In addition to the presence of surviving Native Americans and the descendants of Africans taken as slaves to the New World, the American character has been enriched, tested, and constantly redefined by the tens of millions of immigrants who by and large have come to America.
1 Key numbers
The land area of the USA is 9,826,675 sq. km.
It consists of 50 states and one federal district (the District of Columbia: DC).
The resident population is more than 329 million in 2019.
White: 77.1% (White Hispanic and Latino Americans included); Black: 12.9%; Amerindian and Alaska natives: 1.5%.
2 Political institutions
The President is elected for a four-year term and may be reelected only once.
The Cabinet is composed of the heads of the executive departments. The most important are the Department of State which looks after foreign affairs, the Treasury Department, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, directed by the Attorney General.
The members of the Cabinet are chosen by the President with the consent of the Senate. They may be replaced at any time by the President. The members do not hold seat (ne siègent pas) in Congress.
The Congress consists of the 100-member Senate and the 435-member House of Representatives.
The minimum voting age is 18.
The Supreme Court ensures that no law goes against the principles of the Constitution.
State Government follows the same pattern as the Federal Government. Each state has a Governor as the Chief Executive.
3 Political parties
The Democratic Party (emblem: the donkey)
The Democrats favour stronger federal control. They tend to be the American political, liberal “left”.
The Republican Party, also called the “Grand Old Party” (emblem: the elephant).
The Republicans favour restrictions on central power.
4 National symbols
“The Star-Spangled Banner” (la Bannière étoilée), written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, was officially made the national anthem (l'hymne national) by Congress in 1931.
The national motto (la devise nationale) is “E pluribus unum” (À partir de plusieurs, un seul). “In God we trust” is printed on dollar bills.
II A few place names
Arlington: the National Cemetery in Washington DC.
Camp David: the US presidents'official country home.
Ellis Island: an island in Upper New York Bay which served as the nation's major immigration station from 1892 to 1943.
Ground Zero: the site in New York City where the World Trade Center stood prior to the September 11 2001 (9/11) attacks.
Macy's: the largest department store in New York.
The MOMA: the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Mount Rushmore: in South Dakota's Black Hills is the site of four gigantic carved sculptures depicting the faces of four presidents : Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
Close to this memorial, the Crazy Horse Memorial is the world's largest sculpture in progress. The massive carving began in 1948… There is no completion date set for the project. The sculpture is planned to be 172 m high. By comparison, the heads of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 18 m high.
Park Avenue: a wealthy, residential street in New York City.
Silicon Valley: the Santa Clara Valley, south east of San Francisco, home to the computer industry.
Wall Street: the home of the New York Stock Exchange.
Yellowstone: the country's first national park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.