What defines America? What does it mean to be an American? What are the examples of indisputable American Truth that serve as the guiding examples of our country’s past and present? Those are some of the questions we’re asking and ones we will answer in our special reporting — American Truth.

This reporting focuses on the concepts of truths in American history that allow us to thrive today. We are celebrating the truths that make America a powerful, influential and unique country that serves as an example to the rest of the world. We’re also exploring moments in history that have challenged our American way of life and forced us to grow as a nation.

We live in polarized times, but there have been plenty of polarizing moments in our history. There have also been moments and movements that allow every individual American citizen to pursue their right to live a free and happy life.

To tell these compelling stories, we will work to showcase someone whose life behavior demonstrates an American truth. Examples might include the right to vote, the right to free speech, the civil rights movement, immigration, equality and civics education.

The important documents that define this nation will also play a key role. The Declaration of Independence expresses the ideals upon which the United States was founded and the reasons for separation from Great Britain. In the same spirit, the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental framework of America’s system of government.

Freedom, justice, representation and equality are pillars that represent the basic values of democratic political systems. Reflecting upon our country’s nearly 250 years of existence, it’s time we see how we’re performing as a nation and as a people. It’s time to remind ourselves of the principles that guide us and the ideals we embrace. It’s time to celebrate an American Truth.

Do you have a story idea for our American truth series? Click here to fill out a form, and we may report on it.

Stories

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A 15-state effort in the south in the early 20th century to build schools for disadvantaged African-Americans is a part of our nation's history, but few know about it to this day. 

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Let's face it we are a divided nation. Our political climate has polarized Americans. It's an issue that affects families, co-workers and even your fellow church members.

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Books open our minds to new ideas and take us places we've never been. The history of public libraries and their impact in communities is an American Truth. 

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What happens in courtrooms nationwide and locally affects all of us. The three branches of government are executive, legislative and judicial. The judiciary interprets our laws, how they're applied in the real world, and whether laws violate the Constitution.

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The framers of our Constitution designed a separation of powers to provide checks and balances on each branch. However, retired Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham believes there's a looming threat to our government, our democracy and our American Truth.

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Do you remember what you learned about the first Thanksgiving in elementary school? We look at the history of Thanksgiving and how it compares to today's celebration. 

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Perhaps the same people who claim their one vote doesn't matter haven't heard of the elections and other votes decided by a single vote.

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As the inquiry intensifies it's important to reflect on this rare and often fraught process. In our country's history it's been threatened far more than it's ever been carried out. Impeachment and the way it's designed is an American Truth.

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Public trust in the government is at a historic low. A Pew Research Center study shows only 17% of Americans today trust the government to do what is right "just about always" or "most of the time." How'd we get here? Is it really that bad? And, what's the path forward? To face those questions and the realities of our struggling democracy is an American Truth.

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Western Kentucky celebrates three people who all grew up in Fancy Farm, graduated from local high schools, graduated from Murray State University and are key players behind elected leaders.

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PADUCAH — Imagine being born in a country where you're not allowed to vote, because you're a woman. The United States of America was that country for a very long time. In August 1920, lawmakers in 36 states ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

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PADUCAH — If you voted in the 2016 presidential election and plan to vote in the May 21 Kentucky primary, you’re not the typical voter. In fact, in the 2016 presidential election, only a little more than 55% of Americans eligible to vote showed up at the polls nationwide.

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The word patriotism never once appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. But you demonstrate patriotism when you honor what those documents created — principles and a government that have endured nearly 250 years.

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Thirteen stripes and 50 stars make for a powerful symbol. The American flag is something all Americans will celebrate on June 14. That’s the day we commemorate as a country the flag that represents freedom all over the world.

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Bob Drake of Paducah proudly displays the US flag in front of his home 24 hours a day

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Artist Dread Scott’s 1989 display “What Is The Proper Way To Display A US Flag”

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Art and other imagery puts on display our nation’s accomplishments and successes, and at times, the saddest and most negative aspects of our nation’s history.

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Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

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Shanden Simmons is a Paducah based artist

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Randy Simmons is a professor with the Paducah School of Art and Design

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The U.S. Constitution never originally defined who could vote. That was left up to the states. In our country’s early history, most states allowed only white men who owned property to cast a ballot.

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Paducah Tilghman High School senior Kristioje White.

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McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs

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Over the course of our nation’s nearly 250-year history, Americans have grappled with the concept and practice of freedom of religion.

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There have been powerful and persuasive speeches throughout our nation’s history, which is why the great American speech is an American Truth.

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Robert Valentine of Murray State University

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A sketch depicting President Abraham Lincoln giving the now famous Gettysburg Address

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Bobby Kennedy delivers an impassioned speech to a crowd

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President Ronald Reagan delivers an address from the White House

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Arvid Summers of Paducah is proud to fly an American flag outside his home

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“…And Our Flag Was Still There” by Melinda Bula of California hangs in The National Quilt Museum

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Only about a third of Americans can name all three branches of the government and that should be alarming to each and every American citizen.

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PTHS student Maci Robinson

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PTHS student Joe Price

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PTHS student Addie Rogers

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Paducah Tilghman High School teacher Ross Kelley

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America is a nation full of second chances. But what happens when you face one problem after another as you work to get that second chance?