June 3, 2019
The Importance of the American Dream
Since our earliest ancestors, the idea of a “rags to riches” story has always been enticing to immigrants and native-born people alike. My mom was a native-born American who struggled economically but was able to succeed due to her work ethic and ability to connect with other Americans all around the country. My dad struggled in a different way, as he was othered for his family’s immigration, yet was able to overcome this adversity through his passion for education and knowledge. My parent’s stories have equally impacted me, displaying the importance of the American Dream. My family’s mixed social and economic background has led me to value the ideas that everybody, fortunate or not, should be given opportunities to succeed in America.
My mother experienced many challenges throughout her early life living in an economically challenging position. My mom was born into an Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia during the early 70s. Her ancestors immigrated to America centuries before her and fought for our freedom in the American Revolution. Yet as she grew up, she remarked that “we didn’t have as much as other people had...but we were very happy” (Christine). She lived in a comfortable lower-middle-class community even though her family had been one of the first to ever settle in America. She did not have the economic gifts like some others which made “high school and college very challenging years for [her]” (Christine). Like some other lower-middle-class American families, her three brothers and herself struggled to find the money to afford college and help provide for her parents. This led to my mom taking egregiously unfair student loans leading to a constant debt that took years to be repaid. My mother’s childhood was difficult for her and her family, even though they had been living in the US for hundreds of years before her.
My mom was able to elevate herself out of the lower-middle-class due to her work ethic and ability to connect to all different types of Americans through her relatable American beliefs. Even in my mom’s middle and high school years, she worked hard with the few opportunities given to her. She exclaimed that to this day that she “can always outwork anybody” (Christine). Even though her economic situation put her at a disadvantage to succeed, she worked as hard as she could to find success. She wasn’t given the economic or genetic gifts that some other luckier people were given, yet she always found ways to overcome her challenges. Due to her distinct American traditions and beliefs, she was able to make powerful friends with people all around the country. These people gave my mom sportscasting jobs “starting in D.C, to freezing Minnesota, and finally at ESPN in Bristol” (Christine). Her American identity gave her an advantage over other sportscasters as she could not only connect to agents and executives from all areas of the US, but to the viewers too. With this advantage, she gained a following of agents and television viewers alike, leading her to success and prosperity in her industry. This mix of pure hard work and an ability to connect with people all over the country allowed her to succeed without the economic fortunes that other people possessed.
On the other hand, my dad had the economic gifts that my mother didn’t control, yet he felt othered growing up. My father’s father immigrated from Puerto Rico in the early 1930s and like most other immigrants, were “not easily assimilated into American culture” (Defining Whiteness). My dad’s family struggled to connect with Americans like my mom’s family, who had lived in America with other native-born Americans for years. This caused my dad’s family to feel like outsiders living in the Upper East Side of New York City throughout his entire childhood. While my mom struggled financially, my dad did not. He lived comfortably in a nice neighborhood and enjoyed the fruits of his father’s success as an entrepreneur and businessman. He was “able to attend lucrative private schools in New York City” (Eduardo Sn.), dissimilar to my mother who could barely make ends meet throughout high school and college. My dad’s foreign descent caused him to be looked at as an outsider, even though his family was wealthier than most.
My father was able to overcome racial challenges he faced by valuing the importance of education. His family had always prided itself for how it treated the importance of education, specifically in the fields of medicine, law, and business. My dad believes that his passion for attaining new knowledge “allowed [him] to connect with people who had different backgrounds as [he] knew more about their history and beliefs” (Eduardo Sn.). Through education, he was able to understand why some native-born Americans acted differently from him and his family. He not only could understand their differing beliefs and ideas, but he realized that “education gives us the perspective of the things around us” (Education). With this new perspective he gained, he could assimilate better into American society, unlike his ancestors before him. My dad’s unique attraction to attaining knowledge throughout high school and college allowed him to better understand the perspectives of others, leading to him finding a new American identity for himself and his family.
Through the combined stories of my parents, I believe that everybody deserves an opportunity to overcome the challenges that they face. While my mom overcame economic challenges and my dad overcame othering, I realize that it is important that no matter the difficulties one faces, they should always be able to find success because that's the American dream. Unfortunately, that is not currently happening as “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” (Reinicke). The less fortunate are losing these opportunities as they are now struggling to find a way to elevate themselves into a more comfortable and stable position socially and economically. Not only are the rich getting richer, but “we’re starting to lose the iconic middle-class families that once were a staple of American life” (Christine). With the shrinking middle class, our nation is beginning to lose its identity of the “rags to riches” story that our nation’s founders once believed in. From the earliest of my mom’s ancestors, they also believed that no matter the challenges, Americans can overcome those challenges no matter if it's the severity. Through my parent’s stories, I recognize the value of the American Dream and what that means to our identity as Americans. From these stories, I believe that everybody deserves the chance to achieve their own American Dream and break social or economic barriers that they face.
I appreciate the importance of the American Dream from my parent’s stories of overcoming different social and economic challenges. My mother used her American heritage and beliefs to connect herself with all Americans across the country and escape her economic struggles. My father utilized education to assimilate farther into American society and leave behind the racial othering he faced throughout his childhood. Since the earliest days of our great American country, people immigrated to this country in order to find success and wealth through this idea called the great American Dream that we all slowly losing today. It is important that all of us make decisions to help provide opportunities for the less fortunate so they can live the American Dream they all desire.
“1910s-1920s: Immigration, Defining Whiteness.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 27 May 2008, www.nbcnews.com/id/24714378
Christine, Interview, 28 May 2019
Eduardo Sn., Interview, 30 May 2019
Reinicke. “US Income Inequality Continues to Grow.” CNBC, CNBC, 19 July 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/07/19/income-inequality-continues-to-grow-in-the-united-states.html.
“Why Education Is Important to One's Success in Life?” Knoji, 23 Feb. 2011, learning.knoji.com/education-is-the-key-to-our-success-in-life/.