The Death (or the Evolution) of “The American Dream”?

Is the "Dream" dead or is it evolving into something completely different?

“The American Dream” is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.  The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

-definition of “The American Dream”, courtesy of Wikipedia

A conversation on Twitter prompted me to find the actual term and the origination of “The American Dream.”  Today, to a large majority of Americans, the image of “Dream” is shattered into fine grains of sand.  You can pick it up, and yet it slides back onto the ground between your fingers.   If you asked me, Adams’ statement might have described what people back then considered “the Dream.”

Today, not so much.  We’re quick to say that the “Dream” is dead.  I have no argument with that.  But, rather than say it’s dead, the “Dream” has evolved, but we don’t know what the new definition means to us in 2011.  As Wikipedia noted, the American Dream has evolved during the past two centuries, decades, generations, and eras.

The nuclear family is no longer defined by "The American Dream" that we grew up envisioning.

The “Dream” now has different meaning to so many people.  No longer does it mean a nuclear family living in a house, with a two-car garage and a dog.  It’s a whole new ball game out here, gang.  Some of you can deny it all you want, but Ward and June Cleaver “isn’t walking thru the doors” again.

The same for the business world.  No company isn’t handing out bonuses or salaries so that their employees can keep up with the cost of living (which has dramatically increased as the economy has plundered since 2008).  Everyone’s for themselves these days.  Many have decided to go into business on their own, while many are still looking for the passion that will carry them into the next chapter in their lives.

I know that many of you read this blog when you get the chance to, but never offer comment.  Here’s my challenge:

What is “The American Dream” mean to you?

There is no such thing as a correct answer, because everyone has a different take on it.

I’m not writing this to hear myself talk.  You have a voice (or fingers to type).  How do you see the “Dream”?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. R.H. says:

    It’s pretty much the “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome. We feel that in order to feel “complete”, we have to build up, material-wise, consumer-wise, and etc., in order to feel that we’re living the “dream” or something close to it.

    To me, it’s a myth, as it stipulates from the quote, but everyone today should not adhere to that theory. We’re starting to learn that all of us have a “dream” of what we want to be and where we want to go. And most of it isn’t based on consumerism, financial, and materials. That’s the evolution of the dream that I’m referring to. As someone who was out of work for two years, I’m not driven by having the most toys, having a huge salary, or having the nicest things. I’m happy about what I have right now: health, sanity, and knowing that the life doesn’t end at unemployment or when things go bad.

    We, by human behavior, are consumers. We consume for so many reasons and consume so many different things. It’s how we condition ourselves to “consume” that needs to be adjusted.

  2. I think the American Dream is an elusive status. When it’s mentioned in our culture, it’s often associate with consumerism (home ownership, nice car, etc). I would argue that these pursuits are the very reason out economy has tanked. People feel the need to borrow themselves into the “dream” and over-extend themselves because by god, it’s what it means to be an American.
    Perhaps it’s evolved, but I’m convinced more and more that it’s always been based on consumerism, always will be, and is an absolute myth.

  3. A dream is an aspiration. A sense of greater possibility and a motivation to push through difficulty to a better day just beyond reach but within sight.

    It’s not a dream if you’re hanging on by a thread, trying to keep what you’ve already got. The aspiration of ‘greater, better’ is gone when all you’ve got is ‘protect, preserve’.

    In a fragmented society, I don’t believe that there can be a single vision anymore of what each individual aspires to. And yet, as humans, what we all want isn’t that different. It’s Maslow’s hierarchy: physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualization.

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