Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Constitution of the United States
American patriotism permeates the nation, expanding to interests worldwide and desiring to see others live as we live, enjoying the same rights. It includes the show of affection, such as reaching out to embrace others in times of need.



Patriotism involves citizens displaying devotion to their country, including devotion to the fundamental values and principles upon which it depends (Michigan Department of Education 1998); and includes loyalty to the values and principals of American democracy found in documents such as the Pledge of Allegiance and Bill of Rights (Newby). It is also defined as an emotional attachment to a place, people or way of life.

Symbolic Patriotism has emerged as another kind of patriotism, which is the sense of pride one feels when they see the American flag or hear the Star Spangled Banner. (Baker, 23-24) Individual Rightsare fundamental to American constitutional democracy and refer to the belief that individuals have certain basic rights that are not created by government but which government should protect. These rights include right to life, liberty, economic freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is the purpose of government to protect these rights, and it may not place unfair or unreasonable restraints on their exercise. Many of these rights are enumerated in the Bill of Rights (Michigan Department of Education 1998).

Common Good, or public good, requires that individual citizens have the commitment and motivation—that they accept their obligation—to promote the welfare of the community and to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all (Michigan Department of Education 1998).

Historic Roots

The first person to use the words "philanthropy" and "patriotism" together was Alexander Hamilton. Writing in the first of The Federalist papers in October of 1787, Hamilton made the point that Americans have a collective interest in making the new democracy succeed (Payton Papers 2000).

Included within the concept of patriotism is the concept of loyalty to the fundamental values and principles underlying American constitutional Democracy.  This is expressed in the Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Pledge of Allegiance, and the pledge taken by the U. S. Military to Constitution (Michigan Interactive Portal for Interactive Content).

Other examples in United States history include Patrick Henry's famous speech to rally men to the cause of Liberty, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.  “No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House.  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (Henry 1775).

A recent historical event that will never be forgotten and changed lives nationwide was the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Shortly following these tragic events, patriotism throughout the nation soared to a high unseen since World War II. Police officers and firefighters were recognized for their heroic efforts. "United We Stand" and "God Bless America" became the rallying cries of both the government and the people. American flags (i.e. Symbolic Patriotism) became popular decorations and hood ornaments, and people said that through this tragic event America would emerge stronger than before (Smith 2002). 

Following these attacks, the Gallup Organization began tracking Americans' sense of pride:  How proud are you to be an American:  extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud, or not at all proud? Following the attacks, 71% said extremely proud, but that has dropped to 47% in 2018. (Gallup)  


American patriotism often expands to interests worldwide and the desire to see others live as we live, enjoying the same rights.  “America’s highest ideals demand that its citizens take an interest in extending the blessings of freedom and prosperity worldwide. Our attachment, ultimately, is not to a nation, defined as a particular geographical place or even a particular group of homogenous persons. It is to a universal ideal of freedom that prompts us to extend that freedom—and the blessings that accompany it—worldwide. It is not paternalistic but instead deeply patriotic to look to the betterment of our nation and the world. It is the greatest possible actualization of our most deeply felt urges and our most lofty ideals” (Torres 2001, 1).

Patriotism includes the show of affection, such as reaching out to embrace others in times of need.  These acts of kindness were especially seen on September 11, 2001.  “A true patriot is someone who is willing to show love toward people, even at times when nobody is watching” (Smith 2002, 1).

As the world and its problems and consequences become more complex, so does our need to evaluate and reshape patriotism.  We need a new patriotism that is as bold as the nation’s founders and their vision of democracy because we are faced with the task of reorganizing some of our most resistant systems (O’Connell 1999).


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Patriotism often results in the giving of individual’s time and money.  In the United States, we share an inherited tradition of voluntary service and giving.  Although philanthropy is universal and appears in all societies, the United States probably relies more extensively on voluntary associations to provide goods and services to the public – perhaps, more than any society in thehistory of the world. In the U.S., 62.8 million people (16 years and older) volunteered in 2010. Americans are also generous with their money with an estimated $410 billion last year donated to charitable causes. (Giving USA 2018). All of this voluntary service and giving flows through over 1 million tax-exempt associations (Payton Papers 2000).

