What It Means to Be American Essay

965 Words Sep 19th, 2011 4 Pages
Americans strongly affirm the principles of religious freedom, religious tolerance, and separation of church and state. Nearly 9-in-10 (88 percent) Americans agree that America was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone, including religious groups that are unpopular. Ninety-five percent of Americans agree that all religious books should be treated with respect even if we don’t share the religious beliefs of those who use them. Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans agree that we must maintain a strict separation of church and state. Americans’ views of Muslims and Islam are mixed, however. As with other previously marginalized religious groups in U.S. history, Americans are grappling with the questions Islam poses to …show more content…
Results would not be in until Wednesday morning my time, so I got up early, ordered coffee and parked myself at the bar in front of CNN International, just as Nancy Pelosi was declaring victory.
I jumped and cheered, to the amusement of the Rwandan waiter behind the bar. As I was trying to explain why I was yelling at the TV, the junior senator from Illinois appeared in an interview with Larry King. I pointed to the screen and said, "And this man wants to run for president!"
The waiter looked at me indulgently, as if I were completely out of touch and maybe a little bit slow. "A black man? President? In America?" he said. "I don't think so."
Just last May, in Ethiopia, a passport official asked who I supported in the primaries. "Clinton?" he asked. "Or that Kenyan?" I said I had voted for the Kenyan.
I thought of explaining that Barack Obama is really American -- that, in fact, his story is as American as it gets. But I had a flight to catch, and I was pretty sure the explanation would lead to another one of those looks.
Since 2000, when I started traveling to Africa for my work in public health, it hasn't been easy to be an American abroad. But even harder, surprisingly, is explaining what it means to be an American.
I have tried to explain that, even though my grandparents were immigrants, I am no

Related Documents