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December 15, 2009

            The American Dream is a term that varies from person to person. The term was first created by James Thuslow in his book called “The Epic of America”.  He states: The American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”.   The United States Constitution states that “every man should be treated equally” yet the history of America continuously proves that wrong (Jefferson).

            What is the measuring device used to see if someone has achieved The American Dream? Martin Luther King states “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” He never got to see his dream where white skinned and dark skinned people could coexist peacefully in the same room. Even the simplest American dreams are hard to come by.

            The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States of America in which democratic ideals are perceived as a promise of prosperity for its people. As decades go by, The American Dream has faded. Class Structure in the American society is like the giant elephant in the middle of the room. Everyone tries to ignore the fact the rich just keep getting richer while the poor get poorer.   The American Dream use to be someone who owned a house. The symbolism of owning a house was the separation between the middle class and the poor. The middle society virtually does not exist anymore.  That line of definition of the idea of The American Dream is not as easily drawn as it once was.

            The American Dream was once a promise to shape a prospering nation. Now The American Dream is all about fame and fortune.   Celebrities live the life of luxury but are still always showing up in tabloids doing something to catch the public’s attention. An old saying says “Money can’t buy happiness”, which is proved over and over again by the increasing popularity of celebrities gone bad.

            So, how does the culture I live in today define The American Dream? A white picket fence with a family dog surrounding a two story house just does not cut it anymore. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby”, was famous for exploring the idea of The American Dream.   All of his books included the American experience: success and failure, illusion and disillusion, dream and nightmare (Callahan).

The American Dream has been proven to be a major driving force to motivate many immigrants to work with perseverance and therefore to pursue their goals. According to Wikipedia, “the American Dream is often associated with immigrants, as the dream of religious freedom, economic prosperity, and meritocracy has historically driven immigrants to the United States”. The term is used by many modern Americans to signify success in life as a result of hard work.  As more and more immigrants become prominent figures in the American society, people start to notice and glorify the motivation that the American Dream has given to these immigrants.  Having an American Dream is just like having a goal, which can always bring a person back on track whenever she gets lost on her journey, and whenever she is tired of failures. This dream or goal sets a purpose in life for people and propels them to move closer to their destiny. In fact, there is a strong correlation between having a goal and the success people achieve in their lives (Li).

          The American Dream use to consist of people who worked hard to succeed for the dream. In the 20th century, this idea changed drastically. The traditional American Dream eroded away and was replaced by the idea of getting rich quick. Ask anyone who has won big on a television game show, won the lottery, or won a lawsuit, and they will say that they have achieved The American Dream.  I would think that The American Dream has much more depth to the meaning than the idea of getting rich quick. People work their whole lives away to achieve such a far away dream and just to say afloat and grip on to The American Dream, but end up failing to do so.

        Ray Kroc was a pioneer of the fast food industry.  He started out as a blender salesman to make some money. As he was selling, he walked into a restaurant that used an assembly- line technique to make a large volume of hamburgers. He then built a restaurant and brought the McDonalds’ name from the McDonald brothers. By the 21st century, there were over 25,000 McDonald’s restaurants internationally wide (Ray Kroc).

         In 1977, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield completed a corresponding course on ice cream making at Pennsylvania State University. The founders were able to combine ice cream making with social activism by creating a three-part Mission Statement that considered profits as only one measure of success. Their mission statement is comprised of three parts, a Social Mission, a Product Mission, and an Economic Mission. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is famous for their crazy flavors like “Chubby Hubby” and “Everything But The…”. Their ice cream is sold in grocery stores internationally wide (Flavors).

            To catch voters in the 2008 Presidential election, Barack Obama stated that his mission was to reclaim The American Dream. When Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential election, his followers knew that The American Dream was reachable.  American is now a country where, as Barack Obama said, “all things are possible” with hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance, and where anyone can grow up to become President of the United States (Jr.).  Barack Obama not only embodies The American Dream, but also has a future plan for America to start living it.

            Barack Obama wants to make The American Dream possible for everyone to achieve.  He wants to make college more affordable and save the retirement funds for the elderly.  He wants to make a universal health care system and wants to cut taxes.  He also wants all American to commit to doing fifty hours of community service to better their neighborhoods. As all the facts and figures are added up, the American dream might just be too costly (Blaz).

      The simple economics  will show how much Americans will pay for their dream; cheap.  Money does not stretch far these days, every penny has to count.  The economy is not at a state of where it needs to be to create The American Dream.  Right now, the only way to be hopeful that the American Dream exists is to live bi-curiously through the people who have succeeded. Hope is what gets Americans by each day. Most people have given up on their American dream and have settled for much less than they deserved.    Thomas Wolfe said, “…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him.”


Blaz, Dan. “The Trail.” 7 November 2007. The Washington Post. 12 December 2009 <;.

Callahan, John F. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s evolving American Dream: the “pursuit of happiness” in Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.” sEPTEMBER 1996. Bnet. 11 12 2009 <;.

“Flavors.” Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. 23 December 2009 <;.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Declaration of Independence. 1776.

Jr., Ruben Navarrette. “Obama Embodies the American Dream.” 6 November 2008. CNN politics. 12 Decmeber 2009 <;.

Li, Ying Fei. “My American Dream.” Culture Shock! 13 December 2009 <;.

“Ray Kroc.” September 2006. 12 December 2009 <;.

Thuslow, James. The Epic of America. 1931.