Fostered by the freedom of religion that the early settlers sought, it is pursued today in freedom of the press, art, and expression. Freedom, more than any other concept, defines what it means to be an American.
Self-rule is closely associated with freedom, but also has the notion of the power residing in the hands of the people. Colonists, forced to turn to community government in the face of British absenteeism, established a legacy that persists today. Our free elections are the vehicle that we use to continue to celebrate this legacy. No public official is any more powerful than the public they serve.
The legacies of freedom and self rule have demanded a responsibility that we find in the Puritan inspired legacy of hard work, honesty, and family. The commitment to these ideals has lasted for centuries. Americans continue to believe in these basic values taught by the Puritans and embraced by such American icons as Ben Franklin. Even in the face of technology and MTV, our legacy is the conservative value of deliberate effort to exact an honest output.
While these legacies bring us great pride, there are some darker sides to Americas legacy for the present. Slavery that began in the colonies continued well into the 19th century. The remnants and impact continues to show in institutional prejudice and individual bias. This is a legacy that we have struggled with through the civil rights movement and personal introspection.
Most Americans meet our challenging legacies by reaching for another of our nations indelible character traits. The legacy of exploration and conquering adds personal strength to anyone who has knowledge of our nations past. Though we may not explore the open and unsettled territories as in the past, America has a unique perspective that allows it to take action on social and international issues that confront us. America can face the unknown and the untraveled road of the future.