This is a question that has pestered me for many years. I know what my personal values are, I can learn and understand my organization’s stated values, but how do I know what my country’s stated values are?
It seems this specific values-topic comes up if our President decides about conflict, war, or nation-building. It also pops up during every campaign season for National offices where candidates freely make the statement, “I will support our American Values.”
Recently. California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, in her announcement of her candidacy for President in 2020, said, “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.” In her announcement, Harris said. “That’s why I’m running for president of the United States.” Since she announced her official candidacy first, others who are also candidates have mentioned our values as well, but none has used “our American values” as the reason they are running (as of this writing).
So, what are our American values? I think it is very easy for each of us to throw out a litany of value words and statements that most likely come from our personal, family, or organization’s values. Do these values connect to what our country believes? I believe that each of us wants to believe they do.
An apology for America’s values is never the right course – Mitt Romney
I went online and did some research on “our American values.” They are largely discussed in the sociology realm and I located a good textbook source from 2005. An immediate red flag went up in my mind as I recall sociology falling out of the High School curriculum in many states in the 90’s and early 2000’s. If you ask around about sociology being taught in High School today, you largely hear, “why do we need that course? We have Google.”
I have found in my 59 years, it is tough to know what something is if you never learned it. If “our American values” are to be understood, inculcated into our understanding of values and self, and connection to our great nation, they should be taught to every American at some point in the compulsory education period of grades K-12.
I find it alarming that we have politicians espousing “our American values” as their reason for seeking the great honor of leading the greatest nation in the world and many Americans have little clue as to what those values are.
In 1970, Sociologist Robin Williams identified nine core American Values. They were:
- Equal Opportunity
- Achievement and Success
- Material Comfort
- Activity and Work
- Practicality and Efficiency
- Democracy and Enterprise
(From Macionis, John J. 2005. Sociology. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 66.)
I can relate to each of these values. Across my lifespan, our nation has actively engaged each of these core areas both internally and in our foreign policy pursuits. As I read through this listing and compared it to public remarks made by Senator Harris, I wondered if she had seen this same listing. It is tough to identify Democracy and Enterprise as one of “our American values” when you have publicly supported the recent efforts on Capitol Hill to change our nation towards a socialist state…to me, that flies in the face of Democracy and Enterprise.
So, leaders, it is important to know your topic and to believe what you say. Values matter in the 21st century just as much as they have across all the centuries. It is imperative that you know what “our American values” are, what your personal values are, and what your organization’s values are. If you do not know and understand them, have not inculcated them into your personal being and displayed them in your leadership, you are likely not as effective as a leader as you believe or are capable of. Stay strong. ~JETSR