One 50-minute class period

Connecting Identity and Legacy

Essential Questions

  • To what extent do we inherit or receive our identities? How do the legacies of older generations influence our identities?
  • How is each one of us connected to the past? How has history influenced who each of us is today?


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.

Notes to Teacher

  1. Creating a Reflective and Respectful Community of Learners
    Because this lesson asks students to share personal stories and reflect on the relationship between legacy and identity, it is important that your classroom is one that fosters mutual respect and an appreciation for different points of views, experiences, and values. If you have not created a classroom contract, consider taking the time to do so before teaching this lesson. Facing History’s guide Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations includes additional strategies and resources to help promote active listening, intellectual engagement, and thoughtful reflection in your classroom.

  2. Prepare for Pick a Number
    After watching two video clips from American Creed, students will select a short passage from the film to explore in depth as part of the Pick a Number teaching strategy. Prepare for this activity in advance of class by selecting some or all of the short passages in Activity 4 (or choose your own passages from the film clips) and copying them onto chart paper. Assign each poster a number. Consider displaying them around the classroom before the start of class so students have a chance to preview this lesson’s content as they enter the room. 


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.



  1. Journal Response: Make Connections between Memory and Identity
    • Before watching Condoleezza Rice’s and  Deidre Prevett’s American Creed stories, ask students to respond to the following prompt in their journals. Tell students that they will share their responses.
      • Make a list of five people and/or places whom you think have helped shape who you are today.
      • Choose one of these people and/or places to explain how you think they have impacted who you are today.
    • Ask students to share their responses in a Think, Pair, Share. Time allowing, you might facilitate a short class discussion by asking students to explain how a person or place has influenced them in a profound way.
  2. Share and Discuss Condoleezza Rice’s Story
    • Explain to students that they will now hear from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she recalls some of her childhood memories and explains how her family legacy has influenced who she is today.
    • Before showing the video clip, make sure that students understand the definition of legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.1 Then give students one or more examples of how your family legacy influences who you are today. 
    • Play the video Condoleezza Rice’s Family Matters (5:05). Tell students that they should listen for examples of people and places in Rice’s life that helped shape her identity. Time allowing, give students a few minutes after watching the clip to reflect on Rice’s story and record examples in their journals.
    • As a class, briefly discuss Condoleezza Rice’s story using the 3-2-1 strategy. You might record students’ responses on the board to reference later in the lesson.
      • What are three examples of how Rice’s family legacy has influenced her identity?
      • What are two examples of how history has influenced who Rice is today?
      • What is one idea from Rice’s story that resonated with you?
  3. Share and Discuss Deidre Prevett’s Story 
    • Explain to students that they will now hear from Deidre Prevett, a Creek Indian, fifth generation educator, and Tulsa elementary school principal. In her story, she reflects on her family history, identity, and the responsibility she feels toward her students, their families, and local community. 
    • Play the video Deidre Prevett: American Dreams in Muscogee Nation (6:28). Tell students that they should listen for examples of factors that helped shape Prevett’s identity. Time allowing, give students a few minutes after watching the clip to reflect on Prevett’s story and record examples in their journals.
    • As a class, briefly discuss Deidre Prevett’s story using the 3-2-1 strategy. Record students’ responses on the board alongside, encouraging students to make connections between Prevett’s and Rice’s family stories.
      • What are three examples of how Prevett’s environment has influenced her identity?
      • What are two examples of how family legacy has influenced who Prevett is today?
      •  What is one idea from Prevett’s story that resonates with you? 
  4. Explore the Film Clips in Depth

    Condoleezza Rice and Deidre Prevett were deeply influenced by their family legacies, local communities, and environments. They both comment on these influences in their American Creed stories, reflecting on how their experiences growing up shaped their views of America, both its identity and what we aspire to as a nation.

    • Before the lesson, select from the following quotations and prepare the numbered posters (see Notes to the Teacher).
      • “There are always going to be gaps between a country’s aspiration and the reality. And so we’re always fighting to overcome that gap. We’re always trying to get closer to what the ideal is.” (Rice)
      • “I think everyone has to come to terms at some point with your home and how it shaped you.” (Rice)
      • “For Grandaddy Rice, that was the promise of our country. That you can be and do anything you want, but you can’t leave others behind.” (Rice)
      • “For me, what it means to be an American is that we get to enjoy freedom, but with freedom comes great responsibility.” (Prevett)
        “While we are a melting pot, we can’t forget where we've come from, and we all need to learn about each other’s history. “(Prevett)
    • Tell students they will now have the opportunity to explore one of Condoleezza Rice’s or Deidre Prevett’s ideas about identity, legacy, or American ideals and aspiration in more depth with a group of peers.
    • Give instructions for Pick a Number and have students choose a quotation that resonates with them because they agree, disagree, or question it in some way. To help guide their discussions, project or pass out the following questions:
      • In your own words, what do you think Rice or Prevett is saying in this quotation?
      • Why does this quotation resonate with you? In what ways do you agree, disagree, or question the ideas Prevett or Rice presents here?
      • What American ideal or aspiration do you think Rice or Prevett is commenting on in this quotation? How does this ideal or aspiration connect to the larger story they shared in their American Creed segments?
      • How is your story or identity reflected or not reflected in this quotation?
    • Ask one member of each group to briefly summarize their conversation and then choose one of this lesson’s Essential Questions to discuss as a class, encouraging students to draw examples from American Creed, the quotation activity, and their own life experiences.
  5. Reflect on the Relationship between Legacy and Identity
    • In an Exit Card or for homework, ask students to reflect on today’s lesson using a modified Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World strategy. They should choose either Condoleezza Rice’s or Deidre Prevett’s American Creed story for this reflection:
      • (Rice or Prevett)’s ___________ story reminds me of _______ (another text) because...
      • I agree/disagree with (Rice or Prevett)_________ when he or she says _________ because in my own life...
      • (Rice or Prevett) ____________ makes me think about __________ (an event from today related to my community, nation, or world) because...


  • 1 : "Legacy," Merriam-Webster.com, accessed January 19, 2018.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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