Guiding Question: Can We Allow Multiple Truths to be Present?

An opportunity to:

  • Embrace both the promise and the pain of America and American history
  • Consider how many ways there have been throughout history to “become American”
  • Reflect on which stories we commonly hear and which ones we often miss

Embracing BOTH the Pain AND the Promise

Messages about what makes America and Americans unique are ever-present. And yet, what makes America “great” is often presented in fairly simplistic terms, focusing primarily on opportunities, not challenges and triumphs, not failures. In truth, our collective story is quite nuanced, in ways that are both painful and promising. And while it can be challenging at times to hang on to both of those realities, it’s a really important skill to build. Exclusively embracing the promise can feel like a denial of the pain, and exclusively highlighting the pain leaves us little to build upon. 

Our responsibility as fellow citizens requires us to see, experience, and appreciate this BOTH/AND (rather than either/or) experience.We must not reject the pain as an inconvenience to the simplicity or unity we desire, nor must we overlook the acts of courage, humanity, grace, sacrifice, and love that pepper our collective story, just because the ideal hasn’t been achieved. We must allow multiple truths to be present and embrace the pain as a reminder of the work to be done, and power ourselves with stories of love as we work towards the promise and potential we know is possible.

Talking points to share

As you read, discuss, and explore with your children, here are some messages you may consider sharing with them:

What’s special about America is that we believe all people should experience specific and special freedoms that aren’t always recognized elsewhere in the world: specifically – (through the Bill of Rights) the freedom of religion, speech, and press, the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for grievances, and also (through the Declaration of Independence) the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And yet…

  • Not all Americans have the same stories and experience of freedom.
  • Not all Americans have had the same access to liberty.
  • Not all Americans are free from persecution.
  • Some Americans risked all they had to come to this country.
  • Some Americans were brought here against their will.
  • Some Americans were already here long, long before July 4, 1776 and have watched as our nation’s growth consumed their traditions and freedom.

There are MANY stories of America.

Questions to Consider Together with Your Children:

  • How does your own family’s legacy reflect the larger narrative of America?
  • How, as ONE OF MANY stories of America, does your family’s story differ from others?
  • What would you add to our country’s ideals and values?
  • What do our ideals and values say about who we could be as a country?
  • What do we and can we do to ensure that ALL Americans enjoy the same freedoms?

"Stories of America" Stories

“Of Thee I Sing”

by Barack Obama

“We Came to America”

by Faith Ringgold

“Apple Pie 4th of July”

by Janet Wong

“Emma’s Poem”

by Linda Glaser

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