In 1931, James Truslow Adams came up with a prominent American ideal, The American Dream. Specifically, this ideal emphasizes that equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations to be achieved. In the 1950s, the American Dream had evolved to the comforts of home ownership and the opportunity to start a family. Unfortunately, today, many Americans believe that the American Dream is only obtainable by those who are privileged. This belief may further discourage those who are less fortunate and so they may automatically set a lower bar for their goals. However, this belief is contrary to my grandfather Pop’s story. Pop, who grew up in poverty, proves that the American Dream is, in fact, attainable to any American through hard work, perseverance despite wealth, social status, and circumstances at birth.
In 1943, Pop (Augustus W.) was born into a working class family in South Philadelphia. His father was a bartender at a local pub and his mother was a stay at home mom who took care of six children. At the age of twelve, Pop’s life suddenly changed when his father passed away due to an illness. Since the family was fatherless, the mother had to take on work in retail for less than $2 a day to feed her six kids. Troubles soon followed, Pop found himself in various schools due to disciplinary problems, causing havoc to the family. Also, Pop was struggling in school because of his lack of effort. He was performing less than ability. Pop luckily realized that if he was diligent and driven, he could have a successful life. After graduating high school, he saw an ad in the paper for an IBM aptitude test. If you passed this test, then you would be granted the opportunity to work at IBM. This seemed like a golden opportunity for Pop since he could not afford to attend college. He took advantage of this opportunity. He dove into textbooks for countless hours in order to prepare for the test. Out of the many tests, Pop scored one of the highest of the test takers. This was a lifeline for Pop. He soon was living in Upstate New York working for one of the world’s most prestigious technology firms. Pop’s technology team would go on to create the first mainframe applications. Pop enjoyed a successful career by advancing technology.
My family does not get to see Pop that often. Pop now lives on a remote lake in Virginia. However, when I do get to see him over the summer, I cherish the moments we spend together. When we are not riding the jet skis and swimming, we eat tasty foods and tell stories by the lake. The beginning of Pop’s life story may seem very sad to many. However, Pop seems to take pride of his life story. We even laugh, as my brother and I toss around a football. Pop tells us when he was our age, he could not afford to buy a football. So, he and his buddies bundled up newspaper in lieu of an actual football. Also, being the second youngest of six siblings, Pop was one of the last to use the bathtub. This may not seem terrible, but his family did not have the money to refill the bathtub with clean water. When it was Pop’s turn to use the bathtub, the bathwater had turned slightly dark brown. Pop’s stories remind me how lucky I am to be in this great country. It does not matter where you come from, if you work hard, opportunities will arise. It is okay to have doors close but be optimistic and look for the open doors.
Pop, in fact, did attain the 1950’s version of the American Dream, home ownership and starting a family. He bought his first home in Newburgh, New York by saving up his money from IBM. Eventually, he married Polly, another IBM colleague who was more privileged than Pop. The two came from two different economic backgrounds, however, they ended up together at the same place. They raised two children, one being my dad. I see my dad having the same work ethic as he wakes up at 4:45 am to make an early train into the city. My Pop was a great role model for my dad, who provided these tools for success. Both my Pop and my dad’s hard work and attitude inspires me to bring my very best every day.