Immigration & Civics – What Every American Should Know

At the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, we focus on the challenge of sustaining strong citizenship in America and coherent national identity in an age of demographic flux and severe inequality. The Immigration & Civics initiative is a part of one of our program’s ongoing national projects called “What Every American Should Know”.

We live in an age when increased polarization and fragmentation in our culture and politics, as well as unprecedented inequality of wealth and opportunity, are challenging us to redefine our values and identity as Americans. In this age of increasing diversity and widening inequality, how can this country cultivate a sense of shared destiny and common civic purpose?

In order to make this exercise as diverse and inclusive as possible, we have invited people from around the country to submit top 10 lists of historical facts, cultural references, civic ideas, and other kinds of common knowledge that every American should know. As thousands of ideas come in from across the country, a collective national list of what every American should know is emerging.

The purpose of this Immigration & Civics segment specifically is to ensure that the views of immigrant communities are a central part of this shared cultural vocabulary – and, indeed, that immigrants teach the native-born about how things really work in America. Recent conversations about civics, culture, and American identity typically leave out and ignore the voices and experiences of immigrants. Our program intends to address that.

Over the arc of 2017, we will convene community-based deep dives on this topic, with new Americans at the center. While these discussions will be open-ended, they will flow from the “What Every American Should Know” framework.

We will then publish unique content that emerges from these sessions. This will include articles, op-eds, and “how-to” resources for immigrants and by immigrants. We will then organize public events to share these perspectives with a wider audience.