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Cultural Background and Our Perception

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Social Studies, Language Arts

One to Two Class Sessions

Students will:

  • describe the backgrounds of Medal of Honor Recipients
  • analyze the importance of the Recipients’ cultural background in their service
  • identify and describe the characteristics displayed
  • analyze how the personal backgrounds of the Medal of Honor Recipients were not barriers to their willingness to serve

Medal of Honor Focus: 
James Swett, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam War; Michael Colalillo, U.S. Army, World II (Europe); and George Sakato, U.S. Army, World War II (Europe)

Introductory Activity:
Discuss with students how a person’s cultural background affects others’ perception of him or her.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Divide students into three groups. Each group will cycle through three different stations representing each Recipient, reading the profiles and citations of James Swett, Michael Colalillo, and George Sakato. Students will determine where the Recipients were born, describe their cultural background, and summarize why they received the Medal of Honor.

Whole Group Activity:
Students will view the videos depicting the three Recipients. Students will discuss the diversity of these Recipients. Students will describe what they have discussed and how they can relate this information to their own lives.

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Students will write a reflection on what they have learned about how a person’s background affects his or her opinion of other people. They will consider to what extent a person’s background may affect his/her willingness to meet and interact with people different from himself or herself.

Concluding Activity:
Students share the reflection with other students.



Living History videos, Portraits of Valor, and Citations for James Swett, Michael Colalillo, and George Sakato

Living History Video - James Swett

Living History Video - Michael Colalillo

Living History Video - George Sakato

Portraits of Valor - James Swett

Portraits of Valor - Mike Colalillo

Portraits of Valor - George Sakato