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What does it take to be American?

| June 25, 2010 7:08 AM

Perseverance and courage.

That's what most high school students think. The Bill of Rights Institute shared the results of a nationwide survey of 3,000 teens this week.

The Arlington, VA-based nonprofit analyzed the top essays submitted to its annual "Being an American" student essay contest, which attracted 50,000 entries this year. Unfortunately, none of the winning submissions bore an Idaho postmark.

Students were asked, “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?"

Other citizenship characteristics that received high marks from students were equality and respect, entrepreneurialism, responsibility, and liberty.

They were also asked to name their heroes and the "Founding document that inspires them most."

The top five heroes, in order, were Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Thomas Paine.

Students cited the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as the two most important and inspiring Founding documents, followed by Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense.

These results were consistent across all high school grade levels, in all school settings (public, private and home school), with one exception: The majority of 10th graders identified President Lincoln, not Jefferson, as their top hero. - Maureen Dolan

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