[January 26, 2015] American core values are not something we hear people talk about much these days. We do hear politicians talking about “fairness” and “equality”, yet the meanings do not always align with what most Americans think. Our leaders help set the tone for dialog and we look to them for how to treat others and for how well American is doing in the world.
In Part 1 of this two-part series on core values, we identified five key American core values: 1) liberty and freedom, 2) equality and individualism, 3) democracy, 4) strength and winning, and 5) family. Of course, as noted, there are many more and in this post I will identify five additional core values:
- Independence and Individual Responsibility. Americans love their ability to survive on their own without help. The last thing an American would want is the government to help them out because that would be an admission of defeat and surrender. Those who do accept government help are looked down upon as malingerers and lazy; shame is their lot. If one is successful or a failure, it is seen as that person’s responsibility and no one else is to blame.
- Future Orientation, Happiness, and Life. This is the belief that the future holds a better time for themselves and especially their children. They do not look backward to the past and are less likely to hold a grudge. And, the pursuit of happiness is even written into the U.S. Constitution as an admirable goal; if achieved within the rules and laws of American society.
- Integrity and Honesty. These are individual characteristics that are highly valued; easily lost and difficult to gain. Americans like to close any agreement with a handshake which confirms any contract – the basis of which is integrity and honesty. Those who lack integrity or are dishonest are given less opportunity to participate in those things that allow the pursuit of happiness.
- Faith. The history and underlying foundation of America law and morality and comes from a strong Judeo-Christian heritage. Tolerance of religion is the hallmark because much of the nation’s founding came from those who were fleeing religious persecution. Open-mindedness about religion and its acceptance is an important feature.
- Defender of the Helpless. There is a strong affinity to protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. Related closely to selfless service to their nation, Americans have been willing to risk everything to protect others from evil – tyranny, injustice, slavery, etc. The moral implications are significant and as such, is a highly motivating factor.
There are other American values but would not be considered a “core” value. For example, intelligence is important but being a hard worker and honest are more crucial for their acceptance in society. Also, one value cannot be achieved at the expense of another. For example, a cheater who wins is not a winner in the eyes of an American. Thus, the overlapping importance of these core values.
As the United States heads into the 21st Century, many of their core values will begin to shift. This is already beginning. Yet, the overwhelming evidence is that these values will be with Americans for a long time.
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