CIVIC CONVERSATIONS: A Conversation about Belonging in America

CURRENTLY ONLINE ONLY: We hope to pick back up with in-person Civic Conversation groups at the Library in the near future. In the meantime, please feel free to utilize our resources for your own in-person or virtual group discussions!

This event features the documentary Out of Many, One available on Netflix. You can view the trailer on YouTube. Our conversation will center around what it really means to be an “American.”

Potential Discussion Questions:

  • Imagine you are describing American political culture to a person with little familiarity with the country. How would you describe it? What examples would you use to illustrate your view?
  • What does the word “equality” mean to you? Do you think others might have a different definition and if so, what are some alternative ways of defining “equality”?
  • Are there certain contexts in which Americans might expect equality? Are there times an American might dismiss the need for equality? If so, what are some ways someone could seek to limit equality?
  • “Liberty and Justice for All” is a cornerstone statement about equality in America. Belonging likely means you would expect justice and for your liberty to be safeguarded. What does the word “liberty” mean to you? Do you think it means the same to everyone? In what situations do Americans expect liberty? How might liberty be limited in some contexts? Is taking away someone’s liberty an effective means of providing justice? Is it necessary?
  • What does “the American dream” mean to you? Did it mean something different to your parents or grandparents? Does it change with contexts like increased wealth? Why do some Americans think that it has become more difficult to attain in recent years? Can everyone in America live that dream?
  • Can or should we as a country attempt to provide that American dream globally or should it be available only to those who are born or immigrate to the United States? How about those who were here before we formed our country?
  • Liberty and equality are two values that have the potential to come into conflict with each other. Why is that? In what political contexts might these values conflict? Which value seems more important to you personally and why?
  • What is American exceptionalism? Does this concept still hold? Why or why not? How does this view fit with some of the arguments in Common Sense?


Web Pages related to the “New Virginians” gallery exhibition in 2019:

New Virginians Logo

Other Web Pages:

Web Pages related to the “Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community” gallery exhibition in 2021:

Living Diversity: The Arlington Photographic Documentary Projectbook cover & interior

UncommonWealth Blog Posts:




Films, Videos & Podcasts:

Web Pages:

Newest Americans sample screenshot
Untold America sample screenshot