What does it mean to be American? Is it about politics, ideology? About where a person is born? Is it about lifestyle or world view or that elusive, namesake Dream? Is there even a "right" answer to that question? Maybe that is the real question. Jose Antonio Vargas seems to think so, and he's inviting us all to help Define American.
In June, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist published an op-ed in the New York Times disclosing his status as an undocumented immigrant, detailing the way he found himself in his position and the reasons he'd kept it secret for so long. Vargas also explained why he decided to "come out" with his immigration status (a move, he writes, that was more daunting than when he came out as a gay man in 1999): "I'm done running. I'm exhausted. I don't want that life anymore."
So he came clean, and with his honesty, provoked discussion about what it means to be an American. He posed the question on "The Colbert Report," asked readers and viewers to come up with their own answers and established the Define American social media campaign with the goal of fueling a more nuanced conversation about immigration issues in this country. Co-founder Jake Brewer says (via Mashable), "The ultimate success to us is people talking to talk openly, despite political or divided lines."
Will real, honest dialogue translate into action and measurable policy change? That remains to be seen. Social change from the ground up, however, is a near guarantee.
Visit the campaign site to see how other young people are defining "American," then upload your own POV to engage in the conversation today.
+ Watch Julia define "American" in her words: