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Chapter 1: USA - A nation or an idea?


  • Match the words with the correct definitions:
1) assimilation (sb)a) the condition of being able to act and speak freely
2) denomination (sb)b) the state of being successful, usually by making a lot of money
3) divine (adj)c) not religious or spiritual
4) exodus (sb)d) the act of copying something
5) hegemony (sb)e) a religious group
6) liberty (sb)f) the act of fully adopting the ways of another culture
7) patriotism (sb)g) the practice of keeping people of different races, religions etc. separate from each other
8) persecution (sb)h) someone who is one of the first people to move to and live in a new area
9) pioneer (sb)i) a situation in which many people leave at the same time
10) prosperity (sb)j) influence or control over another country, a group of people, etc.
11) reproduction (sb)k) love that people feel for their country
12) secular (adj)l) relating to or coming from God
13) segregation (sb)m) the act of treating someone cruelly or unfairly, especially because of race or religious or political beliefs

  • Make a list of stereotypes about Americans.
  • Give examples of typical American values.
  • One of the founding documents of the United States of America is the Declaration of Independence. Find information about the document, e.g.:

    • When was it written?
    • Who was the primary author?
    • In which historical context was it written?
    • What is the main idea of the document?


  1. The United States is a land of major differences. What do these differences consist of?
  2. What is the history of U.S. immigration? Why have people come to the United States in the past, and why do they come now?
  3. Explain the concepts Melting Pot and Salad Bowl.
  4. Hofstede’s onion model consists of four layers: Symbols, heroes, rituals, and values. Find examples of each layer.
  5. What role does religion play for the United States and Americans?
  6. Explain the concept the Frontier. How does the Frontier belief impact American identity?
  7. How does James Truslow Adams explain the American Dream?
  8. Describe the history and content of the U.S. Constitution.
  9. U.S. politicians have been discussing immigration reform since 2012. Describe the process.


  • 1. Discussion: What are the benefits for immigrants settling in the United States and for the country itself? What complications sometimes arise for immigrants and for the country?
  • 2. Make a short film with the American Dream as the theme. The genre may be: News segment, interview, drama, comedy etc.
  • 3. Discussion: Imagine you have the choice between two different lifestyles: a) living a life with the opportunity to become rich and successful thanks to low taxes, or b) paying higher taxes from which the less fortunate can benefit. Which lifestyle would you choose and why? What are the advantages/disadvantages of people pursuing their own dreams rather than focusing on the needs of society as a whole?
  • 4. Work in groups with the American symbols listed below. Find information and pictures/videos about your symbol and prepare a presentation.

    • The national flag
    • The Statue of Liberty
    • Liberty Bell
    • The national anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner”)
    • The national bird (Bald Eagle)
    • The Great Seal
    • Uncle Sam
    • Yankee Doodle
    • The White House
    • Mount Rushmore

  • 5. Project: Choose one of the political speeches listed below. Find information about the speaker and the historical context and analyze (parts of) the speech (e.g. structure, forms of appeal, rhetorical devices, theme, message etc.). What does the speech say about American values and identity at that particular time in history?

    • Patrick Henry, Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death! (1775)
    • Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (1863)
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address (1933)
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation (1941)
    • John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein Berliner (1963)
    • Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream (1963)
    • Ronald Reagan, Tear Down This Wall! (1987)
    • George W. Bush, 9/11 Bullhorn Address (2001)
    • Barack Obama, Inaugural Address (2009)

  • 6. Write a short diary entry about a day in the life of one of these Americans:

    • A rich person living in a luxurious beach house
    • A poor person from Washington, DC
    • A Hispanic immigrant living in Los Angeles
    • A religious person from the Bible Belt