Americans deeply value self-expression -- the ability to say what we want to say, when we want to say it, how we want to say it and to whomever we want to say it – without the fear of arrest or prosecution.
While equality is often defined as “sameness in quantity, degree, rank, value, ability or status,” Americans we interviewed view equality as a level playing field, fairness and equal treatment under the law -- especially in opportunity and acceptance of diversity.
America is often referred to by as a land of faith, beholden to a Higher Power, and a country where many of our values were derived from faith and scriptures, or religious beliefs.
Americans are strong in their devotion to family and desire America to be a nation that supports and protects the family unit and supports the individual in building family prosperity and legacies.
The dictionary defines freedom as "exemption from external control or restraint." Americans we interviewed proclaimed a desire for freedom in a wide range of areas, from freedom from tyranny, injustice, government arbitrariness and oppression, to freedom to practice religion or refrain from practicing it. Other freedoms relate to race, sexual orientation, and appearance including both physical features and dress.
Doing the right thing
Americans we interviewed consistently expressed a desire to do
the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, and they expressed appreciation of the goodness of others. Comments about the importance of fairness, responsibility and accountability are also embodied in this value.
Love and Respect
Americans expect both to give and receive love and respect as they try to follow the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and to demonstrate kindness, caring, and compassion for others. Our respondents expressed empathy and a sense of common humanity with others both in America and around the world.
Americans are outward-thinking – not just invested in our families, but invested in making our communities better. Whether we live in a neighborhood, village, town or large city, we seem to care about those around us not just for selfish reasons but for the greater good of all.
Americas are the most philanthropic people in the world, as measured both financially and through volunteer service, perhaps it should come as no surprise that no matter what one’s circumstances, we need to give back to those less fortunate, or to important causes. New Yorkers, in particular, emphasized the importance of the giving that we saw after 9/11.
The Good Life
Americans desire for the American Dream, as defined by life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well as opportunity, money and having at least a middle class lifestyle. One response in Atlanta was that “We all want…to go to Benihana and for that you need the money. We all want money…” But, we all recognize there is a flipside or to this value. One response was “Americans are so driven by money, they will do anything to get it.”
Americans want the opportunity to better ourselves and through hard work achieve our dreams. Upward mobility, especially the ability to break free from poverty, is an important part of the American way of life.
Success is considered important. The dictionary defines success as "accomplishment of favorable results." However, our respondents described success not in only financial terms but also in terms of personal growth and fulfillment of potential -- being one's personal best. For example, a Williamsport coffee shop server said he wanted to be “the best coffee shop server” he could be.