Fill in the blanks: "If I have a job as a _____, then I can make a lot of____ and therefore I will be ____." The common and generalized idea of the American is to attend college, (graduate of course), and then work a high-paying job. After establishing oneself in the workplace, marrying and producing children is the logical progression written by the standards of society. All of this equates to happiness, obviously. Is this the American Dream? We have been conditioned to use the words 'money,' 'power' and 'happiness' interchangeably, so it seems. This "ideal" way of life mentioned above has been engraved into our minds as the correct way to live, and quite frankly isn't realistic anymore. So let's face the fact: According to the U.S. Census Bureau In 2012, the official poverty rate was 15.0 percent, leaving 46.5 million people in poverty. This is equal to the entire population of Canada, plus an extra 10,000 more people, roughly. Clearly, we cannot just say that all of these individuals have failed at finding the American Dream, so it has to do with more than just monetary units.
What is The American Dream? Well, according to the generic Google Search, it's "The traditional social ideals of the US, such as equality, democracy, and material prosperity." But what if my American dream is different from yours? What if one American dreamer struggles to make enough money to have food for her young child, and often goes without meals herself? Her American dream is to have her little girl experience a brighter childhood than she was ever given. Or another American dreamer who was raised from a family in poverty and goes to school every day wearing the same clothes, because that's all his family can afford. His American dream is to just feel accepted by his classmates. These heartbreaking examples are reality and it cannot be ignored any longer.
A documentary directed by the Academy award-winning filmmaker, Alex Gibney, "Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream" dives deep into this conflict. The film specifically looks at Park Avenue located in New York City. 740 Park Avenue is currently home to the highest concentration of billionaires in the country. Just five miles away from this address, the same Park Avenue runs through the South Bronx, which is home to the poorest congressional district in the United States. The film points out the richest of the rich, while directly down the street there are the poorest of the poor. As of 2010, the 400 richest Americans controlled more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the populace (150 million). So, maybe the richest citizens in the world have succeeded in finding the American Dream through their material prosperity and abundance of wealth. This just sounds so silly. How can a nation have a one-dimensional idea in which all citizens are supposed to abide by? Although the 400 richest Americans control a substantial amount of wealth for our country, this does not mean they control the way in which we define something as unique as a dream.
The origin of this American Dream came from a man named James Truslow Adams with the publication of his book, The Epic of America. In 1931, Adams defined the American Dream as the "dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." This sounds appealing and all, but I wonder how this could be truly obtainable. Everyone is certainly not given equal rights, so it seems almost impossible for a nation as a whole to have the same dream.
In a nation which embraces individualism and freedom of expression, comes a place where a copious amount of ideas and perspectives are encouraged. The idea that money equates to happiness and that it is the only defining characteristic of the American Dream is absolutely absurd. As the country progresses, so do the people who define our nation. With that being said, the real American Dream is not just a definitive and universal value to obtain. Instead, it has grown to become an infinitive response to the rapidly diverse population who comprise our "Land of The Free."