Top Ten American Values

Values can be defined as guiding principles and positive ideals that a person or society considers important, desirable, and worth putting above all else. The Founding Fathers of our country set the standard for American values by building this nation upon the concept of the natural rights of man. They wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 based on the specific truths “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A few years later, the framers of the U.S. Constitution set out “to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.” Thus, the top ten American values can be derived from the basic rights bestowed upon us in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

1. Sanctity of Life - the intrinsic value of human life, that each person has a right to live and have a chance to enjoy all of the other rights; a high regard for human life is the basis for the following values which improve the quality of one’s life.

2. Human Dignity - all people are worthy of respect and ethical treatment.

3. Liberty - no one should have to live under tyranny, nor be controlled or coerced by others.

4. Freedom - having the means and the opportunity to practice one’s religion, follow one’s conscience, speak one’s mind, keep the fruits of one’s labors, pursue one’s interests, etc.

5. Justice - every person should be treated with integrity and given what is his or her due according to the law.

6. Equality - all people are created equal and should be treated as such.

7. Independence - one’s ability to support one’s self without having to rely on others; Americans have always been self-reliant individualists.

8. Well-being - everyone should be able to live in peace, safety, comfort and security, as implied in the terms “domestic tranquility,” “common defense,” and “general welfare.”

9. Happiness - everyone deserves to be happy; but “the pursuit of happiness” implies actively working toward improving one’s own situation, not having everything handed over on a silver platter.

10. Charity - an appreciation for all of the above values suggests this final value; that of showing love, good will, and compassion to those who are suffering or less fortunate.

These foundational values can apply to all people without distinction because such principles are not dependant on race, language, social status, or religion. This is because American values are based on certain universal truths of what is right and good which the Founders called the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Thus, they are attractive not only to Americans, but to people everywhere in the world.

Abraham Lincoln: The Boy, the Man      

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