What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


How Norway Taught Me to Balance My Hyphenated-Americanness

A Minnesotan Grapples With Identity in His Scandinavian "Homeland"

The author borrowed a Norwegian sweater, knickers, and a bunad to stage this photo in front of a quaint hytta to show everyone back in the Midwest that his family was fitting right in in Trondheim. Photo courtesy of Arild Juul.

By Eric Dregni

During the year I spent studying at the university in Trondheim, Norway, I sometimes learned more about my own country than Norway. One day, in my immigration studies class, my professor David Mauk, who hailed from Ohio, asked, “What does it mean to be American?”

I braced myself to hear the usual stereotypes from the news from the Norwegian students in my class. Then the professor clarified, “What to you is truly good about America?”

Even though I’m an American, I …


Can a Corrupt Politician Become a Good President?

A Mysterious Woman’s Letters Made Chester Arthur Fit for the White House

A Puck magazine cartoon expresses the fear that with Chester Arthur as president, U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling, the all-powerful boss of the New York Republican machine, would be running the country. Art courtesy of Library of Congress.

By Scott S. Greenberger

“Who you are, what you are, it doesn’t change after you occupy the Oval Office,” President Barack Obama said during the 2016 election campaign. “It magnifies who you are. It shines a spotlight on who you are.”

But at least one man was transformed by the presidency: Chester Alan Arthur. Arthur’s redemption is all the more remarkable because it was spurred, at least in part, by a mysterious young woman who implored him to rediscover his better self.

Arthur, the country’s …