ENG 11 Section 1853
April 16, 2009
America’s Guiding Light
John Adams 1735-1826
" As a government so popular can be supported only by universal knowledge and virtue, it is the duty of all ranks to promote the means of education as well as true religion, purity of manners and integrity of life. "
The pride of Bronx Community College, The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, houses the likenesses of some of the greatest men and women from our country’s history. John Adams is one of the most influential men in helping to shape what the United States is today. Is John Adams worthy to be called a great American or would there even be a United States if there was no John Adams? We will explore the accomplishments of a man who believed in a place where education and knowledge guided us on our life long journey to where freedom reigned and liberty ruled.
Born on October 30th, 1735 in Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams was the oldest of three brothers and lived on a plain and simple farm with one chimney for warmth and four hardly lit rooms. (Diggins 17) Descended from the original Puritans that immigrated from England in the 1630s, John Adams’ family were among the first colonists to settle in America. With roots that run deep in American society, John Adams, as the American Indians would state, his sweat, blood, and tears are now a part of this land from which his generations shall grow.
John Adams was always an outspoken man and was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps to become a minister. Adams did not agree with this chosen path and upon his graduation from Harvard in 1755, Adams accepted a teaching position in a grammar school.(Diggins 18) Still unsatisfied and doubtful from a few years of teaching, Adams decided to pursue a profession in law. John Adams would prove to be a natural lawyer and in 1761, he was accepted into the bar by the Massachusetts Superior Court. (Diggins 21)
Adams was making a name for himself as a brilliant and honest man in the courtrooms of Massachusetts and in the Boston newspaper articles he wrote. (McCullough 19). John Adams was of impeccable character and showed his willingness to go against odds for the idea of justice. Adams demonstrates this perfectly during the controversial Boston Massacre of 1770. As seen in John Adams, the HBO miniseries, after a confrontation with disgruntled citizens, British soldiers opened fire, killing three and wounding eight others. These soldiers were then brought up on charges under Massachusetts law and handed over to the colonial authorities for trial. (Diggins 26) When trouble finding legal counsel soon arose, Adams was asked to represent them. In fear of damaging his reputation, since these were British soldiers and his patriotism would be in question, Adams reluctantly agreed to the task. After getting the soldiers acquitted for self defense, John Adams would rise in public standing and was now known for his fairness and impartiality in the matters of justice. (McCullough 68)
John Adams was sent to the Continental Congress as the voice of Massachusetts in 1774 and was one of the major influences in advocating for America’s independence from Great Britain. During this time of congress and crisis, Adams was the one to get George Washington nominated as the Head of the Army, which in turn is how George Washington made a name for himself in the up and coming battles against the British army, eventually becoming our nation’s first president.
John Adams was responsible for constantly pushing for separation from Great Britain and as seen in the HBO miniseries, John Adams, he chose and convinced Thomas Jefferson to draft a document that would be known as the Declaration of Independence. After its completion, The Declaration of Independence was championed by John Adams for debate on the Congress floor and Adams fought vigorously until it was passed on July 2, 1776. Years later as Wikipedia states, Thomas Jefferson hailed Adams as the Declaration of Independence’s main supporter against the inevitable opposition and criticism it would endure.
So in response to should John Adams be in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans? If being the main voice in declaring independence from Great Britain had never spoke out, we might all be part of the British Empire instead of American citizens with all our freedoms, liberties, and god given rights that we hold ever so dear to our hearts. But let’s continue with the life of John Adams and see if his accomplishments continues to paint a picture of what a great American should be.
John Adams played a huge role as a diplomat during the Revolutionary War, as stated in the White House biography, adams would serve two diplomatic posts. John Adams was first assigned to the post of diplomat to France, though out of his element and in socially awkward surroundings, Adams, the agressively persistent lawyer, along with Benjamin Franklin, the charasmatic diplomat, were instrumental in gaining France’s support in their independence from Great Britain. (Diggins 33) Adams, after his posting in France, was sent to Holland to try and gain much needed money for the war effort back in North America. After two years of hesitation, the government of Holland finally agreed to the loan when news of the surrender of British general Cornwallis was heard in November 1781. (Diggins 34) A treaty of commerce was established and Adams had gained much needed capital for a newly forming country.
