As first introduced by James Truslow Adams (1931), the enthralling phrase known as the American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. (What is the American Dream) In a cursory perception, the said concept would simply be alluded to mens desire to satisfy their materialistic and monetary needs, e.g. having their own cars or getting high salaries. However, beyond such superficial understanding is the value for peoples equal rights and the social order tied to it (Center for New American Dream, p4).

The Dreams core is to give settlers equal chances in taking advantage of the United States socio-political and economic resources. Anyone armed with his innate capability, ideally, has a promising future as his race, gender and such would not pose as hindrances to achieving his goals. Anyone with skills and hard work can equally aspire for a better life (The Century Foundation p1). The hedonistic satisfactions, such as enjoying a vacation, having a nice house, finishing college, emotional growth, etc, are simply the by-products of the principle of egalitarianism.

The idea of an American Dream has been evolving through time. In the course of history the perception of the American Dream has been shifting its emphasis.

The founding fathers, in 1776, sent The Declaration of Independence to King George III of England request freedom from the English rule. This was under the premise that governments basic purpose was to protect the rights of its people (Cullen p40). With the English government having been unable to accomplish such purpose, the people of America thereby had withdrawn their consent to the then English sovereign. It is important to note that this political philosophy put forth by the drafters of the Declaration is highly influenced by the Lockean School of thought.

In the Two Treatises of Government, John Locke, the founder of classical liberalism wrote that men are born equal and that the natural rights of men are life, liberty and property. Man surrenders his powers to the sovereign in return for the latters advancement and protection of formers natural rights. Essentially, the equal perpetuation of such individual rights is the foundation of the government. Additionally, being among the pioneers of individualism, Locke promoted self-reliance and independence in achievings ones ambitions and desires. The government provides its subjects with the venue to succeed (through upholding their rights) and leaves it for the subjects to utilize such opportunities (Cullen p46).

The Declaration of Independence of the United States bears 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. It could be deduced that prior to Adams coining the term, our founding fathers already have had an American Dream in mind, that is, a life in a society that is governed by an institution that oversees and secures the peoples natural rights thereby providing its citizens the best arena to individually prosper. It could be deduced that American Dream of our forefathers focused on the abstract philosophies of freedom and rights (Cullen p48).

Different from the multicultural U.S. that we know of today, America then was a nation of European exiles. Equality did not encompass people beyond the white protestant race. The Discrimination against other cultures, races, nationality, etc. was evident. Particularly, during such era, the Native Americans were the primary target of alienation  their cultures were suppressed, their lands were seized by the, a large number of Indians were murdered. The American Dream of ideally providing equal rights and opportunities across all nations did not mean ALL nations in reality. The promise of a better life in exchange for industry and hard work was only made available to the white European race immigrating to America (Cullen p48).

As reinforced by a capitalist economy, the earlier European settlers were individually achieving their American Dreams. With their individual hard work, from being French and English (among others) exiles, they were able to reap and establish a life of peace, freedom and affluence. Collectively, this translated into a competitive and progressive US economy railroads were being constructed, businesses grew, salaries were high, people were happy. In a global sense, as United States has already achieved its independence from Great Britain as early as 1776, continents such as Africa and Asia were being exploited as satellite economies by their European colonizers up until late 1800s and early 1900. As America was being left alone to mend for itself, other countries were being sucked dry of its resources.

It is natural for humans to explore greener pastures when theirs are already dry and uncultivable. With the colonial exploitation at its height, nationalities from around the globe sought an escape, i.e. to a country that could provide the comfort that they have yet to experience in their respective countries. Being the center of colonial pursuits, Europe was logically the greenest pasture then. However, despite Europes booming economy, it was not the best option for those that sought to escape. The aspirants found it arduous to seek opportunities in their colonial masters home the colonizer-colonial subject relationship made it difficult for the latter to attain equal chances to succeed.

