There is a reason we refer to "the American dream." That dream is that no matter who you are or where you started, you can achieve happiness and success in America. Today I heard some poll results on American optimism, and it appears that in spite of the wretched time we are going through, Americans remain something like 85% optimistic about their futures. Now, I have never heard poll results from other countries, but I would be willing to guess that we are the most optimistic nation in the world and that we still believe in the American dream.
In a nation where democracy is valued so highly, too many Americans are close-minded when it comes to accepting the ideas of cultures different from their own. Most Americans believe they live in the greatest country in the world, but many look down upon cultures and nations as inherently inferior. Our present position of power as the world's unofficial policeman continues to bolster the idea that might always makes right. In doing so, many nations view Americans as global snobs, spoiled by our successess and personal luxuries in a world where far too many people face a daily fight for survival.
Americans are a people characterized, still, by largeness and largess. We do things on a large scale - like chain restaurants with thousands of locations or 70+ inch televisions. We are the only country with the occasional habit of going to the moon.
The generosity of Americans is also part of the country's expansive nature. We share, provide aid, invite immigrants to come here (more than many countries do).
Yet, America is a place of dynamic values. Some of the value of scale seems to be waning in certain circles as concerns for the environment fuel a new set of "local" preferences.
To me, being an American means a commitment to democracy. We support one another, regardless of race or social class. We also support others in the world, because America uses its might for good. We step in when we see abuses, and we help others in trouble. America has a rich cultural history to live up to, despite its youth. Our unique foundation means a lot to us. We strongly believe this.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson)
Although America is not a perfect country, we do indeed try to live up to these ideas. At times like this, when we are about to have an election that might result in another peaceful power shift, we should be grateful that we solve our problems in non-violent ways.
This is quite the loaded question and will probably differ depending on the person, but I would say that one value that makes Americans different from other countries is freedom. America is a place where certain freedoms are expected, so much so that we take advantage of some of the freedoms we have that other countries do not.
Being able to work to achieve one's dreams has once been an American value, but I'm not so sure that is the case anymore.
I think that our values were once unique but that much, much more of the world shares them with us today. To be a good American means believing in democracy and individual rights. It means having egalitarian attitudes. Beyond that, there are many disagreements among Americans.
I'm not an American citizen, but what I admire the most about it, is the great care and intrest that is showing to thier youth, cuz they are the future of the country, that point itself is a value not only for American people; but to those who are lacking the proper care from their countries.