What Does It Mean to Be an American? – The Mineta Legacy

The curriculum is a free online resource that will be available to social studies educators for high school and college students. Curriculum consists of six independent learning modules that examine a key theme from Secretary Norman Mineta’s life and career: immigration, civil liberties & equity, civic engagement, justice & reconciliation, leadership & decision-making, and U.S.–Japan relations.

Currently in development at the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) at Stanford University, the curriculum offers educators a collection of teaching tools that tie the film’s themes to core social studies topics. Topics are brought to life and connected to students’ own lives through standards-aligned lesson plans, primary source documents, interactive classroom activities, and custom-created video vignettes showcasing a diverse range of American voices—from high school youth to former U.S. Presidents.

Each module provide different perspectives for students to answer the curriculum’s central question: What does it mean to be an American?


Click below to learn more about each module.


Explore the history of immigration to the United States, the meaning of U.S. citizenship, and the roles immigration, immigrant integration and citizenship policies have played in the building of U.S. society.

Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images

Civil Liberties and Equity

What is the meaning and value of civil rights? Students examine the historical contexts and conditions that have weakened civil rights protections in the U.S., and learn the history of the Japanese  American incarceration during World War II and apply to modern-day civil rights issues.

Photo credit: NARA

Civic Engagement

This lesson examines the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy and why civic engagement is important for the functioning of democratic societies. How are young people involved in their communities and what are ways Americans can be civically engaged?

Photo credit: Courtesy of U.S. Army

Justice and Reconciliation

Examine modern-day social justice issues, the role that justice and reconciliation play in society based on the lessons learned and the role that the Japanese American Redress Movement played in the Japanese American community and American society broadly.

Photo credit: Densho

Leadership and Decision-Making

What are the characteristics of effective leadership and how do we foster these qualities in ourselves and others? Explore and reflect on the concept of leadership and characteristics of effective leaders through the lens of students’ own life experiences.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

U.S.-Japan Relations

Introduction to U.S.–Japan relations, the value of this enduring bilateral partnership and examination of key issues in contemporary U.S.–Japan relations with video interviews of prominent leaders who serve as bridges between the United States and Japan.