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E Pluribus Unum: The Bradley Project on America's National Identity

John Fonte

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America is facing an identity crisis. The next generation of Americans will know less than their parents know about our history and founding ideals. And many Americans are more aware of what divides us than of what unites us. We are in danger of becoming not “from many, one”— E Pluribus Unum—but its opposite, “from one, many.”

The Bradley Project on America’s National Identity was created to initiate a national conversation on American national identity, and to affirm the belief that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. A sense of national identity is necessary to enable individuals to transcend self-absorption and commit to the common good. Without it, America can neither perpetuate its institutions nor defend itself.

To inform its work, the Bradley Project asked HarrisInteractive to conduct a study on Americans’ views on national identity. While 84 percent of the respondents still believe in a unique American identity, 63 percent believe this identity is weakening. Almost a quarter—24 percent—believe we are already so divided that a common national identity is impossible. In their minds, it is already too late. And young people—on whom our continued national identity depends— are less likely than older Americans to be proud of their country or to believe that it has a unique national identity. This is an identity crisis.

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