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The Founding Fathers, who proclaimed America’s independence from England due to their conviction in inalienable rights, are where the idea of the American Dream first emerged. These men felt that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were inalienable. They established a nation where everyone, regardless of their birth circumstances, could be liberated from social limitations and live the lives they desired. The term “American Dream” was later coined by writers to describe this concept, but it has undergone significant changes in meaning throughout time.
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The historian and novelist James Truslow Adams is frequently cited as the originator of the phrase “American Dream.” In The Epic of America, Adams wrote of “a place where life should be fairer and wealthier and fuller for everyone, with potential for each according to ability or success independent of fortunate circumstances of birth or station” in 1931, while Americans struggled through the Great Depression (Flax, 2018). The American Dream initially merely promised a nation where people would have the opportunity to rise through their own labor and innovation. In search of land as well as religious and other liberties, immigrants escaped the established class constraints of their home countries for the United States (Mortimer, Mont’Alvao, & Aronson, 2020). English revolutionaries left the country in search of liberty. People from all across the world were drawn to the United States by the hope of a better life. They arrived in America prepared to work hard.
How the American Dream Has Evolved
The relationship between classes in Colonial America saw the realization of the dream. People at the time remarked about the brand-new equality they had encountered. Employees believed they could enhance their standing with hard work and were able to communicate openly with their employers. The American Dream encouraged many people to compete for land and lead hard lives on the frontier during the westward expansion. They were able to establish themselves on a portion of the vast acreage available to land owners and pioneers because of their diligence. People competed with each other to obtain a plot of land under this competitive and individualistic conception of the American Dream. Americans established a shared dream at the beginning of the 20th century, one in which people cooperated to improve conditions for the majority of Americans. The New Deal initiatives of FDR promised to redefine the American Dream.
Many people who pushed for American involvement in WWII did so because they believed that everyone should have the opportunity to live out the American Dream. Americans have the opportunity to display their national ideals to the world by fighting in the war. The American Dream, which FDR summarized as the attainment of four fundamental freedoms-freedom of expression, religious freedom, freedom from lack, and freedom from fear-was the cause for which Americans fought in the war (Miller, 2018). He claimed that those who could provide for their homes, keep them secure, practice their religion as they liked, and express their feelings were fulfilling the American Dream.
Men returned from World War II with a fresh vision of the American Dream. Americans had idealized homes with content families that took summer vacations. The GI Bill was utilized by veterans to get low-interest financing on homes, which led to a construction boom and the development of neighborhoods across the country (Wolak, & Peterson, 2020). Home ownership began to be intimately associated with the American Dream, and the American market grew crowded with goods that could make living better at home.
The American Dream changed into a standard that depended on individuals having access to all of the contemporary amenities, including vehicles, televisions, and university education for their kids. The American Dream, which is defined as the possession of material items, was profoundly influenced by television. Americans aspired to have perfect lives like those depicted in programs like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver (Fogli, & Guerrieri, 2019). Credit card use by many Americans to finance the acquisition of the new American Dream had an impact on its current state.
The American dream of today
Americans racked up a lot of debt as more individuals utilized credit to buy products. The cost of pursuing the American Dream was becoming prohibitive. People continued to aspire to live lives similar to those they watched on television. But those broadcast lives were getting more and more expensive and artificial. Additionally, there was no longer a need to save. Credit could be used to purchase the American Dream. Then, many people lost the lives they had worked extremely hard to obtain due to the mortgage crisis in 2007 twenty-first century(White, McKenzie, & Playford, 2016). President Barack Obama discussed the American Dream’s reversal in his inauguration address. He was alluding to all the folks whose homes were being lost. According to President Obama, many modern people no longer think they can live better lives than their fathers, but the American Dream still exists; the issue is with how we define it (White, McKenzie, & Playford, 2016). Many individuals believe that only a select few may now realize the American Dream. Land ownership is no longer a pipe dream. Home ownership is no longer a pipe dream. The dream of living a happy life is no longer possible. Instead, many people aspire to possess the priciest cars, the biggest mansions, the most fashionable clothing, etc. According to this notion, only a select few people may live the American Dream.
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This new meaning makes it more challenging to witness the American Dream in action. Many Americans have battled just to feed their families as a result of the recession. In addition, it appears that only the most prosperous residents can afford better schools and other amenities. Because they are unable to purchase as much as they formerly could, many Americans must weigh their necessities. The fact that Americans currently possess more than they ever have contradicts the notion that the American Dream is not attainable anymore. The concept has shifted from the notion that everyone can improve their lives through hard effort to the notion everybody can become a millionaire via essentially no labor, which is why some people believe that the American Dream is gone. However, the original American Dream can still come true. Even though people frequently have to battle, they are not forced to remain at that particular station permanently. They are entitled to aim higher.
- Flax, J. (2018). The American Dream in Black and White. In The American Dream in Black and White. Cornell University Press.
- Fogli, A., & Guerrieri, V. (2019). The end of the american dream? inequality and segregation in us cities (No. w26143). National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Miller, A. N. (2018). The American Dream Short-Lived: The Decline of Academic Achievement and College Confidence through Acculturation, Perceptions of Ethnic Discrimination, and Concerns with Confirming Stereotypes.
- Mortimer, J. T., Mont’Alvao, A., & Aronson, P. (2020). Decline of “the American Dream”? Outlook toward the future across three generations of Midwest families. Social Forces, 98(4), 1403-1435.
- White, C. J., McKenzie, J., & Playford, S. (2016). Student engagement in service delivery: Taking it to a whole new level. JANZSSA-Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, 24(2), 1096.
- Wolak, J., & Peterson, D. A. (2020). The dynamic American dream. American Journal of Political Science, 64(4), 968-981.