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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Proud to be Americans

When Bruno Manno was growing up in the '50s and '50s, his family would gather at his grandparents' Italian tavern, to eat, drink and listen to stories about his elders' journey from Italy to America, their first jobs, their service in the military and "how, despite frustrations, disappointments, and tragedies, they were proud to be Americans."

They always watched Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942, with James Cagney (songwriter George M. Cohan) proclaiming himself, "a real live nephew of my uncle Sam's, born on the Fourth of July."

"All those who were there loved America, believed they were blessed to be in America, and could never imagine living anywhere else but America," writes Manno in Forbes. As his father said: “Only in America.”

These days, patriotism seems to be in decline among young people, Manno writes. In 2003, 90 percent of adults said they were "very" or "extremely" proud to be an American. Last year, that had fallen to 67 percent, according to a Gallup poll. Older Americans are much more likely to say they're "extremely proud" than 18- to 34-year-olds.

Seventy percent of Americans said patriotism was very important in 1998, in a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll, he writes. In 2023, 38 percent said patriotism was very important.

"Young people's knowledge of U.S. civics and history is at an all-time low," writes Manno.

But many Americans are working to rebuild civics education, he writes. That includes iCivics' project, Educating for American Democracy, the National Association of Scholars' Civics Alliance and the American Identity Project led by Richard Kahlenberg of the Progressive Policy Institute. His recent report calls for strengthening American identity and patriotism, and ensuring that students learn not just about “America’s sins but also the ways in which liberal democratic norms made redemption possible.”

As Kahlenberg writes in a Fourth of July column, it's time to reject the identity politics of the extreme left and the extreme right, and teach students about our "shared history and values."

We're in this together, folks.

Here's Cagney doing a medley that ends with Cohan's song about the Grand Old Flag. I wonder how many students would understand all the references.

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1 Comment

Jul 04

"[I]t's time to reject the identity politics of the extreme left and the extreme right..."

Any examples? Maybe they're not extreme.

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