2 February 2010
What is the American Dream?
The Preamble of the Declaration of Independence characterizes the American dream as ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. That is precisely what the American dream is at its core. What has changed over time is how we achieve or attempt to achieve the dream.
In colonial times, the American dream was thought as for one to become successful, famous, and rich through hard work and by managing your money well. The dream evolved and took on a darker tone after America became more industrialized in the 19th and 20th centuries. No longer did people envision success through hard work and thriftiness but rather through a ‘get rich quick’ philosophy. The dream has remained at this standpoint but the methods for achieving success are ever changing. Today people are most likely to attempt the American dream through one of three methods: television game shows with big payouts (i.e. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire), the lottery, or frivolous lawsuits seeking excessive compensation. The irony is, of course, that all of these have incredibly low success rates. Comedian George Carlin once commented on the American dream during one of his shows by stating that “it’s called the American dream ‘cause you have to be asleep to believe it.”1
Introduction The British military was considered the strongest in the world at the outreach of fighting between England and the American colonies in 1775. Britain had just defeated France and the Indians in the Seven Years War and had attained its prominence as a world’s superpower. Yet despite Britain’s overpowering military dominance, the British found themselves unable to subdue General ...
I believe that the American dream has two parts. We all know about fame, success, and wealth or at least the latter two. The second part is getting married, becoming a parent and raising a family because with all of this success, who is to carry on my legacy? Or, perhaps, to mooch off of it as will likely be the case with my wife.
All of these can be attained through hard work, though by itself it will not be enough. My mother taught me that one of the most powerful tools that I can acquire and use in my quest for success is having a large network of friends, acquaintances, and especially professional contacts. Not only that, but throughout my career and my life, I can continue to build onto the network and if I follow the right connections, be it through luck or otherwise, I could potentially meet some very influential people. Of course, in order to expand my network into the places where the more influential and powerful people are at, I’m going to need a good education. Nobody is going to give me as much as a passing glance if I don’t know what I’m talking about. The last tool I will need to obtain is work experience. This is the notorious catch-22 situation for new college graduates but none too difficult to overcome if you have a strong professional network.
There’s no step-by-step do-it-yourself process to attaining the American dream because everyone’s vision of the American dream is different. However, getting educated, building contacts, and working hard will greatly increase the likelihood of success. Try not to get too headstrong though: a little common sense goes a long way. Finally, luck plays a small part in the American dream too. Sometimes all you need to be is in the right place at the right time and you’ll run into someone who can jumpstart your success or that one special person that will be the other half of your perfect family. If you wanted to simplify the idea of the American dream then just watch Star Trek. Spock says it best with his famous line “Live long and prosper.”