John Adams returned to the newly formed United States with its official Constitution adopted on September 17, 1787, to witness George Washington become our first president and to take his official post of Vice President of the United States as written in Wikipedia, this was a glorious and historic moment in the history of this country. John Adams was Vice President for two terms from 1789 - 1797 and served in a minor capacity. As stated in a letter to his wife Abigail, he wrote " the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. " (Diggins 42) Thorougly perturbed by the limitations of his newly appointed office and although Adams played a limited role in George Washington’s presidential decision making as well as told not to vote on legislation or give speches, as seen in the HBO mini series John Adams, Adams still championed the floor of the Senate and made his opinions heard and unrelentingly pursued making his motions passed.
John Adams would have the honor of becoming the second president of the United States of America. Greatly recognized among his peers as being of impeccable character, has finally risen John Adams to the most important position in the land. A far deserved and overdue honor bestowed upon a man who put every inch of pride, hard work, dedication and energy into seeing this country and its people achieve what could not be achieved and start a new chapter in the history of this planet. A great American is defined by their contributions to American society and by the pinciples and morals in which they live their lives. John Adams is the very definition of a great American. Adams lived by his principles and honor was a driving force behind every step. John Adams was referred to, by John Patrick Diggins, as the Philosopher - President, a title that represents the philosophy he would use in most of his thoughts and decision making.
An instrumental part in declaring independence and gaining support for the American cause, John Adams has led the way in the fight for liberty and freedom. Using his mind as a tool for the search for knowledge and enlightenment and his pen and communication skills for the spreading of knowledge, John Adams was a firm believer that this country and its people would prosper through education and the sharing of ideas, virtues and knowledge.
John Adams would serve only one term as president of these United States, from 1797 to 1801, and became unpopular during this time period caught between his war proven predecessor George Washington, his charismatic successor Thomas Jefferson, and his inter party opposition Alexander Hamilton. Through constant opposition and criticism, John Adams would never falter in character or become compromising in his beliefs. John Adams was in every sense of the phrase, a great American.
Diggins, John Patrick, and Arthur M. Schlesinger. John Adams: The American
President Series. Nem York: Times Books Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 2003.
John adams. Dir. Tom Hooper. Perf. Paul Giamatti. HBO Films, 2008.
" John Adams. " Wikipedia. 22 March. 2009. Wikipedia Foundation. 31 March.
McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
" John Adams. " United States of America : The White House. 31 March. 2009
Eng 11 Section 1853
April 15, 2009
Lost In America
America has been a dream for many and a nightmare for some. This land has created heroes, villains and many other characters that are forged during any great epic. “ Prologue To An Invisible Man “ written by Ralph Ellison will be my example of the despair of trying to fit into a society and be rejected. Ralph Ellison was born in 1914 in oklahoma and was educated in Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute. “ A Tapestry Of Hope “ by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston will show the opposite approach to a similar scene. A triumph story of unrelenting will and the ensuing satisfaction of accomplishment. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was born in 1937 in Los Angeles and endured through internment of thousands of japanese americans directly preceding the pearl harbor attacks during World War II.
Ralph Ellison’s “ Prologue To An Invisible Man “ is a story that I feel most people experience at some point in their lives. These emotions of inferiority are almost always a given in a society divided up into social classes. The separation of rich and poor or white from black. Inequality will almost always be bred where people strive for survival at all costs. A result from such moral battles leaves us all coping with our everyday lives and the world around us the best we know how.
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s “ A Tapestry Of Hope “ shows me the trials and tribulations that have shaped our live as Americans. From pre-war life peace and good fortune to having everything taken away and ripped form your grasp. From being a successful fisherman before the war to having your license taken away and starting from scratch after. From picking strawberries on a farm to speaking at a college now erected on the same exact spot. This story represents the determination of a people to follow a certain dream and to never give up regardless of what form that dream happens to take over time.
