Introduction: A Little Bit of History
Millions of people have gone to the United States to pursue their American Dream; the famous American Dream has been the target of every U.S. citizen and, probably, will for the next couple of centuries. However, its meaning still remains obscure. The term “American Dream” was coined by James Truslow Adams and has been haunting people ever since.
Although the concept of the American Dream is very recognizable, its essence is very hard to nail down, since it incorporates a number of social, economical and financial principles; largely, the American Dream is the provision of opportunities to live a happy life of understanding, wealth and content.
Analysis and Synthesis: The Ultimate Definition Created
Money makes the world go round: a business perspective
Before expanding on the definition of the American Dream from the given perspective, one must make a reservation saying that the former is going to be very narrow, encompassing only one aspect of the phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is a very important part of defining the great American Dream, since it was, in fact, the first definition to begin with.
Indeed, in a retrospect, the concept of the American Dream was first rather prosaic. The given ethos is clearly rooted strictly in the field of economy, since the people who coined the term aimed at settling in the area that was superior to the place where they lived. Similar interpretations of the ethos are still popular nowadays, including static objectives and connotations of a fixed target, such as owning a home (Prentiss 137), being financially secure and “getting a ‘good’ education” (McCellan and Tobin 1).
In the XX century, the financial aspect and the aspect of security were added to the mix, therefore, making the idea of the American Dream even more down-to-earth and nearly practical. Thus, the concept that praised free spirit and exploration of the new lands was replaced with striving for achieving success in the American business society and gain recognition among its members.
One might argue that the relation between the two definitions is quite clear, seeing how the idea of discovering a new and better land and settling in it was replaced by a corresponding social metaphor. However, in some respect, the given change was quite expected, since the business world is largely guided by the same principles of discovery and conquest.
Politics and the related issues: democracy as it is
Another means to define the American Dream is to consider the structure of the American society from a political perspective. When it comes to searching the political terms that may represent the milestones of the American state’s development, people usually come up with the concept of democracy.
Truly, democracy is the principle that the U.DS. society works in accordance with since the day that the United States Constitution was signed. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that political issues play a major role in defining the phenomenon of the American Dream.
The idea of rendering the concept of the American Dream as the synonym for democracy and equality belongs to Martin Luther King, and is, therefore, strongly associated with the civil rights movement and, thus, related it to complete absence of discrimination in any possible form. It is quite remarkable that Martin Luther King, in fact, uses the term in his famous I Have a Dream speech:
I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’” (King 556)
Therefore, in a broader sense, the American Dream can be seen as the dream of the Promised Land of democracy, where no discrimination exists and where all people are equal. In some respect, the U.S. citizens have reached their goal regarding equality since the Fourth Amendment was made to the Declaration of Independence and every single resident of the United States was granted with his or her irrefutable rights, including the right for partaking in elections, the right for being employed, the right for matrimony, etc.
Sadly enough, the reality of the U.S. as a democratic state presupposes that in a number of times, people have to fight for their rights; for instance, the fact that racial profiling still takes place in the United States clearly shows that the American Dream as a dream of equality is still miles away.
In the midst of a culture clash: the principle of tolerance
Speaking of the cultural aspect of the American Dream, one should mention the specific culture of the United States. It would not be a big stretch to claim that an impressive number of people with American citizenship descend from the former residents of Europe immigrated to the American continent.
Whether the given event took place in the late 90s, or whether the ancestors of the person in question came from the same time period as the Founding Fathers, one still has to admit that most of the U.S. population combines the elements of several cultures, two at the very least.
High rates of diversity have spawned the concept of a place where the people of different origin could live in peace despite cultural differences. Hence, stemming from the concept of democracy, the idea of multiculturalism and cultural tolerance can be viewed as a new means to interpret the American Dream and define it as a dream of the place where people of different ethnicity could find a common language and enjoy “the spirit of brotherhood and religious tolerance” (Bukholder 353).
Defining the Phenomenon: The Many Faces of the American Dream
The concept of the American Dream incorporates political, cultural and social ideas that cannot be ignored. It would be a mistake to focus on one aspect of the ethos and disregard the rest of the connotations that it incorporates; however, to encompass every single idea that the ethos of the American Dream includes, one will have to consider the phenomenon from every possible angle.
That being said, the idea of the American Dream should not be simplified to striving for putting one’s best foot forward and taking place under the sun; nor should it be related solely to the admittedly noble need to strive for democracy, which is only one of the components of the ethos. Instead, the given concept should be envisioned as the success of peace-making endeavors in the American society.
Conclusion: the Search for the American Dream Continues
As the analysis of the components of the American Dream conducted above shows, with a new concept introduced to the American society, the ethos gains a new connotation.
First introduced to the public as the search for the Promised Land, then narrowed down to the idea of having more financial opportunities, incorporating the idea of cultural and racial tolerance after the Fourth Amendment and presupposing equal opportunities for everyone at present, the idea of the American Dream seems to be susceptible to the social economical, political and cultural changes, which seem to define its essence. Hardly attainable yet extremely alluring, the American Dream makes the process of its search rewarding.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. I Have a Dream. JPG file. 553–557.
Bukholder, Zoe. With Science as His Shield: Teaching Race and Culture in American Public Schools, 1900—1954. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, 2008. Print.
McCellan, Peter D. and Peter H. Tobin. American Dream Dying: The Changing Economic Lot of the Least Advantaged. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. Print.
Prentiss, Sean. Buying a House. n. d. Web. <http://bomedia.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/56615125/Buying%20A%20House%20by%20Sean%20Prentiss.pdf>.