What is an American?
You probably missed it in the rush of news last week,
but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan
had published in a newspaper, an offer of a reward to
anyone who killed an American, any American. So I thought
I would write to let them know what an American is, so
they would know when they found one.
An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish,
German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may
also be African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian,
Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An
American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist,
or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than
in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they
are free to worship as each of them choose. An American is
also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer
only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs
claiming to speak for the government and for God. An American
is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world.
The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of
Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each man
and woman to the pursuit of happiness.
An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about
every other nation in the world in their time of need. When
Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago,
Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to
win back their country. As of the morning of September 11,
Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in
Afghanistan. An American does not have to obey the mad ravings
of ignorant, ungodly cruel, old men. American men will not be
fooled into giving up their lives to kill innocent people, so
that these foolish old men may hold on to power. American women
are free to show their beautiful faces to the world, as each of
them choose. An American is free to criticize his government's
officials when they are wrong, in his or her own opinion. Then
he is free to replace them, by majority vote.
Americans welcome people from all lands, all cultures, all
religions, because they are not afraid. They are not afraid that
their history, their religion, their beliefs, will be overrun,
or forgotten. That is because they know they are free to hold
to their religion, their beliefs, their history, as each of
them choose. And just as Americans welcomes all, they enjoy
the best that everyone has to bring, from all over the world.
The best science, the best technology, the best products, the
best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes.
Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least.
One of this nation's symbol is the Statue of Liberty, It
welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your
teeming shores, the home-less, tempest tossed.
These in fact are the people who built America. Many of them
were working in the twin towers on the morning of September 11,
earning a better life for their families.
So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did.
So did General Tojo and Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and every
bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world. But in doing
so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are
not a particular people from a particular place. They are the
embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds
to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.