To have an ideology is to be human. It may be the one thing that everyone has in common; a vision of what the world should be like. What is remarkable about this is that people band together, they share their thoughts and build on each other’s world view. They find similarities and band together to form cities and countries. It is in these situations that a group can take on the same ideology if they so choose. This has been case with many countries around the world.
However, more often a small group ideologues take control and press their ideals onto the people, thus giving their nation a false ideology since very few are actually in line with the nations stated beliefs. Historically, this is when citizens have revolted and entirely reinvented what they will be as both a country and as people. It can be seen in the famed American, French and Russian revolutions; and also more recently in the fall of the Soviet Union and the current struggles that China is facing in regards to their economic system.
So while everyone has an ideology, it is rare that a group of people share the same basic world view for an extended period of time. This is why it is so unique to be an American. The United States shares arguably the strongest ideological connection of any country in history. Although to many it seems as though Americans are deeply divided by partisanship, this is just a reflection of the strength of their ideological foundations. The reason being that arguments between party are not that of ideology, but of how to better uphold the ideals of being an American.
Ideals rooted in classical liberalism, believing in liberty, justice, and equality above all else. It matters not whether one is a conservative or a liberal, these ideals are held extremely high in America, which is very unique since they have been the basis for which Americans have lived for nearly 250 years. These classic American ideals can be found in nearly every major speech or work by an American politician. They are especially evident at some of the most critical junctures in United States history, such as the Civil War.
A time when America’s ideology had its greatest threat of existence, men fought hard and died to preserve what their beliefs. In one of the greatest expressions of Americanism, Abraham Lincoln professed his beliefs on why these ideals must survive in his Gettysburg address, stating, “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. In essence, Lincoln attempts to express the importance of the one ideal that Americans love more than all anything, freedom. These words were spoken by the man who is considered, along with Ronald Reagan, to be the faces of the Republican Party. However, the American ideology has proven timelessly to be perhaps the only true work of bipartisanship in its governance. Nearly 100 years after Lincoln’s iconic address on the importance of America’s values, another President, of opposite party affiliation, gave his account of what the United States stands for as a nation. John F.
Kennedy said in his 1961 inaugural address, to, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet and hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. ” These words bear striking similarities to those of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. One being that America will defend its foundation of liberty, no matter the circumstance. Both men made it abundantly clear that Americans will sacrifice for their beliefs, showing the significance that these principles played in their lives.
Once again, the moral of this story, in regards to defining America’s ideology, is that these speeches were made by two men who lived nearly 100 years apart, had different party affiliations, different circumstances facing them, and yet looked at their situations through the same ideological lenses. While these examples focus on the importance of freedom to citizens of the United States, Americans also have a strong sense of justice and equality of opportunity. To go back to the statements of Lincoln and JFK, they both were stating that they will defend freedom at any cost.
Which correlates to another critical component to the American ideology; how they view justice. In America, justice is the preservation of individual freedoms and equality of opportunity. In fact, another former President, Herbert Hoover, summed up what justice is in America with his 1928 speech on rugged individualism. Hoover declares that, “Only through ordered liberty, freedom, and equal opportunity to the individual will his initiative and enterprise spur on the march of progress. ” Hoover expresses yet again, the vitality of these ideas in American culture.
Stating how these tenets of American culture are what make the country different from all others. In essence, this is what America is, and without these values, there is no America. However, what is so interesting is the length that Americans will go to in order to protect these rights. It’s that they view these aspects of life as rights, and that it is unjust to take them away. Not only is this true of government officials, but also of the everyday people who are the bulk of the country.
For instance, in 1963 Martin King Luther Jr. as sentenced to jail time for his work on civil rights. While in jail, he composed a letter that has become as important to American culture as any speech by any President. In this letter he again tackled the injustice he saw in the treatment of African Americans. It would be redundant to go into the specifics of the discrimination as they are so widely known. However, King, no matter how much he was discriminated against, hated, or physically hurt, still held close to the American ideology of promoting justice.
For it was in this letter that he wrote the famous words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” which is what has shaped nearly every aspect of Americanism since. King’s example brings up another point of the American ideology that perhaps is too often forgotten, which is progress. With freedom comes the ability to grow, to change, and to become better. Lincoln desired to end slavery in order to preserve freedom, Kennedy proclaimed that America would always protect liberty no matter the cost, and King recognized that true justice must be viewed with blind eyes.
Every one of these men believed in the same foundations of liberty, justice, and equality; but they also believed in the concept of growth. Not just economically, as success is too often measured fiscally, but in the evolution of the very ideals for which they believe. These men took their basic values as Americans, and adapted them to their times. The question may arise that “If these were truly the values that began the country how could there have been such injustices? ” And of course one must take into account that nothing is perfected in the first attempt.
It takes continuous practice to perfect a skill, and the same goes for ideology. This is crucial to Americanism and is best described by Franklin Delano Roosevelt In his 1944 state of the union address, where he said, “I do not think that any of us Americans can be content with mere survival. ” Which is evident when looking at the words of all these great men, and the actions of everyday Americans throughout the years, that they were not content with allowing America to betray its values. That they believed this nation must be different.
These strong beliefs in America’s values by its citizens are what has kept the country united for 250 years. While other countries have revolted, changed systems, or have been forced into a set of beliefs. Americans have always strove to uphold the ideals that its founders established. The ideological basis of liberty, justice, equality, and even the evolution of these ideals have been so ingrained into the American culture that many of its citizens cannot imagine a world without these principles.
This is why these speeches by great American leaders are so meaningful, because the audience shares the same basic beliefs that they preach, and if they don’t they can recognize exactly where the words came from by what they preach. It doesn’t matter whether it is a Democrat or a Republican, the message is the same, protect and uphold these values. The difference of party is one of what means is used, not what end is desired. Americans desire that these basic tenets be upheld by their leaders, and this way of thinking is what makes up the American ideology.