Discussing individualism in Song of Myself can be tricky. While the title would suggest this an autobiographical work about Whitman—and on one level it is—the "I" of the poem is, nevertheless, most often associated with a universal "I." Whitman's soul and self expand to encompass a oneness with the universe. For example, he begins his poem with a statement that sounds individualistic:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself
But then goes on to explain two lines later that:
every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you
establishing his "I" as a universal voice.
There are also places in the poem, however, such as the first stanza of section four, where Whitman pictures himself as a distinct individual. Here he writes of experiencing:
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues ...
These come to me days and nights and go from me again ...
But they are not Me myself.
Whitman lists places and experiences that he that he does not perceive as part of his core self. At these moments of detachment, he is the "witness" to certain scenes, describing himself as:
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it
But for all the moments where an individual "I" emerges as distinct from what is going on around him, the overall spirit of the poem is universal. It is also idealistic. Whitman celebrates the world, and in particular the United States, as a place teeming with potential. For all the problems, the world is a good place, a place full of joy, growth, and oneness, and Whitman depicts almost all that he sees as positive, describing it with exuberance.
He also describes his individual "I" as idealist who doesn't withhold or give meagerly but who pours himself out wholeheartedly:
Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
When I give I give myself.
Whitman encourages to see the best in the American and the universal experience and embrace it as good.