Though I hold dual citizenship with Colombia and the USA, I tend to identify as a Colombian before I say I’m also American. I’m not too entirely sure why that has happened, perhaps because of being raised in Colombia, but I cannot deny nor minimize my American half.

I remember the first day of Global Studies 100, my freshman year of university, being asked by our professor to share with a partner our home country and three things that made us proud to call that country home. I turned to the student behind me, who eventually became a great friend, and shared about many reasons I was proud to be Colombian. She then said something I’ll never forget: I’m American, but I’m not proud of anything. I was flabbergasted. How could you not be proud of anything??

I immediately told her that I was actually half American and that there were many things to be proud of. I spoke of the incredible care and respect for the disabled. Sure, I know it isn’t perfect, but compared to Colombia, the US is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of disability services. Something as small as the many rides at Disney World that are wheelchair-accessible, or the abundance of sidewalk ramps along city streets… these things are huge. They speak of a deep value and respect for all people, regardless of their physical ability or lack thereof. In university, I perused numerous job postings looking for people to help students with disabilities take tests and still excel academically. These services are incredible. Of course, keep growing, keep fighting for greater access, but be proud of that, America.

I have deeply benefitted from this culture that highly values education, and I am proud to say that in many ways, I am a product of it. I part of the fortunate 7% of the world holding a university degree. In part, I can attribute that to my family and American culture placing an incredible value on higher education. I would not be who I am today without the access to education I am privileged to. Not only could I enroll in university programs, but I can participate in MOOCs, sign up for e-courses or purchase a virtually unlimited number of books for self-study. This is a privilege, and I am grateful that my culture values this.

So, Happy 4th of July! Enjoy your parades, BBQs, picnics and fireworks. And please, do let me know… why are you proud to be American?