What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Engagements

Undocumented, and Riding Shotgun

I Thought I Was an Average American Teen Until I Tried to Get a Driver’s License

Janine Joseph, Golden Gate Bridge, immigration, undocumented

By Janine Joseph
January 13, 2015

Up until my early 20s, I rode shotgun. With my high school and college sweetheart, I flipped through the soft sleeves of our shared CD binder in search of the right music. I double-checked our drive-through orders for extra ketchup; I pointed out the sights only I caught in time. With my friends, I was the one who tuned the radio through static and made sure everyone in the backseat had enough air.

I was born in the Philippines. My cousins, …

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Being American Means Never Having to Fret Over Your Legal Documents

Paperwork Was a Matter of Life and Death When I Was a Refugee. Now, It’s Just an Annoyance.

By Sanja Jagesic
December 26, 2014

Last year, when my driver’s license was set to expire, I went online to apply for a renewal but was thwarted by error messages. Exasperated at the time I had to spend entering my information and getting nowhere, I called the help hotline only to be informed, after a 20-minute holding time, that because I had gotten eyeglasses since my last license was issued, I was ineligible for online renewal and would have to go to my nearest Department of …

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I Do the Math That Keeps Elections Honest

It May Not Be Glamorous, But I Travel Around the Country Counting Votes

election, voting booths, vote, Election Day

By Bev Harris
November 4, 2014

I was standing outside a metal warehouse building that was part of the Volusia County, Florida elections department on November 16, 2004, worried that I might leave empty-handed.

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People Died So I Could Vote

It’s Hard Not to Go to the Polls When a Generation of African-Americans Risked—and Sometimes Lost—Their Lives to Get You There

People Died So I Could Vote

By Jocelyn Y. Stewart
September 22, 2014

When we were growing up in South Los Angeles, my siblings and I often heard my dad’s impromptu sermons about matters of importance: the value of education, the perils of purchasing on credit, the virtue of hard work, and the dire necessity of voting.

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