Both stories depict the feeling of being American in a society that is driven by social norms, racism, fear of the unknown and the general inequality towards those who happen to be proclaimed as different. Ellison writes “ I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me”. “ A matter of construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality.” (Ellison, 135)
A tapestry of hope proclaimed moments of invisibility for Japanese Americans when World War II hit. Japanese Americans became more Japanese then American and were now invisible as Americans citizens and became nothing more than possible Japanese spies. After the war and incarceration, they were stripped of all there possessions and thrown back to a time resemblant of when they were newly landed immigrants. “ They are different from us. They have no idea of democracy and freedom. They won’t speak our language and they keep to themselves.” Those are the words that are used today to describe the newest Americans. ( Houston, 149 )
In “ A Tapestry Of Hope “, the Japanese people fight through the hate, distrust, unfairness, and racism that destroyed their lives during World War II. Even after enduring through these harsh times they still would not give up on their dream. A people filled with acceptance and want of a peace of the freedom and equality that this country so proudly proclaims.
In “ Prologue To An Invisible Man “, Ellison writes more of a man who has given up on society as a whole. He will not follow rules and is content to be as invisible as the oxygen we breathe. “ I myself, after existing some twenty years did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility. “ ( Ellison, 137) “. A man who rebels against the norm and who refuses to abide by laws that are dictated by the color of your skin.
This country was created to accommodate the ideals of a free and democratic nation. Freedom and equality have always been the driving force in the building of this country. We are a young nation that have struggled with the mistakes of immaturity and the lessons of learning through trial and error. Though we have fought for freedom , we have still oppressed. Though we come from many backgrounds, we still practice hate and intolerance to others that we view as inferior.
Whether we choose to be accepting like “ A Tapestry Of Hope” or rebellious like in “ Prologue To An Invisible Man”, we will always experience this country through different eyes and different expectations. Yet we are all very different in appearence or speech, we are all the same in want of a better future for our families and a piece of the American dream.
As time goes by and we grow as a nation. All we can do is learn from our mistakes as a species and move towards the goal of living in relative harmony with a mutual respect for one another as human beings. The very ideals this country has shed blood for are what holds us together and allows us to endure with hope for our ever evolving future.
Ellison, Jeanne. “Prologue To An Invisible Man”. Creating America: Reading And
Writing Arguments; 5th ed. eds. Joyce Moser and Ann Waters. Uppper
Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005:134-137
Houston,Jeanne Wakatsuki. “ A Tapestry Of Hope.” Creating America: Reading
And Writing Arguments; 5th ed. eds. Joyce Moser and Ann Waters. Uppper
Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005:146-150
English 11 Section 1853
February 17, 2009
" My American Shell "
I was born in one of the greatest countries in the world, the United States of America. A place where its inhabitants have historically fought off tyranny and have created a form of goverment forged through trial and error and set into stone by men of vast courage and vision. " American," that is what I envision when this title is envoked and used to describe a person or thing. " American " the embodiment of freedom, unity, and fairness.
Being an " American " has always been something that has been said but not felt by me. From the days of my youth, I went from my grandparents farm in Camuy, Puerto Rico, to saying the pledge of allegiance in the United States. Going through the motions is the only way I can describe those empty words I said every school morning like eating breakfast.
In my childhood days, I experienced a transition of beliefs in identity. I had my parents who spoke mostly English, if not at all times, which further impeded my progress. Then my grandparents, on the other hand, hardly spoke English at all. They have been in Puerto Rico most of their lives, so the Puerto Rican heritage was strong with them. Funny, I was actually told that in my earliest years alive I spoke only Spanish and not a word of English. Which you would never believe if you were to hold a conversation with me now.
I am the product of mixed beliefs and multiple enviroments. I am the little boy who started Puerto Rican and through change in settings (California, Miami, New York) slowly lost my Puerto Rican heritage to become a fully functioning American. Not a word of Spanish to be uttered from these lips again. The farthest my forgotten heritage would go would be the food I would eat for dinner every night, which is a funny thought since I was never really too fond of the cooking. So you want to know the truth. I feel like something that I'm not supposed to be. I'm an American shell hiding my Puerto Rican blood underneath. I know nothing of my language, my history, my music, or other traits that would have defined me as a Puerto Rican.
