Whatever happened to the American Dream we knew eighty years ago?
In 1931, James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his book, Epic of America, a detailed history of America’s heritage written by one of its most respected historians.
He wrote, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Later, the term American Dream, became used more commonly in literature, and began appearing in books like, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
For years, the American Dream has been classically defined as a national ethos of The United States in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity, success, and upward social mobility for anyone who worked hard enough.
America was known as the land of opportunity; it was the place to come for a new start, a clean slate. Immigrants from all over the world flocked to America beginning in the 1800s, all searching for land, new opportunities, and a fresh start.
Thus, this begs the question: does the American Dream still exist today?
Is America still known to be the land of prosperity and endless opportunity?
People used to come to America for protection from persecution, oppression, or economic hard times.
They used to come with hopes of prosperity, success.
Now gracing the headlines of newspapers and online news sites around the world, the United States seems to be getting more publicity for its struggling economy and unhappy political protestors than its “endless opportunities.”
One of our most trying debates is illegal immigration, especially from Mexico.
Migrant workers struggling to make ends meet risk their lives as they flee across the border into America seeking work often in agriculture for money to send home to Mexico.
Is this what has become of the American Dream?
Illegal immigrants hope to earn the peanuts that are the wage of an agricultural worker so they can send money home?
Perhaps not. Travel deeper into the elementary schools of America and ask any first grader the dreaded question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
It may seem a cliché thing, passé even, to ask, but you’ll be surprised the answers you get.
An excited seven-year-old will answer, “A paleontologist,” “A race car driver,” “A movie star.”
It would be difficult to find an elementary school child without drive or without a dream of something big.
The American Dream is evolving; it’s changing and developing with time.
No longer does the dream of buying land and comfortably living off the farm exist for most.
Yet, America revels in its self-made icons: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Oprah Winfrey to name a few.
Turn on the television to find endless shows of opportunity, America’s X Factor, Next Food Network Star, Top Chef, and American Idol.
There is no doubt America is still very much the land of opportunity, and America takes great pride in that.
Although it has changed and developed with time, the American Dream is alive and well, thriving in the land of opportunity.