This editorial answers the question, "What is the American Experience?" It is part of a series from the junior AP Language and Composition classes at Oakton High School in Northern Virginia, and was selected by a panel of student judges for publication on HuffPost Teen.
He would never be able to walk on his own again. Despite having such a debilitating disability, this particular American would persevere through this challenge in his life, rise to the office of President of the United States and get the nation back on its feet in the midst of a depression and after an attack on U.S. soil. Americans, like the 32nd president, have always persevered through the challenges that have come their way.
For centuries, people from all over the world have flocked to America for its promise of rewarding perseverance and hard work. According to David Kennedy's The American Pageant, one Polish-American, Mary Antin, wrote jubilantly while reflecting on her immigration to the U.S. in 1894: "So at last I was going to America! The boundaries burst. The arch of heaven soared..." Life for many immigrants, like Antin, was not easy; many had to work in factories for long hours at very low wages so that their children might have a brighter future. Though the majority of immigrants into the U.S. worked low-wage jobs most of their life, some were able to become very prosperous.
One such man who was able to become prosperous was Andrew Carnegie, who came to America from Scotland in 1848, earning only $1.20 a week as a bobbin boy. Despite this trial, Carnegie would go on to persevere through his challenges, work hard and become a successful businessman and philanthropist. The life of Andrew Carnegie serves as an example for all Americans and affirms the assertion that if you work hard and persevere through your challenges, you will be rewarded. Who would have thought that a man who came to America with virtually nothing would be one of its largest philanthropists by the end of his life? Despite how awe-inspiring the life of Carnegie is, one should not be confused into thinking that America is heaven on Earth. America has faced several times in its history that were anything but tranquil.
Americans have had to face tumultuous times throughout the history of their country. In the 20th century alone, Americans have had to face two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, and the struggle for equality in the Civil Rights Movement. But Americans have overcome each of these struggles, despite how difficult they may have been.
Many Americans, such as Colin Powell, have overcome seemingly unbearable obstacles in their life. Powell, the son of two Jamaican immigrants, grew up in a poor family in the Bronx during the 1930s and 1940s. As an African-American, Powell had limited opportunities and was met with bigotry during his youth. Powell, a self-admitted C student, would persevere through the challenges in his life and eventually become the nation's first black secretary of state after serving a long and distinguished career in the military. Powell writes about his achievements in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey: "Mine is a story... that could only have happened in America." Although Powell's story of perseverance is finished, America's is not. Even at this moment, Americans are struggling to make ends meet but are facing their challenge head-on with a spirit of resilience, not defeatism.
Throughout its history, and in its current state, the United States has faced hardships. According to a report from CBS News, the nation currently faces a 16 trillion dollar debt and unemployment levels near nine percent. Yet, despite the current crisis, the United States will, in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "Endure as it has endured."