This description of American cultural values was first introduced in American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture.

It explains the value system that has allowed the United States to assimilate millions of people from diverse cultures all over the world and create a unique, enduring American identity. 

There are three pairs of values consisting of three reasons why immigrants have come (and still do) to the United States and three prices that are paid for these benefits.




The first is for Individual Freedom and the price for that is Self-Reliance.

  We cannot be truly  free if we cannot take care of ourselves and be independent. 



The second is for Equality of Opportunity, and the price for that is Competition.

  If everyone has an equal chance for success, then we have to compete. 



The third is for The American Dream, the opportunity for a better life and a higher standard of living. 

The price for the American Dream has traditionally been Hard Work.



The relationship among these values—the rights and the responsibilities—creates the fabric of the American society.

It is this fabric that defines the American Dream—the belief that if people take responsibility for their lives and work hard, they will have the individual freedom to pursue their personal goals and a good opportunity to compete for success.

It is important to note that these six values are cultural values and not moral values, or even personal ones. 

They are the foundation of our democratic nation.

Rooted in the beliefs and visions of our Founding Fathers and reinforced by historical experience, these cultural values are what distinguish our country from all others.

They are what make us “Americans.”

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History of American Values Email Series

  • Email 1:

    Welcome to the history of American Values email series

  • Email 2:

    History of Individual freedom and self-reliance

  • Email 3:

    History of Equality of Opportunity and Competition

  • Email 4:

    History of Material Wealth and Hard Work

  • Email 5:

    American Values and the State of the American Dream

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