader of the free world”? Discuss the relevance of
“Manifest Destiny” and “Progressive Imperialism”. What is your
view of Beveridge’s statement in “The March of the Flag” (1890)?
“GOD is the source of our (moral) authority. HE created a master
race-HIS chosen people. The rule of liberty that all just government
derives its authority from the consent of the governed applies only to
those who are capable of self-government. It is ours to set the world
its example of right and honor. We cannot fly from our world
duties.”
*Is it okay to go to war and put “democracy on the end of a
bayonet or force regime changes in other countries through
military action?”
*What is the evidence that American values will always work
well in other countries and societies?
*Why not let people in other cultures and societies decide their
own value systems? For example, is it ethical for the U.S. to
have a policy of making aid and grants to African countries
conditional on their acceptance of American values?

*What is your view of the following: “Although we have never colonized a country we have engaged in ‘economic imperialism’. We don’t have to take over a country. We can simply control its economy. Who really owns a country-he who owns the government, or he who owns the economy?”

5. You awakened this morning with a great urge to seek the office of
President of the United States. How would you wish to change
America? What strategies would you use to attract endorsements? Be
specific.

6. The keynote address “Intolerance and the American Character”
was delivered to the first global conference of the International
Foundation of Tolerance. It is posted on CANVAS. Review and offer
suggestions on ways to promote tolerance or combat intolerance of
diversity in America. How would you feed the good wolf?

7. Comment on the following:
*How does the American Creed of LIBERTY apply to the
current public health crisis in the United States? How do you balance
the interest of the ‘individual’ versus the group? Explain the two
concepts of liberty- Liberty FROM and liberty TO.
*Do you perceive any economic obligations of the American
people to promote “Pursuit of Happiness” since we declare it to be a
gift from the DIVINE? Is this an entitlement of the people? What, in
your opinion, does this mean?
*In the article posted on CANVAS – “The Market Erodes
Democratic Government” there is a strong suggestion that ‘corporate
money can hijack or over-ride the will and power of the people’. Do
you believe we should pass laws that prohibit corporate power
expressing itself in ways that inhibit or impact liberty?

8. Comment on the following CASE.
Henry Chang is a citizen of The People’s Republic of China. He
has applied for citizenship in the United States. He first came to the
United States as a student under a student visa. Since his graduation
from a U.S. college, he has the status of a resident with a green card.
For three years he has been employed as a professor in a university
in the United States. He has been a law-abiding resident and a
contributor to the U.S. economy. He has never received a traffic
ticket or any other citation.
Mr. Chang is married to a United States citizen and has two
children who were born in the United States.
He is now an applicant for United States citizenship and is in
the final stages of review. The United States Immigration and
Naturalization Service is considering denial of his application on the
grounds that he is “not loyal to American values.”
INS offers evidence of speeches and lectures in which Mr.
Chang alleges that the United States CREED is hypocritical because
it does not apply to or enforced for all citizens. He has also expressed
in lectures the view that “democracy’ in America has been hijacked
by money and is not effective.”
There is also a law to be attached to the pending immigration
statute that “requires naturalization applicants to embrace and
express in word and deed a commitment to liberty, equality and
democracy. It also forbids them from adhering to ideological
principles such as totalitarianism, communism, and anarchism.
Mr. Chang challenges the constitutionality of this proposed
statute and alleges that his speeches and writing challenges the
application of the American Creed in American history to all citizens.
He also asserts that democracy does not work well in American only
because people are not informed enough to truly govern themselves.
He also argues that the proposed law is a violation of the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.
He claims his speech is not harmful, but beneficial to America because it forces students and others to think and evaluate the effectiveness of the application of the American Creed. He asserts “the freedom to criticize America for its shortcomings in behavior should be extended to all people, citizens as well as those aspiring to be citizens.

COMMENT ON THE ABOVE.

9. The following is a journal entry from a student in a previous
seminar. COMMENT/respond to his point of view.
“I was born and raised in East Germany. I spent my first two
years as an undergraduate in a university in the Soviet Union. I
immigrated to the United States to attend NYIT. I wanted to
experience the “home of the brave and the land of the free.”
“Since coming to the United States I have encountered
arrogance of enormous magnitude suggesting unquestioned
superiority of American values. I have concluded this superiority is
only a theory yet to be proved.
“For the first time in my life, I have observed homeless people
without a place to lay their head at night. In my country everybody
had a place to sleep. Yes, it may have been crowded and inferior in
quality compared to the U.S.A.. Yet, we did not fear the rain at night
or have to sleep watching the moon. I have seen people without shoes
to wear. I always had at least one pair of shoes. If I had an illness I
was never concerned about medical care. I have met sick people,
here, who did not have health care because they could not pay a
doctor. Yes, the government told us what we must do and there were
penalties for disobedience. However, the government cared for our
minimum needs. Yes, our economic system served the interest of the
STATE but was not hijacked by private corporations to advance
their private wealth..
“However, the basic needs of the people were also met. I love
the concept of LIBERTY in America. I have also concluded it is a
concept only. There is a lot of work to be done to advance true
“access to opportunity”.

10. The essay “Invisible and the Voiceless” posted on CANVAS is
written by a person who was an undocumented immigrant. Review
and comment. How would you resolve the issues related to the status
of undocumented immigrants? Select one or several issues related to
the need for a ‘Comprehensive Immigration Policy’ and comment.

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