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The American Dream & Social Change

Updated on May 10, 2015

What isn't The American Dream

James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that 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 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)

Chasing The American Dream

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." Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream? The homesteaders who left the big cities of the east to find happiness and their piece of land in the unknown wilderness pursuing these inalienable Rights? Were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for their bit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their Dream? And what did the desire of the veteran of World War II - to settle down, to have a home, a car and a family - The American Dream is an evolving Dream? Do you rrally believe that-the American Dream is attainable by all Americans?

Is The American Dream Attainable For Everyone?

Most believe that The American Dream is attainable to anyone who is willing to work hard. I disagree completely with this statement. Why? Because when the economy booms such as in the late 1990's. So many individuals felt that they had missed out on the party. In the mid to late 1990's people all around seem to be cashing in and the idea of success was changing. People at one time were perfectly happy with what they were doing. Now we are at an age where we begin to to see how well our friends have done in life and we begin to feel discontent about our own lives.

American Dream


The Mid - Late 1990's

In the mid to late 1990's we were living through one of the greatest economic booms in U.S history, yet many people were very grumpy. Chances are you know someone who did really well by playing the stock market. People were receiving stock options from their company or were joining Internet firms about to go public. These folks did well for themselves and they paid cash for cars and began planning for their retirement. They had no problem letting their friends know how well they were doing financially. We were even seeing advertisements for brokerage firms showing a Tow Truck Driver who traded their way into the ownership of an island. Really? So the media hyped up as usual.

The bull market, was being fueled by the cyber boom of information technology is the pre-millennium party blowing the lid off The American Dream. This new wealth was creating a sense of unease among those who did not presevere well. The road to success had in the past been lined with perspiration and perseverance those lines have certainly been blurred and are no longer clear. Most of middle America missed out on this boom and feel that they are tied to jobs that will not make them wealthy. Most of middle Americans feel more social pressure to but new cars, new homes to keep up with their neighbors.

What is The American Dream

Rank of Millionaires is Increasing

it is not just a perception more people are getting wealthier it is a reality. The ranks of the millionaires is growing, the six figure income is also increasing. It is the first time since WWII that people seem to be getting wealthier with relatively little effort. On the surface it appears that the old work ethic has been turned upside down. What has changed?

Drastic Changes

What has changed drastically is not the new numbers of the wealthy but the formula for becoming one of the crowd. American wealth and sense of security used to be a long haul up the job ladder, now timing, and luck are playing much larger roles in getting wealthy. Stock options in corporate America have aided in spreading the wealth. Stock options have become very versatile due to the fact they can attract new employees, keep employees in the fold and motivate them to work harder.

Is The American Dram Lost?


What Do You Think?

Do you Believe The American Dream is Lost?

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Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia has legions of Home Depot and Coca Cola stock option millionaires. There was a time when people thought a good company was one that offered excellent pay and benefits. In the new economy we are more focused on the company's future success. During this time Disney lost many top executives to new Internet companties. Unemployment was low in the late 1990's. Home ownership was up, and the income gap was still a problem. Wealth was being spread as companies gave their employees a stake in the company. By making the employee a stakeholder in the company this picked up the pace of innovation.

Important Economic Values

It is vitally important that we share past experiences to teach economic values to our children. When children see people with so much and working so little they can develop the idea that this is the common way of life. They will be in for a rude awakening when they reach adulthood. The sense of old fashioned work ethic must be upheld. You can not build a great society in that type of environment. When all of the media hype comes to a halt I feel that it will be a good steady paycheck which will not feel that you are working for nothing. Life is not about attaining a six figure income, staying up with your neighbors, nor is it about who has more. At the end of the day middle class income will be steady and happiness will no longer be valued by your worth.


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    • Alicia Fey profile imageAUTHOR

      Anne T Cormack 

      3 years ago from Lancaster, CA (Mojave Desert)

      It also takes removing barriers that will hold some people back such as single parents. Besides that each person's American Dream is different from others just as happiness has a different meaning to each person.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      the American Dream is not attainable by everyone, yet it is available to everyone....that is why it is a dream...a vision to strive for to achieve! And it takes that individual achievement to sustain the Dream and eventually, earn it!


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