Ever since I was a kid I’ve heard that phrase but I’ve never quite grasped its full meaning. At times I thought I understood it but at other times I wasn’t quite sure. It was all kinda vague. And now, at this ripe old age, that same refrain still begs and asks that question. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if many others share that same uncertainty though they might be ashamed to admit it. In my particular case however, a young kid, knowing only poverty, the concept of an American dream was far beyond my comprehension. In fact, even beyond the comprehension of the adults that surrounded me. And so, the concept of an ‘american dream’ escaped me, even into my adulthood. As time moved on however, it no longer mattered. Life went on, and as my personal circumstances improved, the question of an american dream was no longer relevant to me.
As it is my nature to be curious about almost everything however, I was still intrigued about the continued use of the phrase; especially since it is used constantly, almost to the point of monotony. So, one day when I had nothing else to do, I decided to dig deeper into its origin. First stop, Wikipedia, where I found James Truslow Adams, the man who first defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement.” Impressed by that definition I made a visit to Ellis Island.
I could only imagine the euphoria those refrugees felt when they stepped on shore; and who would they find there to greet them but Lady Liberty.
What I learned there opened my understanding and my appreciation as to what acheivements were possible, acheivements made possible by the United States of America.
Yes, there have been ugly periods in our history, witness: slavery, racism, Japanese internment, Native American atrocities, the inability of women to vote. These are nightmares that have at times marred the American dream. Some still exist. As we have progressed as a people however, many of those blotches have been eradicated. Others issues still remain and must be addressed if we are to truly attain that ‘more perfect union.’
There are varied examples that depict the face of the American dream. This is one.
Follow my next blog: May 30, 2012