What makes a good American?

Posted 3/30/22

7th Grade Winman Middle School Rhode Island winner of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest

One day, upon returning home from school, my mom handed me a paper. I looked down and the words …

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What makes a good American?


7th Grade Winman Middle School Rhode Island winner of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest

One day, upon returning home from school, my mom handed me a paper. I looked down and the words “Patriot's Pen” stared back at me. I knew then the challenge had been issued; to answer the question “How can I be a good American?”

There were instant answers that came to mind, such as the importance of being selfless, honest and loyal, but I knew I had to dig deeper within myself to fully answer the question. Over the next few weeks, I looked around me, thinking the entire time, what makes a good American? My teachers, other students in my class, and even my neighbors were all being examined under my microscope. It became clear to me that a single trait assigned by itself cannot fully define a “good American” and that such an individual must embrace the freedoms offered by decades of identity building through democratic means and patriotic acts.

An American is born out of a melting pot of cultures and should harness the strengths within those differences. America has experienced division, most recently within the political parties of the left and right, which can often take away from democracy. Democracy, when deconstructed, bears a frame built on fairness. A good American knows offering fairness to all Americans, new and old, through opportunities that promote success is right. Providing impartial treatment without favoritism is key to fairness and guarantees that advantages are not awarded to those in positions of power, whether political or financial.

A good American recognizes the strengths of individuals from diverse backgrounds and does not discriminate against those born without the silver spoon. That same American embraces the freedoms offered to them through hard work while fighting against the disloyal patriot. A good American sees the flaws within our society, including the white supremacist roots, and actively questions and dissents against the “tradition’ in order to promote goodness for all.

 That same American must be able to openly discuss in honest terms the negative choices that led to the place we now stand. That American, the good person filled with loyal, realistic selfless ideals, is the individual who can lead the masses into the future without fear of repeating the past out of ignorance. Being “good” will always be subjected to the critical opinions of others, however, pursuing that goodness should never be persuaded, for good Americans make a strong nation.

Editor’s note:  Hundreds of Rhode Island students participate annually in the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. Winman 7th grader Harry Fallon, winner of the Rhode Island competition is one of 53 finalists worldwide. He now will compete at the national level for individual awards ranging from $500 to $5,000.The Patriot’s Pen essay contest encourages students in grades 6, 7 and 8 to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300-to-400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief. Each year more than 132,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.  Fallon was recognized in a ceremony last week at the school where Eric Dukat, a member of the VFW National Board and North Kingstown VFW Post 152 presented him with a $450 check .

essay, op-ed


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