America, on the other hand, had a blossoming economy and boasted off its political independence. It became the luscious eye-candy for those who wanted an get away from their impoverished countries. Their dreams became the American Dream. The components of such dream were both the desire for social order and material satisfaction. However, as with the Native AmericansIndians, the concept of equality for all was simply a utopian ideal. Africans and other immigrants were not readily integrated as part of all. The Jim Crow laws (1876 - 1965) mandated de jure racial segregation whereas the African Americans and the Caucasians were to live separately but of equal stature. However, the principles of the said law only aggravated the prevailing racial injustice. The black Americans were separated from the white Americans in all public facilities. Housing, schooling, and even restrooms were segregated according to color. The marginalized then became an easier target for prejudice the treatment and social conditions provided to the non-whites were of inferior quality and at times there were no facilities provided for the colored, e.g. signage saying No Dogs, Negros, Mexicans (Pilgrim).

Martin Luther King Jr. bravely acknowledged and brought the spotlight to the governments false claim of upholding the American Dream. It could be said that the said African Immigrants are now better off relative to where they stood economically, prior to moving to America. However, the American Dream encompassed both the physical and abstract aspect. It was not all about the being able to eat or earn more. It was about that alongside the respect for their equal rights as fellow Americans. After almost a century of submitting to social injustice, they finally stepped up to claim what the Declaration of Independence stood for. This signaled further realization of that holistic American Dream. The iconic liberation reverberated around the world, with that more nationalities were attracted to migrate to the United States to experience and take part in that better life  both materially and socially.

After the World Wars, countries resources were destroyed and economies were devastated. Being among the countries that did not have its territory turned into a battle field, America emerged from the war barely scathed. More so, the Soviet Unions collapse paved way to U.S. rise to becoming the sole superpower of the world. On the other hand, the ward gave birth to third world economies. Most of the third world countries were previous colonies that were robbed of its resources and further used as the arena for the disastrous World Wars. They are the underdeveloped economies whose citizens experience poor standards of living. With this picture of the global economy, United States appeared as a patch of a rich green land amidst an arid landscape.

It is important to highlight this global change the imimmigrants were coming from countries with poor economies but democratic political rule. Socially speaking, oppression was not a primary issue. People from the underdeveloped democracies had equal rights  but could not achieve a substantial economic return despite their hard work. Although needless to say, they wanted a better life in every aspect of it, e.g. political, social and economic, the new wave of immigrants sought more of the monetary and material aspect of the American Dream.

From Senegal, West Africa, To St. Louis, Missouri he came down with his drum, and a dream to change the world, in a free uplifting world As a kid I never knew Id have to hustle just to make it through.  These lines from Akons song, Freedom paint a partial picture of how the present American Dream has become.  More than ever, imimmigrants still flock America in search of a better world for themselves and their children. Akon is riding the consumptionist market through selling his singing skills in the popular music culture in hopes of making it big.

The intensifying consumptionist market feeds the countrys capitalist economy and is still able to fuel the federal economy. To an extent, it is still being able to support its growing population. However, it must be noted that the U.S. economy is growing but not as fast as how its populace is exponentially burgeoning. The economic pie is being divided and shared to more and more American Dreamers. With this, their share in the pie gets smaller all the more. In a survey conducted last 2004, 3 out 5 Americans say that achieving that American Dream today is harder to achieve compared to how it was in their parents generation or 10 years ago. Among the reasons cited were unequal opportunities, i.e. favoring the rich, low wages and difficulties making ends meet and that Americans have lost touch of the more important values and are focusing too much on the material needs (Texiera, Center for a New American Dream p6).

Hes chasing the American dream and hes gonna give his family the finer things Not this time son Ive no time to waste, maybe tomorrow well have time to play, and then he slips into his new BMW, and drives farther and farther and farther away. So He works all day and tries to sleep at night, he says things will get better His American Dream is beginning to seem more and more like a nightmare  Daddy, can you come to my game Oh Baby, please dont work late. And they are slipping away, are lyrics from Casting Crows song, the American Dream. It is a sad truth how the American Dream has now been contradicting itself parents dream of providing their family a better future, socially and economically but in the process, as they soak themselves into so much work, they forget the reason why they are working in the first place. Employees also need to work hard to secure their jobs. They lose their familial values and get preoccupied with their material wants. A 2007 survey dissecting the components of an American Dream showed that out of 9 factors, having a job that secures the family ranks first while being able to afford more time for the family and the community ranks eight (Texeira).

In Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, physiological needs must be satisfied first before moving on to higher needs. Understandably, people are not focusing on social needs such as family and community because they have yet too satisfy their physiological needs. More so, as was discussed earlier, the new waves of immigrants came mostly from third world countries wherein impetus for leaving is the lack of substantial monetary return for their hard work. They came to the country to gain material satisfaction, logically, it is their primary focus. This is not to say that their American Dreams have already been fulfilled upon completion of their material desire, of course they would want to have a sense of belongingness and a holistic self-actualization, however at this point, they can only dream of such as they are still trying to satiate their first level needs.

The problem in the previous statement, however, is that the consumptionist nature of the market makes it difficult to quench such desire for material things. On the other hand however, this trend feeds the economy and keeps the market active thus creating more job opportunities for the American Dreamers like Akon. In 2008, this insatiability has taken its toll, people ceaselessly consume, loan, and swipe their cards up until such time that they could no longer pay for it. Defaults rose, lending dried up, banks were going down, houses were foreclosed, employees were getting laid off  it was the 2008 great depression. The American Dream was crumbling into pieces (DeGraw).

The founding fathers principles for founding the US Government were based on a social contract whereas the people surrendered their sovereignty to the government for the latter to secure the peoples life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The government has worked on the stimulus package to serve as the peoples net against losing their homes, jobs, etc. and thus perpetuate the American Dream. It is the peoples responsibilities to work hard for himself if he wishes to succeed but it is ideally the government duty to secure the venue for its people to grow.

The excessive consumption leads to the depletion of resources. As people consume in a rate that is more than natures production rate, there will be less and less for every generation. As United States population balloon more, the economic pie gets divided into smaller parts. As per the present statistical trends, Americans find achieving the American Dream becoming more difficult as generations pass. If the past and present trends continue, there will come a time that the economy will no longer be able to satisfy the American Dream in its holistic form. It can be likened to dieting it will eventually reach a plateau.

Globalization also factors in into the future of the Dream. With the low salary rates in developing countries, outsourcing of labor has become a corporate trend. In a sense, jobs are being taken away from Americans which could mean an increasing unemployment rate in the country (DeGraw). However, on brighter side, it is possible that with the globally distributed economic activities, third world countries may just reach a point where it could already provide its citizens with that substantial financial opportunity for them to no longer want to take part in the American Dream.

Maintaining the economy is crucial as it is among the foundations of the American Dream, it gives its settlers that shiny new car and gives the government the federal taxes to translate into spacious highways and Medicare Programs. Unless Research and Development efforts find ways to overtly maximize the dwindling resources, or that the government could find ways to stimulate the economies of the underdeveloped states, the government will have to limit and tighten the entry of immigrants to balance the resources and consumption. Otherwise, the American Dream will indeed become an American Nightmare.

Understanding the American Dream is dependent on ones standpoint and at which particular time is being considered. Some say that the opportunities have become more equal and just and some say that there are still discriminations and that the rich are being favored more. Some say that overtime, achieving the Dream has become easier and most others may contest. Most say that the government is aptly playing its role in keeping the Dream alive others claim that they are not keeping a more active role.

The earlier European settlers could be demographically considered as the foundation of the American race. With that said, they are at an advantage in achieving the American Dream in that they are socially treated as first class citizens (although this may be subject to debate) (Pilgrim). Migrants on the other hand had to double their efforts to compete for that better life. Although through the centuries, Chinese, Indians, Africans and other nationalities have already penetrated the mainstream of American culture. A living example of such is Barrack Obama who has successfully been elected as the first African American President of the United States.

The socio-economic changes, however, has had its effect on The American Dream. Success stories are not that easy for an average American. Getting a college education at times is not enough, or even having just one job does not suffice (Center for a New American Dream p3). With the growing population of American residents, competition intensifies. Not only are Americans competing with each other, they are also in competition with the global work force (DeGraw). With that, American laborers work twice or thrice as much, eventually forgetting other crucial values  they forget to rest, they forget to play with their children, and fail to have a holistic self-actualization.

In light of securing the Americans life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, the government works to alleviate downturns such as the Credit Crunch.  In the future, it the government may need to play a vital role in making sure that the American dream would not die.


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