Understanding America: What are American Values/Ideals?
The current climate of polarization might suggest we have deep disagreements about American values/ideals, and live out of conflicting understandings. But what exactly are American values/ideals? What do you most value about the United States? Do they derive from our founding documents, so you look to “the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Or the Constitution and Bill of Rights — protecting the rights of individuals from government overreach, foreign threats and the passions of the people. Or do they derive from something else entirely? Let’s rediscover our shared American values/ideals.
Background Information:This is the first conversation in the ‘Understanding America’ conversation pathway. We recommend you complete this conversation followed by Political Stereotypes and then Reunited States.
Let's Get Started!
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate.
Why We're Here (~10 min)
Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
How We'll Engage (~5 min)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)
- Be curious and listen to understand.
- Show respect and suspend judgment.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others.
- Be purposeful and to the point.
- Own and guide the conversation.
What We’ll Talk About
Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
What are American Values/Ideals? (~40 min)
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..
- What would you define as “American values”? How are these unique to our country, or are they?
- If you were describing American values to someone, what would you say?
- What are you most proud of as an American? Is there anything of which you are ashamed? How do each of these relate to your values? To American values?
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?