In this lesson, students will watch and respond to two video clips from the film American Creed featuring Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, and Deidre Prevett, a Creek Indian, fifth generation educator, and Tulsa elementary school principal. In the clips, they discuss how family, community, and the legacies of older generations have influenced who they are today. They also connect their personal histories to their understandings of American ideals and aspirations.
Before viewing Rice’s and Prevett’s stories, students will first reflect on the ways in which a significant person or place has helped shape who they are today. They will then watch the two clips from American Creed, focusing on the ways in which Rice and Prevett discuss the relationship between their family stories and identities. Next, they will choose a quotation from the film to explore in more depth with a group of peers. Through their journal responses and discussions about the many factors that can shape who we are and who we become, students will have the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the relationship between their own stories and the values and aspirations of the nation in which they live.
In the full-length version of American Creed, politicians, activists, veterans, and first-generation college students at Stanford University draw connections between their family stories and identities, reflect on what it means to be American, and share their ideas about what we aspire to as a nation. Diplomat Condoleezza Rice, historian David Kennedy, Major League Baseball manager Joe Maddon and civic entrepreneur Eric Liu are just some of the individuals featured in the film who reflect on the notion of the “American dream” and challenge the viewer to engage in conversations across difference—to really listen to what others have to say and to hear their stories—in order to be reminded of the ideals that we share in common as a nation. The film poses a number of thought-provoking questions: “What is our common aspiration in the United States?” “What does it mean to be American?” and “In a fractured nation, what ideals do we hold in common?” While American Creed does not offer any definitive answers to these questions, the men and women featured in this film—through their commitment to service and fostering civil discourse—offer viewers a glimpse of what working together, in the words of David Kennedy, “to build and sustain healthy communities and not just individual lives” might look like.
If after previewing this lesson’s activities, you don’t think you can complete them in a single class period, skip the opening journal Think, Pair, Share and assign the final reflection activity for homework.
- Exploring Legacy, History, and Identity in Greater Depth
If you are interested devoting two class periods to this lesson, Joe Maddon in Coal Country (7:18) after Deidre Prevett. Joe Maddon, the manager of the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs baseball team, shares his story about growing up in the small town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and his efforts to strengthen the community there today. In the first class period, you could view and discuss the three clips, creating a 3-2-1 for Maddon or using a different teaching strategy to debrief her story. Then on the second day, you could devote more time to Pick a Number, adding 2-3 additional quotations from Maddon’s American Creed segment to the list.
- Connecting to the Past
To explore this lesson’s essential questions in more depth, My Part of the Story Lesson 5: Connecting to the Past includes four readings in which individuals describe objects, places, and other personal items that represent to them important parts of their identities and personal histories. After completing Activity 2: Explore Identity and Legacy, students could use the four readings as models for their own “Object Memory” narrative essays. Or, in the spirit of Condoleezza Rice and Deidre Prevett’s American Creed stories, students might write a narrative essay that answers one of this lesson’s essential questions, drawing from their memories and family stories to help them explore the relationship between memory, legacy, history, and identity.
Return to American Creed Educator Resources