This spring, HuffPost Teen published a series of editorials written by students at Oakton High School in Virginia that answered the question, "What is the American experience?" These students grew up in a truly dynamic time -- some just barely remember 9/11, some have family and friends serving overseas, and others are first-generation Americans. All 24 students had a completely different take on what it means to be a citizen of this country. For example, student Drew Sandler connected quantum physics to the American experience, Rayna Rossini celebrated some of America's most influential leaders throughout history, and Miran Youn pondered what "the melting pot" really means.
In honor of Independence Day this week, we've collected quotes from these teens defining what the "American experience" means to their lives. See their responses in the slideshow below.
What does being an American mean to you? Share your reactions in the comments or tweet your thoughts @HuffPostTeen.
The Elusive American Experience
"The American experience is the pursuit of personal freedom -- a free and just life without oppression or prejudice." -- Nathan Chen, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-chen/the-elusive-american-expe_b_1546680.html" target="_hplink">"The Elusive American Experience"</a>
Diversified American Leadership
"Leadership is George Washington, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Michelle Obama. Leadership is being courageous, inspiring, passionate and persuasive. Leadership is the American experience." -- Rayna Rossini, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rayna-rossini/diversified-american-lead_b_1559965.html" target="_hplink">"Diversified American Leadership"</a>
Quantum Mechanics and the American Experience
"Is there no unanimous time in our country where everybody just stops?" -- Drew Sandler, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-sandler/quantum-mechanics-and-the_b_1608626.html" target="_hplink">"Quantum Mechanics and the American Experience"</a>
The American Experience
"The American experience is one of falseness, one that can project an image of good but is undermined by the cutthroat nature of the American people." -- Shannon Carney, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-carney/the-american-experience_b_1557478.html" target="_hplink">"The American Experience"</a>
The Unamerican States of America
"We as Americans arrogantly view ourselves as protectors of freedom, hoping to spread our visions of liberty and equality. We claim to embody the values of the American spirit. Yet all too often, our actions claim otherwise." -- Imren Johar, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imren-johar/the-unamerican-states-of-_b_1557236.html" target="_hplink">"The Unamerican States of America"</a>
Will We Ever Have Enough?
"The common but false expression that "bigger is better" seems to dictate the lives of Americans: bigger TVs, bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger corporations and even bigger food portions." -- Marcela Hawkins, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcela-hawkins/will-we-ever-have-enough_b_1560147.html" target="_hplink">"Will We Ever Have Enough?"</a>
"What is more American than fighting for a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" through our right to peacefully assemble and petition the government?" -- Lorelei Christie, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorelei-christie/slut-talk_b_1559977.html" target="_hplink">"Slut Talk"</a>
America: A Modern Imperalist
"[American] influence is so rooted in global society that the McDonalds' golden arches are one of the most identifiable symbols, like the Christian cross." -- Misa Mori, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/misa-mori/america-a-modern-imperial_b_1560446.html" target="_hplink">"America: A Modern Imperialist"</a>
America's Biggest Lie
"From America's origins to the present day, division is always present, as it clearly defines the American people." -- Kyra Nyman-Aggarwal, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kyra-nymanaggarwal/americas-biggest-lie_b_1560582.html" target="_hplink">"America's Biggest Lie"</a>
"It doesn't cut it anymore just to be the leader of America. The president has to <em>be</em> America." -- Sofia Crutchfield, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sofia-crutchfield/egoinflated-nation_b_1563207.html" target="_hplink">"Ego-Inflated Nation"</a>
"As citizens of a country known internationally for its freedom, you would think we would have more variety in the general pathways of our lives." -- Erin Desbiens, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erin-desbiens/expecting-expectations_b_1560626.html" target="_hplink">"Expecting Expectations"</a>
Our America, Our Adventure
"The American experience relies on a sense of adventure in order to reach for the impossible, and to discover the opportunities to be had for our country and ourselves." -- Karli Gillespie,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karli-gillespie/our-america-our-adventure_b_1545710.html" target="_hplink"> "Our America, Our Adventure"</a>
Greed: The American Experience
"The fact that McDonald's pays their employees so little is an injustice, not only because they deserve more, but also because McDonald's could probably easily afford to pay higher wages." -- Will Savino, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-savino/greed-the-american-experi_b_1560813.html" target="_hplink">"Greed: The American Experience"</a>
The American Experience: Comfort Above All Else
"I'm certainly not demanding the halt of fast food consumption and use of technology, but how hard could it be to simply increase our nutritional food options and eco-friendly products?" -- Hailey Yook, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hailey-yook/the-american-experience-c_b_1540788.html" target="_hplink">"The American Experience: Comfort Above All Else"</a>
With Arrogance and Destruction For All
"I am ashamed to live in a place whose name connotes strength, but that houses the weakest of all people." -- Giuliana Macaluso, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/giuliana-macaluso/with-arrogance-and-destru_b_1569198.html" target="_hplink">"With Arrogance and Destruction For All"</a>
Conflict Controls This Country
"From a simple difference in opinion to a full-scale war, fighting is in any American's blood." -- Emma Olson, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emma-olson/conflict-controls-this-co_b_1544006.html" target="_hplink">"Conflict Controls This Country"</a>
Endless Cycle Of Inequality
"Without inequality, could there have been the United States? No, inequality was the principal of sustaining America." -- Han Bin Lee, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/han-bin-lee/endless-cycle-of-inequali_b_1546052.html" target="_hplink">"Endless Cycle Of Inequality"</a>
An Inconvenient Truth: The Pollution of American Consciousness
"America plucks the vulnerable fruit and squeezes out the juices of prosperity and power with its strangling grasp, leaving the tree lifeless and bare." -- Sepehr Zomorodi,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sepehr-zomorodi/an-inconvenient-truth-the_b_1545977.html" target="_hplink"> "An Inconvenient Truth: The Pollution of American Consciousness"</a>
The Nation That Always Perseveres
"Yet, despite the current crisis, the United States will, in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 'Endure as it has endured.'" -- Brooks Henne, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brooks-henne/the-nation-that-always-pe_b_1543888.html" target="_hplink">"The Nation That Always Perseveres"</a>
United We Stand?
"From applying to colleges to campaigning for the presidential candidacy, we are constantly striving for individual success and supremacy above all, and everyone, else." -- Madlin Mekelburg, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madlin-mekelburg/united-we-stand_b_1540967.html" target="_hplink">"United We Stand?"</a>
Let's Be Honest, Now
"The old terminology "melting pot" supposedly represents this multicultural society, but the question at hand is, 'Did the melting pot really ever mix the different people?'" -- Miran Youn, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miran-youn/lets-be-honest-now_b_1540932.html" target="_hplink">"Let's Be Honest, Now"</a>
"Though some may say that Americans are faced with limited opportunity set by social and economic barriers, Americans have and always will share the experience of limitless opportunity." -- Stephen Bushey, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-bushey/opportunity_b_1540402.html" target="_hplink">"Opportunity"</a>
The Country Of Successful Failures
"In America, free of ingrained systems of hierarchy and royalty, everyone has the opportunity to experience success, no matter how many times they have failed before." -- Marilyn Yang, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilyn-yang/the-country-of-successful_b_1540531.html" target="_hplink">"The Country Of Successful Failures"</a>
Would I Lie To You?
"This is the tragic story of Katya* and Lena*, two foreign exchange students who had come to America under the impression that they had received summer jobs at Virginia Beach, only to find themselves ensnared in Detroit's booming sex trafficking industry." -- Joanna Ro, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanna-ro/would-i-lie-to-you_b_1545595.html" target="_hplink">"Would I Lie To You?"</a>