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. For some people, it is the opportunity to achieve greater material prosperity than was possible in their countries of origin. For others it is the opportunity for their children to grow up and receive an education and its consequent career opportunities. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, caste, religion, race, or ethnic group. For others in this the dream of choice and flexibility, that is the ability to wake up in the morning and decide to drive, cycle or take public transportation to work.
Some say that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families - but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.
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. ". Is this your American dream? I believe most of you will say yes because that is my dream also. Ultimately, most Americans would like to achieve the American Dream of financial independence. Yet it is the means to achieving it that are essential to the nation's ethical foundations.
It seems that many Americans covet the easy road to the Dream and in the process undercut the core values that established the Dream in the first place. Equally culpable are the big businesses that capitalize on the quest for the Dream. In an ironic sense, such businesses are fulfilling the Dream for themselves while dangling the possibility of the Dream over the heads of the public. There can be little doubt that the producers of the millionaire games shows, the state lotteries, and lawyers are getting rich on other people's yearning for the American Dream.