Philanthropy continues to permeate American life, helping to shape the American character and rivaling the Constitution itself as our most distinctive virtue.  Philanthropy is not just another aspect of popular culture such as entertainment, but how we act voluntarily to relieve suffering and to improve the quality of life.  This is done not as a requirement by the government or because we receive any tangible reward. In the former Soviet Union, voluntary associations had no standing or were illegal and underground.  In the United States, voluntary organizations are visible, often quite audible, and can't be ignored (Payton Papers 2000).

Key Related Ideas

American Exceptionalism reflects the thought that America is a true experiment, the only nation in the world to be based on a proposition about man, man’s purpose in life, and how those notions should order the functioning of the state. This fact makes America a nation that demands moral reflection by its citizens (Torres 2001).

Core Democratic Values are the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of American society that unite all Americans. These values are expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the United States constitution and other significant documents, speeches, and writing of the nation (Civitas 1991).

The New Patriotism refers to the aftermath of September 11, 2001 that placed the United States at war and escalated the fight of terrorism around the world. While U.S. troops took up arms, American civilians showed their national pride. Patriotism became popular again with an increase in activities such as flying the flag, singing the national anthem, and pledging allegiance to the flag. Not only were everyday Americans practicing patriotism, but celebrities, advertisers, and major U.S. retailers expressed patriotism in their own way. Patriotism was now being used to sell everything from CDs to soda to fast food to clothing (Public Broadcast System 2003).

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Patrick Henry (1736-1799): Henry is a symbol of America's struggle for liberty and self-government. He was a lawyer, patriot, orator, and willing participant in virtually every aspect of the founding of America. He delivered the famous quote "Give me liberty or give me death!" (Henry 1775).
  • Emma Lazarus (1849-1847): Lazarus is best known for her sonnet, “The New Colossus” (1883). Inscribed in a room in the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York reads “Give me your tired, your poor / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (Biography on A&E).
  • Paul Revere (1737-1881): Revere was the folk hero of the American Revolution whose dramatic horseback ride on the night of April 18, 1775 warning Boston-area residents that the British were coming, was immortalized in a ballad by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution 2002).  
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968): King was a prime mover of the Montgomery bus boycott, keynote speaker at the March on Washington, and youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.However, in retrospect, single events are less important than the fact that King and his policy of nonviolent protest, was the dominant force in the civil rights movement during its decade of greatest achievement from 1957 to 1968 (The Seattle Times).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • American Red Cross: In 1905, the U.S. Congress granted a charter to the American Red Cross that required it to act "in accord with the military authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and their armed forces." Since then, the Red Cross has provided communications and other humanitarian services to help members of the U.S. military and their families around the world. Living and working in the same difficult situations and dangerous environment as U.S. troops, Red Cross has given comfort to soldiers thousands of miles from home by providing emergency messages, comfort kits and blank cards for troops to send home to loved ones (
  • Bill of Rights Institute: The Institute works to educate high school students and teachers about the founding principles of America.Program focus on the words and ideas of the founders; the liberties and freedoms guaranteed in founding documents; and how America’s founding principles affect and shape a free society (
  • National Constitution Center: The Center works to increase public understanding of and appreciation for the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance.The Center is located within Independence National Historical Park.The facility is interactive and interpretive (


Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • Biography on A&E. Emma Lazarus.
  • Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education the Center for Civic Education and the Council for the Advancement of Citizenship, National Council for the Social Studies Bulletin. “Core Values of American Constitutional Democracy.”1991.
  • Colonial Williamsburg. Patrick Henry.
  • Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
  • Paul Revere. 2002.
  • Henry, Patrick.Liberty or Death. Historic Documents of the United States of America. 23 March 1775.
  • O’Connell Brian. “Civil Society; the Underpinning of American Democracy.” University Press of New England. Hanover, NH. 1999.
  • Payton Papers.“Philanthropy and Patiotism.”2000.
  • Seattle Times. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Smith, George. “The Importance of Patriotism”. Omnibusonline. October 2002.
  • Torres, Justin. “High Noon for Patriotism: Will philanthropy answer the call?” Philanthropy Magazine. October 2001.


This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Ferris State University and updated by a student at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2019.