What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


The New Deal Origins of Homeland Security

During FDR’s Administration, the First Lady and the Mayor of New York Clashed Over Guns, Butter, and American Liberalism

Tony Garcci of Richmond, Va., determined to plant a Victory Garden despite the shortages of farmhands and horsepower, works the plow being pulled by his pickup truck, driven by Joe Garcci, April 1, 1943.  The job was completed in a few hours' time.  (AP Photo)

By Matthew Dallek

Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have faced a set of seemingly unprecedented national security challenges and anxieties. Our society has been consumed with debates about government surveillance programs, overseas counter-terrorism campaigns, border security, and extreme proposals to bar foreign Muslims from America—debates that are all, at bottom, focused on finding the proper balance between keeping people safe versus protecting civil liberties.

This debate is not a new one in American history. Even before the Cold War


In My Family’s American Dream, Bootstraps Met Blocks of Government Cheese

After an Arduous Journey Emigrating from Vietnam in the ‘70s, the Author Benefitted from Both Personal Resilience and Public Assistance

Vietnamese "boat people" aboard the refugee ship "Tung An" hold out pails and cans to crewmen of a Philippine Navy ship that docked alongside the vessel February 21,1979 with a fresh supply of drinking water. The refugees have been stranded aboard the Tung An in Manila Bay for eight weeks. (AP Photo)

By Kim Luu

I spoke my first words on a boat: “milk,” “cockroach,” and “itchy.” An unusual toddler vocabulary perhaps, but not surprising considering that I spent the second year of my life on a freighter with thousands of other people, a floating petri dish of equal parts vomit, diarrhea, desperation, and hope. Every inch of that boat teemed with refugees: the cargo hull, hallways, and deck. Even the captain’s steering room had ceased to be a sanctuary.

I am an immigrant from