American Life

Take a Drive on America’s Main Street: Route 66

Today, for most travelers on U.S. Route 66, the goal is the journey itself, not any particular destination. The highway was established in 1926, when it was advertised as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles.” The route’s founder, Cyrus Avery, believed [...]

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Food talk is big among those who live in America’s melting pot

Maybe American-English speakers think with their stomachs, because they often express themselves in the language of cooking. Good friends who like the same things are “like two peas in a pod.” Any bad situation that gets worse moves “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Something really easy [...]

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Follow this pop-music map of America

Follow this pop-music map of America

  Sometimes it’s not what you sing about, but where. American songwriters have often used well-known locations as a shorthand — know the place and you know the cultural message. Some of these associations are known worldwide; others need a little deciphering outside the U.S. New York: “Empire State of [...]

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Who are Americans? It’s complicated, especially in terms of race

“Where are you from?” The question, seemingly simple, is anything but clear in the United States. It could be asking where you were born, where you grew up, where you now live or where your ancestors lived. And in a country built by immigrants, answering the question has proven difficult. [...]

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U.S. Route 66: A Journey for Travelers Seeking ‘Americana’

As the Disney-Pixar movie Cars explains, there was once a thoroughfare through the southwestern United States that weaved from Chicago to Los Angeles through small towns, prairie and open desert. For most travelers, Route 66 was simply the best route west to California, one immortalized in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes [...]

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Oh, Say Can You Sing?

Although “The Star-Spangled Banner” is performed before every baseball game and at many other public events, it’s notoriously hard to sing. But in its history, the song has allowed the performers who can sing it to create memorable and unique interpretations of the United States’ most prominent musical symbol. When [...]

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Thanksgiving Day a Time for Reflection, Gratitude

Thanksgiving in the United States is possibly the premier U.S. family celebration, typically celebrated at home and marked with a substantial feast. As the anchor of what is for many a four-day holiday weekend, Thanksgiving provides an occasion for family reunions, marks the beginning of the “holiday season” that continues [...]

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Halloween: An Ancient Celebration

Halloween — celebrated on October 31 — is one of the most ancient holidays still observed in the Western world. Once it was the most important day of the year for the Celtic peoples, whose descendants include the Irish, Welsh, Scots and Bretons. Samhain, as it was known then, was [...]

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45 Individuals, 45 Cultures, 45 Dreams and 45 Expectations: ONE BFTF SUMMER INSTITUTE!

On the 29th of June planes and cars, from all over Europe and the United States, were heading in the same direction: Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. 45 individuals, 45 cultures, 45 dreams and 45 expectations were represented at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute 2013. Soon the 45 [...]

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U.S. National Parks Reflect America’s Spirit

In the United States, summer is the traditional time for vacations. The ways in which Americans spend their leisure hours are as diverse as the land and its people. One popular activity is visiting national parks. Since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. [...]

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