The American Dream: There is More to Happiness than Hard Work and Success

October 6, 2011
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All over the globe, people have looked to the United States as the land of new hopes, new lives, and a place to establish their American Dream. As Martin Luther King Jr. so famously stated in his I Have a Dream speech, “even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But do these words of Martin Luther King Jr’s American Dream hold true for all people? The American Dream is often defined for people to achieve their full potential regardless of whom and what they are. In particular, people often point to those of minority races, but often forget those of multiple heritages. The way it affects people of mixed ethnicity and cultures, the American Dream is not what some ideally envision it to be.

As a child growing up in a biracial and bicultural community myself, I do feel affected similarly. From a small age, I have been brought up in an international community where differences are embraced. As a young kid, I expected people everywhere to be the same. But I soon learned through my summer camp experiences in the States that many people didn’t immediately welcome me because they were confused. It was not only until over time, people realized I was not much different for them; I was just receiving American education in another country. America is definitely the land of opportunities, but it may not always be the land of dreams, especially to people of biracial and bicultural upbringing.

For example, in a Newsweek article about growing up biculturally, Caroline Hwang writes about her struggle to be “The Good Daughter” who listens to her parents’ commands yet is unable to listen to her personal dreams. On a trip to the dry cleaner, Hwang accidentally mispronounces her last name and is scoffed by the clerk who is a native Korean speaker; saying, “You don’t know how to speak your name.” As a child of immigrants, Hwang feels that her identity is “hardly that clear cut”—she is not a down-to-the-roots American but at the same time not a local Korean either. She is not fully accepted by either side of her heritage. Most importantly, her parents believe she is American, but she herself knows that she is in paradox between the American dream and the filial piety all Asians must fulfill. As a result, she is bounded by this filial piety, and cannot come to achieve her life’s wishes which she has been yearning so long for. It tears her up to think that she “went to school for a Ph.D. in English literature, thinking I [she] had found the perfect compromise” between her parent’s wish for her to be a lawyer and her personal dream of becoming a writer. Nonetheless, Hwang writes her article in a slightly reminiscent tone regarding how she is often faced with deciding between herself and her parents. Her tone of voice shows desire to be a changed person, but she doesn’t want to break away from her parents mold either. Hwang realizes that it is very unlikely that she will ever be true to herself; writing “I owe them [her parents] the fulfillment of their hopes for me.”



In a nutshell, America is a nation of immigrants driven by their motives to succeed. They immigrate to America in hope for a better life, freedom, a high-wage job; which essentially is what many believe to define the American Dream. America is based on the creed that “all men endowed with inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. But these immigrants do not realize that there is more to gaining ‘happiness’ than hard work and success. Being culturally accepted is just as significant. Because of this, people growing up biracial and bicultural find the American Dream even more difficult to attain. Cultural barriers hold people back from fitting into their environments and achieving their dreams. The capability of recognizing each person’s identity as unique is indispensable, and unfortunately is the factor for those wishing to achieve the American Dream are deprived of.





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Pumpkinscout said...
Oct. 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm
This is a great article! Keep writing!
 
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