The American Dream, really a dream, a myth, an illusion or maybe reality? America is the so called „land of opportunities“. We always connect it with the common phrase „rags to riches“, but is it still possible nowadays or is being rich not the top aim anymore?
Abby has always wanted to become a nurse and „no one ever stopped me“. She is a nineteen- year- old girl from Delaware, but currently she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island. „The American Dream is about being able to do what you have always wanted or dreamed of doing. Everyone wants to become educated in exactly what it is they want to do and find something that they will love doing every day for the rest of their life.“, says Abby and therefore she attends the University of Rhode Island where she studies nursing.
The „Declaration of Independance“ says “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“, but is that the American Dream? Is it a synonym of fortune, fame and money and if not, then what? Wesley is a seventeen-year-old high school student at St.Francis High School in Travese City, Michigan and for him „those three things are the basis of the American ideal.“ He identifies very strongly with this freedom to choose the course of his life, because „nobody can decide how I will live my life for me.“ Martin Luther King has already quoted the „Declaration of Independance“ back in 1963 in his famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. His American Dream was about equality and tolerance: „I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, and […] that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.“ Apparently, the American Dream can be manifold, but where does the American Dream have its roots?
In 1931, James Truslow Adams published „The Epos of America“ and he was the first to interpret the American self-concept as a dream. He described it as a „[…] 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.“ Was that the dream thousands of Americans dreamed and maybe still dream? Money is on no account what makes you truly happy, but honestly life is much easier when you have some money to spend. What happens to the American Dream in terms of the financial crisis?
Wesley defines the American Dream as this: „Receive an education that will put me in position to earn a living and support my future family. I want to meet a beautiful girl, fall in love with her, marry her and raise a family together.“Moreover he explains: „I worry about my ability to pay for my education and for my children’s education. A poor economy means less jobs. I worry I will not be able to find a job when I graduate from high school or college. This makes me wary of my dream of raising a family. If I cannot pay for my education or find a job to support my family, I will not be able to achieve this dream.“ And he is not the only teenager who worries about money. Abby goes a step further: “ It’s difficult to be able to follow your dreams in America right now, because many people don’t have the means to.“
Most of the time we all would like to wake up and find that it was not vanity, but even if it was I absolutely agree with Benjamin Mays who once said: „The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.“ Is America maybe not „the land of opportunity“ anymore? The answer is probably „yes“ and „no“. I guess that it is an illusion to think that everything in America is more „free“ or „easy“ than in most other western countries. Abby points out: „America is full of opportunities, but they aren’t just waiting around for people to take them. You have to search for them, you have to work hard for them, but if you work hard enough you will find that is has many opportunities.“
The American Dream has changed over the last years. Once it was the dream of people who began to work in factories or companies for example and earned a lot of money. Then it was about stopping racism and nowadays it is about accomplishing your personal dreams in terms of your future. But no matter what your life is currently about, make sure you have a dream, because as Adams said: „The great value of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.“1