Lost is the word that comes to mind when I think of my place in American society. Not knowing if the very thoughts in my mind are me or a stranger that was created through years of influence in a place that's really not my home. I don't even know if my full integration into American society is part of a family plan that was put into effect generations ago by my ancestors. I am fully, one hundred percent Americanized; from speech, to dress, to the very way I think and act. So if the plan was complete integration, congratulations because America is all I know. Whether this transformation was a positive or a negative I am still deciding upon. For this journey is still in motion and there is much to be learned.
To be from a place you must also be a part of its history. Yes, I am American, but can I say that with pride. Looking at our past, being an American has not always been something to be proud of. Luther Standing Bear (1868-1947), a member of the Teton Sioux tribe writes about the trials and tribulations his people as Indians were unfairly subjected to. Here are a people who are originally from this land and had rightful claim to it. To have a foreign people come and attempt to take it from them, they reacted with the same agression any person threatened with extinction would.
Standing Bear writes, "There is, I insist, no Indian problem as created by the Indian himself. Every problem that exists today in regards to the netive population is due to the white man's cast of mind, which is unable, at least reluctant, to seek understanding and acheive adjustment in a new and significant environment into which it has so recently come". (Standing Bear, 130 ). Looking at this aspect of our history, proud would have been the last word I would have used to describe myself as an American. To take with such disregard this country's original inhabitants, and to drive them close to extinction, leaves
me with a very low opinion of us as early Americans.
But my journey does not end with only negative. There is, of course, the spirit that brought us to this land in the first place. The search for freedom, the quest for a new and bright future, and the opportunity to carve out a piece of land to call your own. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) in "Origins of the Anglo-Anericans" gave an account of the spirit which drove the early Americans. He shows the transition from an early society being started and makes an analogy on how mistakes are made from infancy to adulthood. Tocqueville writes, "The circumstances that accompanied their birth and contibuted to their development affect the whole term of their being." (Tocqueville,121) Tocqueville shows us that many mistakes were made along the road of progress and as we grow as a people, hopefully we can be fair and just along the way.
All through our history we have made baby steps towards equality for all men, which was supposed to be the foundation on which this country was formed. But, as written by Ralph Ellison in "Prologue to Invisible Man," as time goes on we as a people still have much to learn. Equality has always been but an idea and not much practiced. If you happen to be "different" from the typical "white American" you tend to be treated unfairly.
Ellison describes an example of this constant feeling felt when discriminated against. Ellison writes, "I am an invisible man. I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe : Nor am I one of those hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." ( Ellison. 135 )
I look at all these excerpts from history and people's experiences and I'm left with mixed feelings and beliefs. But don't get me wrong, I love this country, and at times feel all the freedoms that our flag represents. But on the other hand I look at all the people that were stepped on to get us to this point and I ask myself, is there such a thing as necessary evil?
When is it just to decide that one race should be pushed aside by another in the name of democracy? Or that one race should be subserviant to the other because of the color of their skin? These ideas of rascism are what this country was built on and have been the subject of change ever since it was deemed inhumane. So I guess you can say that I believe in the original ideas that this country was intended to be. Now whether we have achieved those goals is a question that will be looked at and relooked at for generations to come.
De Tocqueville, Alexis. "Origins of the Anglo-Americans." Creating America:
Reading and Writing Argument: 5th ed. Eds. Joyce Moser and Ann Watters.
Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005: pg. 134-137
Ellison , Ralph. " Prologue to Invisible Man." Creating America: Reading and
Writing Arguments: 5th ed. Eds. Joyce Moser and Ann Watters. Upper
Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005: pg. 134-137
Standing Bear, Luther. " What the Indian Means to America." Creating America:
Reading and Writing Arguments: 5th ed. Eds. Joyce Moser and Ann Watters.
Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005: pg. 129-133