Millicent Wilder Greason-Spivak Artist

Millicent Wilder Greason-Spivak Artist

• One of my favorite parts about being an American is the potential that exists here. It’s pretty exciting to live in a country where we enjoy a lot of freedoms that we actually take for granted. I’m pretty excited about living in a country where there aren’t bombs going off everyday. I’m excited to live in a country where things can evolve and change. We could do something really cool like elect and African- American president. Wow! The potential for change… hot water. You know, all the things we take for granted — that’s what’s so really awesome about our country despite all the things that I find really disenchanting about this country — which I find a lot of things disenchanting. I am also very grateful that I live here because I do realize that I can talk about the things that I don’t like, and I can protest or do other things to try to change them if I want to. I think that’s pretty darn cool.

• Lately it’s been really interesting the things that have come to the forefront with all the issues with civil rights for the lesbian/gay/ bi/transgender people. And a lot of stuff with women’s rights. I think you can sort of become complacent and feel like, “Oh, things are so much better than they were.” Then you realize, “Hey, things are really f***ed up.” Then I think about it more and I realize — I’ve been around for — I think I’m 47… 46. I’ll be 47 in November. Even though things right now seem kind of grim, like, “Wow, are we going backwards?” Then I look back through my years on this planet. And I think about how incredibly different things are just in that time period.

Things have changed a lot for the better. The fact that people are actually having a lot of open dialogue about any issues that are in the forefront right now, I think is pretty exciting. Even 10 years ago people weren’t talking openly about a lot of this stuff.

• People don’t even vote, for God’s sake. That’s the thing for me I feel like with the Amendment One thing I feel like a lot of my contemporaries or our contemporaries or anybody that would have voted no didn’t even bother to vote. Like dude, just go f***ing vote. If you want to complain about stuff or if you want to — I think voting is so cool. Most of the time I vote, the people I vote for don’t win. It can be a little bit discouraging, but ever since I turned 18 I couldn’t wait to be able to vote. I voted every single chance that I had to vote for anything because I feel like if I’m going to complain about stuff I have to vote. That’s just a fundamental thing that people need to do.

Rob Coffman Forsyth County elections director

• As cheesy as it may sound, number one in my mind is we have freedom that when you look around the world you don’t always see in modern societies. It’s, I guess, freedom to screw up, freedom to do things right. There may be consequences to pay for your actions, but we have a lot of freedom to do.

I think of a quote from the Bible, of all things: To whom much is given, much is required. And I think that’s the second part that I think being an American is. To live in this country, to have the things available to us, even parts of our society that we’d probably consider the fringe still have some things available to them that many people in this world wouldn’t have, so that we have some responsibility to that, whether it’s helping in our community, whether it’s supporting our kids in school, assisting with the school district maybe. We have a responsibility that maybe goes along with being a citizen of this country.

• It’s my goal to provide the best service I can. In my instance, it happens to be elections. It’s kind of important in this American way of life. We’re here to provide accessible, accurate and a fair election process. Which is interesting because if you look at how turnout in elections seems to occur in this country, our major elections we get a decent turnout. In our presidential elections we’ll generally vote around 60 percent or so of registered voters. But then when you get down to some of the smaller elections — the local, community-type elections — you see turnout just drop drastically. Yet those are always the elections that I think probably those positions affect our day-to-day life more than the president of the United States does. Your city council person or your county commissioner are setting tax rates that will affect you I think more directly than anything the president does. Your school board is setting policy and making curriculum decisions for the education of your children in many cases. So those levels of office that aren’t as sexy as the president, but are probably more important to us in our day-to-day life, and yet those are the elections that very few people bother to vote in.

Uriel Alberto Undocumented young person

• It’s so contradicting. It’s hard for me to give you an answer. I don’t know a clear answer of what it’s like to be an American because I turn on the TV every day and I walk the streets every day and I hear people’s opinions that I’m not an American, you know, that I don’t belong here, that I’m leaching off of this society.

• I feel that to a certain extent I’m a man without a homeland. I’m neither from there nor from here. But I love everything about this country at the same time. I consider myself an American to a big degree. I’ve grown up with the values and I’ve been inspired by this country’s history to act the way I act and to feel and believe the things that I believe. I don’t think if I hadn’t lived here I would feel as passionate as I do about certain things like people’s individual rights and whatnot.

• I’m a romantic, and I’ve always been enamored by these men who throughout this country’s history have stood up and challenged the status quo. On one hand I’m as American as they come, and I like apple pie and fried chicken and Southern cooking and Southern music and country and rock. And to another extent I’m made to feel like I’m not American at all. It’s a Catch-22.

• I don’t know anything else. I’ve been here all my life. This is what I know. This is my country. This is my home. I think like an American.

Obviously, I’d love to vote. People ask me a lot of political questions often, especially about this country. Yeah, I give them my opinion, but at the same time I tell them: “I can’t vote. It’s your responsibility, your duty. If you feel compassionate towards my situation or the situation of these other millions of people, then it’s your duty to vote for me.” I do voter registrations. For every undocumented person that does not have a vote I assure you that there is a voting US citizen who will vote for that person because we all have family members and friends, coworkers and people who have heard our stories and share our stories for that same purpose because a politician is not going to change your heart and feeling about an issue. If I get out there and I tell you about my personal experiences with an issue then you’re much more likely to change your mind and your heart about it.

Alberto came with his parents from the Mexican state of Oaxaca to California at the age of 7. They moved to North Carolina when he was 8.