The American Dream

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Picture from “It’s SusDaveable!” Blog

During the DNC, First Lady Michelle Obama emphasized in her speech the idea of the American Dream and how this American Dream was the motivation of President Obama’s upbringing and a central theme for his presidency. Through touching stories about her parents and President Obama’s mother, she successfully presented the President as a relatable person, raised with hardworking morals and the promise of the American Dream. Though I feel she presented a moving speech that reached many viewers‘ hearts, I question this constant emphasis on the American Dream and its relevance to our country. Glorifying equal opportunity and meritocracy, the American Dream fosters a certain progressive attitude based on the foundational idea that if we work to our fullest potentials and persevere through the hard times, we will receive the ultimate reward in the end. Some see the American Dream as a white picket fence in the suburbs, a yellow lab running through the yard and a vehicle parked safely in the garage. I see the American Dream as a dangerous expectation, mainly due to the pressure many Americans face to try to achieve that dream.

According to Matthew Warshauer of Liverpool John Moores University, The American Dream has been replaced with the a new motive to “get rich quick.” Many Americans find themselves looking to find sources of money in many new abstract ways including “large-prize television game shows, big-jackpot state lotteries and compensation lawsuits” (“Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Changing conceptions of The American Dream”). At any cost, many people feel the need to get ahead and reach for the stars in terms of filling their bank account and purchasing status-related goods. Furthermore, The American Dream attributes to crime patterns due to the pressure that society places on monetary success. When someone wants something they may not have, yet they feel it is necessary to have based on social pressure, the stakes to obtain that item become more grave. The social pressure to reach the highest potential causes many people to feel unnecessary anxiety. In regards to immigration, many immigrants come to the United States in hopes of achieving the American Dream. When immigrants arrive and are faced with discrimination and restrictions, the socially constructed American Dream seems to slip from their grasps.

The American Dream is intended to be a form of motivation, and in some senses it has proved to be a positive motivation. In an article by The Colombian, produced in Clark County, WA, an immigrant to the United States from Mexico feels as though her life has vastly improved and is comparable to the idea of the American Dream. In the article the woman says that since she has been living in the United States, “she has been living the American Dream: working hard, providing a better life for her children, falling in love and marrying a wonderful partner, buying a home and settling down in Portland” (“Immigrant Takes Steps to the American Dream”). I think it is important that the United States try to move away from the slogan of the American Dream and simply focus on the hard work along the way. First Lady Michelle Obama emphasises the hard work her family and her husband’s family have gone through to get Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama to where they are today. The emphasis of their hard work is a great speech topic that will appeal to many voters. It is important to focus on the process of that hard work, rather than the final destination at the idea of the American Dream. Is the socially constructed idea of the American Dream even possible for everyone? Is it realistic for everyone? What happens when the stereotypical idea of The American Dream is achieved, what pressures might we face next?

 
Review this literature for more information on the American Dream and it’s social and psychological effect on the nation:
-“The New Class Society: Goodbye American Dream?” by Perucci & Wysong 
-The Meritocracy Myth by McNamee & Miller
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About rowlanda12

This is a blog about the 2012 presidential election. Content is generated by students in Professor Heldman's Politics 101 class. She does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here.
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One Response to The American Dream

  1. Greg Spooner says:

    You seem to be arguing that the aspiration of the American Dream (AD) should be dropped, while the hard work should be embraced. Don’t you think people need aspirations, though? I agree that the AD as presently understood ain’t so wonderful. But what aspiration should replace it?

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