I am an American.

To some this phrase inspires hope and pride, and for others it arouses awkward silence and rolling eyes. But what does it mean to be an American?

Instantly, the images that come to my mind are summer baseball games with a hotdog in hand, or picnics on the 4th of July complete with apple pie and fireworks all set to the soundtrack of a John Phillip Souza march or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” But that’s probably about as stereotyped an image as ballerinas dancing all day long in fluffy pink tutus.

“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherit & inalienable, among with are life, & liberty & the pursuit of happiness…” 

 This is what it means to be American. The land of the free. The American dream. A place where you can find peace, satisfaction and fulfillment. Where you can be exactly who you were created to be. Where anything is possible.

From a very young age this creed was instilled in both my brother and me—primarily by our parents who believed in us, and sacrificed so much so that our dreams could come true. They modeled for us what I see as truly American characteristics: integrity, humility, ambition, ingenuity, optimism, sacrifice, and value of hard work. And because of them, because of God, and because we live in a country that says it’s our inalienable right to pursue our dreams, these dreams have come true: I’m blessed to be a ballerina and my brother a composer.

I am an American. And I am profoundly thankful for that.