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The Founding Myths of the USA

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Loic Gerbeaux

on 17 January 2014

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Transcript of The Founding Myths of the USA

Myth 1:


Myth 5:
Hard work leads to success

-Puritan ethics of hard work
-Material success: honorable
-Divine retribution for efforts achieved
-Success : a sign of Moral purity, a will to
seize opportunities which exist

Myth 6 :

Melting Pot Vs. Multiculturalism
Founding Myths
the American Dream

Statue of Liberty
Myth 2:
Manifest Destiny

How this myth has been perverted
- Mistaking success for obsession with money, buying, speculating
- USA: a consuming society
- Disrespect for the less fortunate: accused of not seizing their chance, of laziness
Old World: Europe
- Monarchy: the rule of the King
- Religious persecutions
- Hunger, Famine

New World: 13 colonies
- Democracy : the people's rule
- Religious freedom
- New lands to cultivate

Myth 3:
The land of Freedom
Declaration of Independence, 1776 :
"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

US Constitution + Bill of Rights:
1st ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

Statue of Liberty
-Ellis Island
- The New Colossus: A poem by Emma Lazarus

Taking over the land is the nation's Manifest Destiny
- Expansion of the US on all the continent
- The Americans :The elected people
-A Divine Duty: to spread civilization
- From East to West Coast

American Progress
A painting by John Gast, 1872
This painting shows "Manifest Destiny" (the religious belief that the United States should expand from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the name of God). In 1872 artist John Gast painted a popular scene of people moving west that captured the view of Americans at the time. Called "Spirit of the Frontier" and widely distributed as an engraving portrayed settlers moving west, guided and protected by a goddess-like figure of Columbia and aided by technology (railways, telegraphs), driving Native Americans and bison into obscurity. It is also important to note that angel is bringing the "light" as witnessed on the eastern side of the painting as she travels towards the "darkened" west.
Myth of the melting pot
- Belief: a heterogeneous society becoming harmonious whole with a common culture

Contrary theory: Multiculturalism:
- cultural differences are valuable and should be preserved, proposing the alternative
-metaphor of the mosaic, salad bowl, or "American Kaleidoscope"
- Different cultures mix, but remain distinct
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
Another common belief: American society is still dominated by WASP culture
- high-status Americans of English Protestant ancestry
- a group believed to control disproportionate social and financial power
- a restricted group whose family wealth and elite connections allow privileges held by few others
1) Mayflower : 1620
2) 13 colonies
Immigration in 3 steps
3) The 3 waves of immigration
The 1st waves came from Europe. Now they are from Central and Latin America + from Asia

1st wave: 300 000
-Dates: First half of 19th century.
-Origins: At that time, they mostly come from Northern Europe and have the same linguistic and cultural roots: Germans, Scandinavians, British Isles (protestants). Excpet Irish (Catholics). The potato Famine 1845 leads 1 million Irishmen to migrate to the US.
-Motives: mostly come for economical reason and look for better living conditions.

2nd wave: 20 000 000
-Dates: 1870 / 1920
-Origins: much more diverse and heterogenous. Eastern Europe (Russians, Polish), Central Europe (Austro Hugarians), Southern Europe (Italians)- Distinct religions: Catholics, Orthodox, Jews – At the beginning of the 20th century, they replace the Anlgo Saxon immigration
-Motives: flee wars, persecutions, misery

3rd Wave:
-Dates: from the 1960s
-Origins: Central and Latin America + from Asia
Myth 4:
The myth of the self-made man
- A country where anything is possible, where everyone is given a chance
- Streetwise Vs. bookwise
- Starting from scratch and making it to the top
- "From rags to riches"

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Full transcript