Bill Casey

Bill Casey

Course Thesis

What Does It Mean To ME To Be An American?

Summary & Objective:

I am a student attending University City High School located in San Diego, California. This website was created solely for my American Literature class. This website is part of an assignment; to answer the question, "What does it mean to ME to be an American?" I plan on showing you.


Unit 4 Part 1: We have read selections in Unit 4 Part 1 of our American Literature book. Unit 4 is all about the expansion of America. Unit 4 Part 1 specifically is things about slavery and the Civil War. Most of the stories give ideas of what being an American means to them.

These are the selections read in Unit 4 Part 1:-"from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - Frederick Douglass-"Stanzas on Freedom" - James Russell Lowell-"Free Labor" - Frances Ellen Watkins Harper-"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" - Ambrose Bierce-"Letter to Sarah Ballou" - Sullivan Ballou-"A Mystery of Heroism" - Stephen Crane-"Gettysburg Address" - Abraham Lincoln-"from Coming of Age in Mississippi" - Anne Moody-"Frederick Douglass" - Robert Hayden-"Ballad of Birmingham" - Dudley Randall

Unit 5 Part 1: We have read selections in Unit 5 Part 1 of our American Literature book. Unit 5 is all about the change America had between the mid 1800's and early 1900's. Unit 5 Part 1 is specifically about Women and the changes/hard times they faced in the time period I gave.

These are the selections read in Unit 5 Part 1:-A group of selected poems written by Emily Dickinson-"The Yellow Wallpaper" - Charlotte Perkins Gilman-"from Complaints and Disorders" - Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English-"The Story of an Hour" - Kate Chopin-"Seventeen Syllables" - Hisaye Yamamoto-"Adolescence—III" - Rita Dove-"I Stand Here Ironing" - Tillie Olsen-"Ironing Their Clothes" - Julia Alvarez

Interpretation Of Selections

"The Gettysburg Address" - It was November 19, 1863, during a time of great peril, war, and fear (much like what we are suffering today), President Lincoln gave this famous speech. It was this same speech that brought people back from the bottom and evoked patriotism into the people’s lifeless, soulless bodies and minds. It was in this speech that Lincoln stated exactly what I think an American should be: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” As a kid, I did not fully understand what this meant. I always took things too literal and never looked past actual meanings of what people said. Now that I do, I see the greatness of what he said. The paragraph above states everything I would like to say to the world about what an American is. What it says is that even though we face great upset and depression, we cannot falter under the pressure and we must remain on task at facing the problems we see in front of us. We must respect the people who died for our freedom, to further the greatness and pride of America, and keep it running. We must not let these brave men and women die for nothing. We have to keep going and do what we think is right. What America thinks is right.

Other Resources:

Article: "Nevertheless, I am convinced that being an American requires something more than merely living in this country, speaking English, obeying the law, and holding a job (although this would be a very good start!).  What this 'something more' is, however, is not self-evident, and, indeed, is the subject of increasingly bitter debate in this country.  Yet one thing is certain:  If we stray too far from the lines laid down by the Founding Fathers and the generations of great American men and women who built on their legacy, we will cease to be "Americans" in any meaningful sense of the word.  As Abraham Lincoln warned during the secession era, 'America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.'  Today the danger is not armed rebellion, but the slow erasing of the American national character through a process of political and cultural redefinition.  If this ever happens, it will be a terrible day for this country, and for the world." "What Does it Mean to Be an American?" by Stephen M. WarshawskySong: "Cult of Personality" by Living ColourThe 1989 song "Cult Of Personality" by the 1980's and 90's funk rock band Living Colour is a song that some people have compared to America. This is obviously a negative view on America since "cults of personality" are associated with dictators viewed as heroes through mass media. It just goes to show that some people do not see America as a great country, they see it as just a covered up, corrupted country of lies. This is okay. The Americans who say this have the right to say it. But I think that they'd rather live here in America other than some fascist, communist country.

Well What Does It Mean To Me?

The definition of an American is no longer unanimous. Today’s view and definition of an American varies from person to person. For me, you have to work to gain that title. Just because you live here in America, it does not automatically make you an American. It’s all because American is no longer a nationality, but it who a person is, and what they deserve. My biggest prerequisite to become an American is selflessness. An American is someone who unselfishly thinks of others to better their country or the world. The sex, color, or race of a person definitely does not matter in this case. Some people will tell you Americans have to be white or men or whatever, and I tell you right now this isn’t true.The Negatives:Well I'm recently adding this due to the "Swine Flu" scare. As it turns out Americans are very panic-y, as well as uninformed. What I mean is that Americans seem to be afraid of things they don't know much about. The swine flu isn't new, and people should know that. Sure people in Mexico died, but solely for the fact that they're a 3rd world country and can't afford health insurance or anything of that sort. Americans think that the swine flu is scary and will kill many people in the states, but truth of the matter is, we have better healthcare and can take care of ourselves. Let me tell you, the regular flu is MUCH MORE frightening than the swine flu because on average (according to "News Extra") 700 people die from the regular flu EVERY WEEK!


Analytical Tools

During the course of Mrs. Valentine's American Literature class, we've learned different tools that are necessary to know when analyzing different works of literature. They are (some are given a brief definition):

The Levels:Level 1 - Hard EvidenceLevel 2 - Individual interpretation of the evidenceLevel 3 - Society's opinion/the average belief on the evidence

 Distinctive FeaturesMotivational MatrixKnown & UnknownMicrocosm & Macrocosm

2 Out of 3:"Why do characters and historical figures make the decisions they make?  One way to look at historical and fictional characters is to analyze the events described in the text by comparing the choices of the characters to the idea that in life, we get to choose two out of three outcomes.  For our class, these are good, fast and cheap. In any life event, according to this analytical technique, we can have any two, but never all three.  By analyzing the actions and events described in American Literature, we can compare the famous and infamous with our selves and our worlds." - from Mrs. Valentine's Website

Bloom's Taxonomy

Another method used was Bloom's Taxonomy. Basically what this is is a diagram of a pyramid that classifies the levels of intellectual behavior that is important in learning. You can learn more here.


Sep 2006 - Present

University City High School