What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Identities

How Americans Learned to Condemn Drunk Driving

In the 1980s, Liberal Activists and Anti-Drug Conservatives Joined Forces to Override a Libertarian Ethos

by Barron H. Lerner

At a traffic safety conference in 1980, a Californian named Candy Lightner delivered her first public speech about a 13-year-old freckle-faced girl who had recently been killed by a drunk driver with several previous convictions.

At the conclusion of her talk, she announced, “That girl was my daughter.”

As Lightner later wrote, the press ran out of the auditorium to call their photographers. “Pandemonium ensued,” she recalled.

Recidivist drunk drivers had killed children—and adults—for decades in the United States, often receiving little …

Encounters

Ulysses Grant’s Forgotten Fight for Native American Rights

The President and His Seneca Friend Ely Parker Wanted Indians to Gain Citizenship, But Their Efforts Are Mostly Lost to History

by Mary Stockwell

The man elected president in 1868—Ulysses S. Grant—was determined to change the way many of his fellow Americans understood citizenship. As he saw it, anyone could become an American, not just people like himself who could trace their ancestry back eight generations to Puritan New England. Grant maintained that the millions of Catholic and Jewish immigrants pouring into the country should be welcomed as American citizens, as should the men, women, and children just set free from slavery during the …