We all have our own experiences dictating what we think an American is.

In 1782, a French immigrant, Hector de Crevecoeur, wrote Letters from an American Farmer. One chapter asked, “What is an American?” and Crevecoeur gave his views that we were a mixed and dynamically evolving group of separate peoples and places. The book was popular, and both Ben Franklin and George Washington loved the chapter. The question continues from deTocqueville (1830s) to today.

This course will use Crevecoeur, Mark Twain, and current writers to enliven a discussion of our continuing conversation and efforts to evolve our national Identity. The subtitle of the course is “A Personal Inquiry,” which captures the core purpose of the course: a personal reflection of how we developed our own narrative answers to the question.

What to Expect: First, you will hopefully learn something about yourself through a reflective effort to recall and restate how you came to have views about being American over time. By sharing our own memories and evolving experiences, we will better appreciate the breadth and depth of the sources informing any attempts to answer the issue of our national identity. Second, by hearing the views of others, you’ll enlarge your appreciation of the diversity of factors that influence any interpretation: history, culture, geography, climate, ancestry, experience. And finally, the complexity of the question may build increased empathy for the spectrum of views that we and others can offer.  Please note:  Due to the sensitive nature of this course, we will not be recording it.

HYBRID course at the Easton Family YMCA (choose to participate in person or by Zoom, no recording)

3 sessions | Tuesdays | May 9, 16, 23 | 10–11:30 am | $40


Charlie Yonkers

Charlie Yonkers is a familiar face at Chesapeake Forum, having taught six courses for us, in-person, all-Zoom, and hybrid since 2018. Before that he taught for 12 years in the Georgetown University Graduate Liberal Studies Program (Masters and Doctorate). A graduate of Yale, B.A., Harvard Law School, J.D., and Georgetown, Masters of Liberal Studies), his previous career was as Executive Partner of an international law firm and as a Peace Corps Country Director in Benin (Africa) 1972-76. He has been in Talbot County for 30-plus years, and a full-time resident since 2016.

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