The world is full of great people. Some are heroes who fight for the good, some make art that saves others from their darkest days, and some bring sunshine wherever they go. And the U.S., big as it is, is not lacking in people who make the world a better place. Here are some outstanding individuals that message board users have dubbed American treasures. Who would you add to this list?
Whether you listen to country music or live on the same planet everyone else does, Dolly Parton’s name will ring a bell. This artist from Nashville is known for being one of the most successful country singers of all time, making her the USA’s pride and joy. She has years’ worth of Billboard hit songs and 11 Grammy Awards under her belt, but that’s not all she’s known for. She is also a vocal supporter of communities such as the black and LGBTQ+ communities, and because of all this, Dolly definitely deserves to be a household name.
The late Betty Marion Ludden, most fondly known as Betty White, is a cherished American treasure due to her entertainment career, which has proven through longevity and excellence. Her repertoire includes various movies and shows, like the legendary sitcom The Golden Girls. She shows her comedic timing, warm personality, and enduring popularity in all of her projects. She’s an icon across generations and a beloved American television and film figure.
If you’re a comedy fan, Jack Black has probably made you laugh several times throughout your life. Born Thomas Jacob Black, this comedian has earned himself the title of American treasure because of his contributions to the film and music scenes. His comedic prowess and infectious energy make any movie an entertaining must-watch, especially movies like School of Rock. He is also the lead singer and guitarist of the duo Tenacious D, proving that beyond the jokes and quips, he is even more talented than you’d think.
Danny DeVito is another American treasure whose success is rooted in his many talents and naturally entertaining personality. This man has many titles, including being a famed actor, director, and producer. His career is marked by memorable performances in iconic roles, such as Louie De Palma in Taxi and Frank Reynolds It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He has even starred in One Direction’s music video for Steal My Girl, turning it into a humorous and lively five-minute watch. Because of this, he has become an influential figure and a well-loved artist worldwide.
“I feel like the world and our youth need him more than ever now,” says one commenter. Fred McFeely Rogers, more commonly known as Mr. Rogers, is celebrated as an American treasure for his unparalleled dedication to children’s education and well-being. Through his iconic television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he imparted valuable life lessons, promoted kindness, and left an enduring legacy of compassion. Not only did this get him a lifetime achievement Emmy and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it also made him a symbol of positive influence in American society.
Movie enthusiasts will surely recognize Octavia Spencer, and for good reason. As a talented actress, she has consistently delivered powerful performances that resonate with audiences and mostly empower women. Some of her best roles include playing Dorothy Vaughan in the biographical film Hidden Figures and the infamous Minny Jackson in The Help. Her acting has contributed to breaking barriers and aiming for a more inclusive and diverse representation in American cinema, easily earning her the title of American treasure.
No one worked people into tears and laughter like Robin Williams did. This American treasure of a man is remembered for his incomparable comedic genius, improvisational skills, and versatile acting. His most notable works include classics such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, and Aladdin. He had an innate ability to bring joy and laughter to anyone who watched him, coupled with poignant dramatic performances, and he has left an impact on American entertainment that still exists today.
Tom Hanks is a household name not just in America but worldwide—and rightfully so. Hanks is a celebrated actor known for his remarkable talent and contributions to the USA’s film industry. You’ll have seen him play the lead in must-watch, thought-provoking, and emotionally charged films such as Forrest Gump and The Green Mile (and if you haven’t, you should!). Despite his diverse range of challenging roles, he always hits the mark, earning the admiration of movie lovers and fellow artists alike.
The devil wears Prada, but Meryl Streep wears the ‘American treasure’ badge of honor. This internationally renowned actress and her sheer acting brilliance make any movie she’s in an instant cult classic. To prove this, she has a record-breaking number of award nominations due to her commitment to portraying diverse characters, including Miranda Priestly and Donna Sheridan. Because of this, she has become an icon in American cinema, embodying the highest standards of artistic achievement. And yes, this is your sign to rewatch Mamma Mia! for the thousandth time.
“He was a light for a lot of people,” says one comment, followed by numerous variations of “He certainly was for me.” This is the conversation surrounding the late, great Anthony Bourdain, whose unique approach to exploring cultures through food and storytelling has made him worthy of being called an American treasure. His wit, authenticity, and adventurous spirit made him a beloved figure, fostering a deeper understanding of global cuisines and cultures among American and international audiences.
Best known for his impeccable role in White Chicks and several sitcoms such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Everybody Hates Chris, Terry Crews is considered an American treasure by message board users. Don’t let his seemingly natural prowess in making people laugh deceive you; he started as a professional football player in the NFL before finding his path in the entertainment industry. And as if these occupations aren’t impressive enough, he is also an advocate. Beyond his comedic performances and athletic abilities, Crews uses his platform to address important social issues, namely sexism, abuse, and women’s rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an American treasure whose legacy will never die. His life’s advocacy was rooted in a tireless pursuit of equality as an American civil rights movement leader. One of his most popular actions is his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, where he talked about racism and equality for the black community. This speech is still taught and talked about today, decades later, as a paragon of inspiration and bravery. He was a symbol of hope and progress in the ongoing quest for justice at the time, and he remains that way.
Weird Al Yankovic
“The Food Album is the first album I ever bought myself. Weird Al was my Justin Bieber,” says one commenter. One common thread in most of this list is that these American treasures bring joy and happiness to everyone, and “Weird Al” Yankovic is inarguably one of them. Weird Al is known for his humorous and clever song parodies, with “Eat It,” his version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” one of his most popular works. With a decades-long career, his satirical approach to popular music has made him a unique and enduring figure in American comedy and music culture.
An artist at heart, Bob Ross is considered an American treasure for his gentle and encouraging presence as the host of The Joy of Painting, a PBS TV show. His iconic perm, soothing voice, and ability to create stunning landscapes on canvas endeared him to millions. Ross’s impact extended beyond art, embodying positivity and providing a therapeutic escape for viewers. His legacy as an artist and a source of calm inspiration has solidified his status as a cherished figure in American popular culture.
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