Today: Feb 26, 2024

Redefining the American Dream

STEPHEN SHYMANSKYSpecial to the Southern News

The American Dream was described simply by James Truslow-Adams, who defined the American Dream when he said, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or birth circumstances.”  When I think of the American Dream I cannot help but to think of the Declaration of Independence where it asserts that “all men are created equal” (I insert women here too) and “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Therefore, why is it that comments have been made regarding the American Dream being under attack?  Most recently former President Bill Clinton mentioned this in an interview, and just a week ago Republican presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, mentioned it as well.  Is the American Dream really under attack?

I understand the American Dream to be a freedom and a promise of the possibility of success and happiness if one works hard.  It allows for one to hold a job, have advancement opportunity, own a home, and have a certain level of independence in life.  Many people have come to the United States in search for exactly this— the promise that they could live the American way and own a home, hold a job, build a future, and in turn, pass this on to one’s children.  With hard work and persistence this has paid off for many over the years, and many have made this “dream” a reality.  In large part this was made possible by the U.S. economy during much of the 20th century and the hard-working attitude that many possessed.  I apply these thoughts in our time, in the here and now, and realize we are living in a new age where everything is changing.  Currently we are in a recession, the market is in a poor state, jobs are scarce and overall the economy is not looking up.  To me, it seems that achieving the American Dream today is much more complicated than in the past.

Is it possible that the American Dream itself needs to be redefined?  I believe that stating “that the American Dream is under attack,” is a cowardly way of not addressing our ever-changing society.  What is important to us as a society?  Is it possible that the main interests of many people have changed?  The question then is: what direction are we headed in as a society?  These are all questions I pose in relation to understanding why our former president and currently presidential hopefuls believe that the American Dream is under attack.  I guess this thought could be left up to interpretation and/or could be a matter of perspective; however, the real issue is:  where do the people of America stand on this issue?

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