If you’re not sure how to feel about our country at the moment, that’s ok.

It’s actually more than ok, it’s necessary. Grappling with your civic identity, thinking critically about your role in society, and taking responsibility to do your part… this is what being an American is all about.

Only about two thirds of people report feeling very proud of being American, with the younger generation feeling that the least. We’ve heard from some young people who are actively reflecting on this — and inviting others to do the same.

Sometimes, I feel disconnected from America, but this disconnect is what pushes me to step more into the citizen role. I want to connect more with America, and I can do that by working to change the society causing people to suffer.

— Tamia C.

Tamia makes an important distinction: she is thinking about her “citizen role.” Having the legal status of citizen is one thing — but the active practice of citizenship is another. We think of the practice of citizenship as a commitment to using your power for the common good and living with a sense of civic commitment, character, and dedication to service. Many non-citizens are the epitome of this practice of citizenship, as evidenced by the hard work and commitment to community of many new immigrants to the US.

I feel like I owe a lot to this country considering all the opportunities that it gave me. On the other hand, I do think that this country also owes me the respect that I deserve as part of a minority. I am therefore looking forward to help build a future America where all identities feel respected and where a sense of reciprocity between the citizens and the country is felt.

— Vali R.

“True patriotism is earned pride,” wrote Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer in their book The True Patriot, “it means appreciating not only what is great about our country but also what it takes to create and sustain greatness. True patriotism celebrates the hard choices needed to create more opportunity for more people, and the values that guide those choices.”

This isn’t about putting America on a pedestal and ignoring the flaws — nor is it about throwing our hands up and opting out. We can take inspiration from the way the next generation is finding their role and their voice as they take up the mantle of citizenship.

My relationship with America has been filled with anger, frustration, and grief — and those feelings have only continued to grow. I hope to step into the idea of being a citizen in a way that will help alleviate these feelings for as many communities as possible.

— Allie A.

In 1872, Sen. Carl Schurz galvanized a commitment to responsibility when he said, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” This spirit animates the program we’ve created to help young people build the skill and the dedication to be part of this “setting right.” Citizen Redefined is a training program that equips adults to provide pathways for young Americans to grow into — and celebrate! — their civic identity. Dozens of youth organizers who work with our friends at Rhizome participated in this training, and they’re the ones who shared the reflections in this post.

We owe it to one another and ourselves to do a better job of considering and taking care of another, while voice what it is we are passionate about. This is what stepping more deeply into the idea of being a citizen means to me.

— Rhobie T.

As you notice yourself reckoning with the push and pull of being an American, know that it’s ok to stay in the gray area. It’s important to desire for something better. And it’s crucial to take responsibility for realizing the promise we are striving for.

I want to be able to learn how to be a better leader so there’s a moment in time where I can be proud to say I am American.

— Lizette G.