The Schuler Program equips bright, motivated youth with the support they need to gain access to and succeed at highly selective colleges and beyond. Writing from thirteen schools located in the greater Chicago area in Lake and Cook Counties of Illinois, scholars reflect on their academic experiences, cultural exposures, college applications processes, and more.
This summer, rising sophomore Scholars at Round Lake High School participated in a writing and public speaking workshop. The Scholars wrote speeches on social justice issues in their communities and presented them at the second annual Project Soapbox evening on July 11th, 2013.
Scholar Savannah Braxton wrote the following speech on American identity for the Project Soapbox event.
"Chopsticks, orange chicken, noodles, egg rolls, kung
fu, The Great Wall; by now you probably know what I'm talking about: China, right?
What about white wigs,
crumpets, tea time, Big Ben and Queen Elizabeth? That’s obviously England.
What about us? Who are
Notice I said we—by that
I mean we as Americans. Who are the American people? Who have the American
If you ask a foreigner,
“What things come to mind when you think about Americans?” They might say, “McDonalds,
American football, baseball, apple pies and the excessive rate of obesity.” These
are the types of ideas other people and even our own citizens have about us,
Is this what we really
It’s unfortunate but
true, the new American culture has become very watered down and bland. I don’t
know about you, but bland and tasteless are not words I want to describe
America. We are supposed to be the unique and diverse country of the world, yet
we have become the clones.
When I think of
America, I think of all the rich and heroic history our country has under its
belt. Everybody knows that America was built on the ideas of freedom; including
freedom of speech and religion. Woven into these freedoms is the all important
freedom of expression. This means freedom of cultural expression is at the top
of that list.
99% of Americans come
from family lineages that immigrated here. 100% of Americans have a history
that is worth celebrating and sharing. America is made up of so many different
cultures and languages; it is extraordinary.
America consists of 311
different spoken languages. In our country, there are 14 million households
where English is not the primary language. But are we taking advantage of all
this? Are we celebrating and expressing our cultural roots adequately?
I myself am biracial. I am black and white.
Unfortunately this is all I can really tell you. Sadly, my family has never
been able to trace our family lineage back to our origins. And the reality of
it is that I will probably never know.
I am disappointed when I see our youth who have the
opportunity and exposure to immerse in their family’s culture but blatantly
walk away from it all.
For what? For being that so-called All-American Teen
who everyone wants to be?
I find it upsetting that the youth of America will
ignore their ethnic cultures to fit into the impossible box that society
dictates. Teens believe that if they try to be Justin Beiber or Miley Cyrus
they will be more popular and accepted. Young men go to the limits to be that
desirable muscular jock while young ladies do everything in their power to be a
life-size Barbie doll.
These are the images that we have been indoctrinated
to believe are most favorable. Imagine the damage that is done to any teen that
doesn’t fit into that mold. It’s heartbreaking.
This is the problem.
Where did all the
diversity, self respect and individuality go that makes America so special?
We are not doing enough
to bring out and encourage the cultural spice that was once so natural and
important to our nation. We need to take action and stop this loss of cultural
heritage in America. Teens are losing their virtues, personal identities and
all the things that come along with being one with your heritage.
America, we can and should be doing so much more to
reignite that flame of passion and love for one’s traditions and customs. There
are so many fun and exciting ways to regain this asset of American pride in
ethnic roots. Social and public celebrations are a great way to bring awareness
to the different holidays and traditions of the many cultures in America. Cinco
de Mayo, the Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day are some well known and
celebrated holidays of other countries and heritages.
What about the less known holidays such as Diwali (Divali)
which is the Festival of Light in India? Or Powwaw, the national gathering of
Native American and non-native American people to celebrate the Native American
culture? Where are their parades and feasts?
Knowing one’s own heritage is crucial. Learning about
other cultures is important as well. Cross-cultural learning will strengthen
the value and beauty in everyone’s cultural heritage.
Parents, you are most important in inspiring your
children to get involved with their heritage. Encourage and immerse them in
your culture, educate them to the best of your ability. Seeds will be planted
and hopefully will thrive. Another great place to learn is at school, so school
clubs and after school programs can be developed to educate and inspire their
students to be enriched and involved in their heritages.
But let’s think bigger! Government can invest in
more culture museums, educating and informing the masses!
Just think, if we build a strong bond between
Americans and their cultural essence, then what can media and society do to
challenge you to take the initiative to learn about your heritage and dig into
the abundance of knowledge that is waiting to be discovered."