The American Dream

February 27, 2010
Many people believe in the American Dream. It gives them something to have faith in and something to work for. Over the last two centuries, people have come to America in search of better lives, and today we still have immigrants coming to America in search of something they cannot find in their native countries. Many of those who came and settled in America when it was first becoming a nation came with a hope for their futures, but they also helped shape the dream for those who have come after them. The American Dream has been changing and evolving as America has grown from its original settlements to the large and powerful country it is today. The American Dream was once a broad idea that meant different things to different groups of people, but it has been boiled down to something less diverse. The American Dream has been reduced to two major motivations – the quest for material wealth, and a quest for a higher quality of life through non-material values like love, family, and protecting the environment.
The American Dream was once a broad idea that meant different things to different groups of people. For example, the Puritans came to America to practice their religion without the interference of government and other religions. For Native Americans, who respected the land and the animals who lived on it, the Dream was not tied to material wealth and possession of the land. They believed everything was connected, and that humans should not disturb the earth. Their Dream was to live in harmony with the land. For Africans brought forcibly to America, the Dream was to one day live free. They believed that every race should be treated equally, and that they should have the same privileges and opportunities. Transcendentalists wanted to be free from political rule and govern themselves. Their dream was to pursue the goal of raising a family and choosing work opportunities without government telling them what to do. Each of these groups had different ideas and goals, and they pursued these goals in a variety of ways.
Today many people have abandoned the individuality and diversity of the American Dream and taken on a single quest – to get more money. The character of Walter in “A Raisin in the Sun” is a good example of someone who just wanted to get rich. He was hoping to invest money in a liquor store so that he could make profits. He wants to make money to support his family, yet he winds up mistreating them and neglecting them in pursuit of money. In a poem called “Money” by Dana Gioia, she says about money, “watch it burn holes through pockets.” This is so true today. People are constantly buying bigger and fancier stuff. It’s all about what you have, and who has better. In the movie “Death of a Salesman,” the main character’s dream is for his boys to become the top dogs and have massive wealth. He is disappointed when his dream doesn’t come true, and so he kills himself so that his boys will get the insurance. The values of family are distorted in the quest for money. According to the rock group Nickel back, “we all just wanna be big rock stars, and live in hilltop mansions driving fifteen cars.” It may be true that the love of money is the root of all evil.
While many Americans are seeking money in order to reach their goals in life, some Americans have adopted a version of the American Dream that seeks fulfillment apart from material wealth and success. In “Mammon and the Archer,” Richard tells his dad that money isn’t everything. It cannot buy time. Richard only had two hours to get a girl he is attracted to to agree to go out with him. For him, time is more important than money. However, Richard’s father gets Richard some extra time by causing a fake rush hour that makes Richard’s love interest miss the train. So in a way, money did buy Richard some time. The song “America the Beautiful” celebrates America’s diversity and opportunity along with the beauty of its land. While there are many sayings in American history that value money, there are also some that present higher values. For example, “Health is the second blessing that mortals are capable of. A blessing that money cannot buy.” Also, “A good reputation is more valuable than money.” Some people do quest for more money, but some people give it away to the poor and needy. This shows that they value taking care of others more than money.
Considering the perspective of early and present day Americans on the American Dream has led me to think critically about my own ideas and what the American Dream means to me. Money has not turned me into a person who is selfish and does not care about others. I try to use my money wisely. Money is second to family for me. I also believe in freedom, and the importance of non-material values like love, friendship, and family. I believe that there is opportunity for everyone to succeed, but achievement requires hard work. I am willing to work hard, but not just for money. I am still thinking about the American Dream and what it means to me. Sometimes my thoughts seem opposite each other. I’m still working it out. However, I believe that exploring the perspectives of others, past and present, has been helpful to me as I learn and grow.
For many, the American Dream represents the freedom to say what you want, to be what you want to be, and to do what you want to do without government interference. It is true that at one point the American Dream was broad and open to many ideas. These ideas helped shape America as it is today. But over time these ideas have dwindled down to two – money, and non-material values. In the future, the American Dream may be nothing more than the pursuit of money unless the minds of people become broader once again. I hope to show people there is more to life than money. The American Dream can be whatever we make it if we dare to think critically about where we have been and where we are going as individuals and as a country.

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Taishawn K. said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm
plez comment this work
Taishawn K. said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 9:35 am
this was one of my best pices in my opinion
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