America isn’t a country so much as it is an idea.
America is an idea about freedom, and freedom is man’s natural state and disposition. The first people to find their way here came from different places, but they were all chasing the same idea.
America is the idea that one should be free to pursue their version of happiness, whatever they believe that to be, as long as they don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights.
It’s the idea that you mostly govern yourself, instead of being governed by those who believe they know what’s best for and how you should live (or those who believe they had an absolute right to tell you what you will or will not do). You still mostly govern yourself in America, even if the Federal Register grows larger and more obtrusive every year.
America is the idea that one can have a better life and provide the same to their families. It’s never been the guarantee of a better life, as many who have pursued it and failed have discovered. But America has always been the place where a better life could be pursued and mostly found.
There is a reason more people still show up on these shores in numbers far greater than any other country on Earth. It’s because they recognize themselves in the idea that is America. They weren’t born In America, but some part of the idea was born in them. They recognized themselves as American long before they ever arrived in the United States. There are still Americans who happened to born in other countries waiting for a chance to come home for the very first time.
America is still the only country where you can show up and change your national identity by simply saying so, regardless of where you were born or how long you’ve lived here. If an American man moved to France, he would always be an American. But if a Frenchman moved to America, all he would have to do is speak the words, “I am now an American,” and no one would believe the statement untrue. We’d recognize that he is an American, regardless of the place of his birth.
Wanting to be American is almost all of being American. That is what America means.