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Upon coming to the United States on a Fulbright Teaching scholarship, I became familiar with the lively American spirit and culture. During my time as a teaching associate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I became acquainted with academic life in America by interacting with professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students.
I came to realize that the American people and culture can be characterized by four general traits. First, the American culture values knowledge-sharing which has led to the significant, world-shaping innovations of the 20th and 21st centuries, most important of which include computer and internet technologies, as well as electricity, phone, airplanes, cars, sophisticated civilian infrastructures. More recently, internet innovations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube have shaped the lives of billions of people on every continent on the globe. It is American culture that shaped the character of extraordinary people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Susan Anthony. Knowledge-sharing takes place when people are genuinely interested in helping one another create new learning processes and to develop new capacities for action.
Secondly, I learned that philanthropy is an integral part of American culture and America is filled with individual philanthropists looking for a project to finance. People such as Bill Gates spend millions of dollars to promote global health, combat infectious disease, and relieve poverty through financial investments in projects like agricultural development. Some wealthy actors and actresses like George Clooney, Elton John, Angelina Jolie even choose to visit and help poverty-stricken, conflict-ridden countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. American Presidents like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter establish foundations and organizations to further important social issues affecting their own countries, as well as countries around the world.
America is the first country where I experienced freedom of speech, freedom of press, a government respectful of the dignity of its citizens, justice, and rule of law. I was able, for the first time, to openly criticize authoritarian regimes. Though I continue to receive threats from the Syrian and Iranian governments, I am able to express my opinions freely without the threat of harassment or imprisonment. The system of checks and balances among the different branches of government – Judicial, Legislative and Executive – free elections, the bill of rights and constitutional amendments are designed to protect the liberty and national rights of each citizen. The constitution is rich with affirmations of the democratic and tolerant spirit of America exemplified in quotes such as, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Three centuries ago the forefathers of America drafted a constitution meant to guarantee the rights of all Americans. “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”
I cannot write in depth about every characteristic that I believe embodies the American spirit in this short piece; however, I cannot forget to also attribute honesty, creativity and diversity to the American character. Upon my arrival to the United States I was fascinated to witness the coexistence of people from a variety of ethnic groups – Latino, Asian, European, Arab, African etc. The direct result of this functional melting pot is a constant flow of new ideas and creative innovations.
The American culture and nation has taught me a lot and I owe this nation. I hope that one day I will be able to return the generosity that I was shown by the American philanthropists who sponsored me and allowed me to travel and work in the United States.