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Defining the American Dream
Transcript of Defining the American Dream
John Truslow Adams
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. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position" (p.214-215).
The authors of the United States’ Declaration of Independence held certain 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."
For many immigrants, the Statue of Liberty was their first view of the United States, signifying new opportunities in life. The statue is an iconic symbol of the American Dream.
The discovery of gold in California in 1849 brought in a hundred thousand men looking for their fortune overnight—and a few did find it. Thus was born the California Dream of instant success.
Letter from a
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (1963) rooted the civil rights movement in the black quest for the American Dream:
"We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands ... when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."
The Dream Today
Is it still possible?
What is the American Dream?
What is the American Dream? Define it in your own words.
Is it the same for all Americans?
Is the idea of the American Dream unique to Americans, or is it a “Human” Dream?
How has the American Dream changed over time?
Do all US citizens have equal opportunities to achieve the American Dream? On what do you base your opinion?
Is belief in the American Dream necessary to society? Why/why not?
How would you define your own American Dream?
Is the American Dream still possible today?
Evolution of the American Dream
The beginnings of the idea of the American Dream can be traced to the Founding Fathers, who declared their independence from England because of their belief in unalienable rights. Those men believed people inherently possessed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
They created a country where people could break free from class restrictions and pursue the life they chose despite the circumstances of their birth. In time, writers dubbed this idea the American Dream, but people’s definition of the American Dream has changed greatly over time.