Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 3Topic 2
Focus On Ideals And Symbols
Millennium Challenge

sStatue When Frenchman Edouard René de Laboulaye came up with the idea of presenting a statue to the American people in 1865, he wanted it to symbolize France and America's love of liberty. But in the years since the statue was dedicated in New York Harbor in 1886, it has taken on a new role. With Emma Lazarus' famous poem "New Colossus" -- and its inspiring lines "Give me your tired your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . ." -- the statue has become a symbol of welcome to millions of immigrants. In many ways, the statue was the perfect symbol for the late 19th century, as millions of immigrants came to America searching for freedom and opportunity.

What about today? What are the ideals of the late 20th century? What statue or other symbol would we use to represent those ideals? In this activity, you will consider those ideals and the best way to symbolize them.

Research Ideals For The New Century
To create the right kind of symbol, we have to understand what we are trying to symbolize. If the goal of a symbol is to capture the ideals of the new century, it is important to decide what those ideals are. An ideal is something people in a society believe in. In late 20th-century and early 21st-century America, these ideals might include: progress through technology, environmental preservation and tolerance of ethnic diversity, etc. You probably have a few ideas of your own. List them and then talk to others: parents, teachers, friends, etc. Ask them what they think the most important ideals of the new century are.
Create A Symbol
Once you have chosen an ideal for the new century, it's time to think up a possible symbol -- a representation of this ideal. Be as imaginative as possible. It could be a statue, a landscape, or a building. Remember, a symbol only works if it is understandable to others. To use a silly example, maybe you think snakes are friendly and you would use a snake to symbolize friendship. Many people, however, find snakes scary. They would not understand your use of a snake as a symbol for friendship. The lesson to remember: choose your symbols carefully and make sure others see them in the same way you do. And keep your symbols simple. If you clutter them up with lots of stuff, the basic message will be lost. Again, think how simple the Statue of Liberty is -- a women holding up a torch (light of freedom) and a book (the constitution and equality under the law). Once you think of a symbol, check it out with others. Do they understand what it symbolizes? Also, think about where your symbol should go and how big it should be. The Statue of Liberty would not be as powerful if it were put up in a Kansas wheatfield or stood only 18 inches high. You might also want to actually create your symbol -- make a statue, build a model of a structure. Or you can write up a report about how it would look and where it would go. You might want to include a drawing, diagram, or map as well.