What I think the American Dream truly is.

What is the American Dream, and what does it truly mean to be American? In the words of David M. Kennedy, a professor and prize-winning historian, the American Dream “has been all about freedom and aspiration and clearing the ground for achievement and the fulfillment of dreams.” Kennedy says the American Dream is to build yourself up to a point so that your future is in your hands. The American Dream is based off of success, having a family, and being happy. People try to accomplish the American Dream in many ways, and it seems that it is achievable by everyone.

However, that is not always true. Kennedy tells the story about his father, and how his dream was easily demolished by the Great Depression. Now, it wasn’t his fault, but that is what most people believed: they felt they were the reason their company failed or why they were fired. Kennedy states “...we’re hesitant to blame any factors beyond ourselves for the failures we inevitably encounter.” People blame themselves for their failures, even when they are totally and completely inevitable. They are impossible to avoid and can happen to anybody at any time. For example, Kennedy’s father worked in a artillery factory that paid decently. He saved up his money and invested in a copper mine, which was expected to break big and make a lot of profit. This all fell apart once the Great Depression hit. He went bankrupt in just a couple of months. Kennedy states, “My father felt that he had let himself down, he let his new bride down, and his whole dream in life he anticipated having was just absolutely gone.” His money was gone, and his dream was shattered. Kennedy says that it wasn’t actually his father’s fault. He states, “...any reasonable observer might have said ‘Hey, wait a minute. There was a systematic breakdown of some kind. The economy broke down.’ But the almost universal psychological response that men had to going unemployed was to feel guilty and ashamed and personally responsible for their situation.” People only blame themselves and feel that it was nobody else's fault that their own dreams were deconstructed.

We cannot blame ourselves for our failures when they come as the result of systemic breakdowns, that only leads us down a dark path. We have to see both sides of the story. Kennedy states, “The promise of this society is not always fulfilled. And among the things we need to pay attention to is the gap between the promise and the reality…” The communities that were once built around dreams and freedom now seem to be just that: a dream. Joe Maddon, an American professional baseball manager for the Chicago Cubs, talks about how hard it is that when parents work and kids have no supervision and guidance. So Maddon asked the question, “What do we really need?” Out of that, he created a community center, with the goal to integrate the community and build relationships with the community, especially for the youth. It was successful, creating bonds between children and adults, allowing many to be informed about current events.

The American Dream is to educate and communicate with each other, working for a common goal, being part of a whole, everyone in it together with full participation of every citizen, for the achievement and fulfillment of dreams. That is what it means to be American. To put it simply, to be American is to give yourself the freedom to be who you want to be and go where you want to go, to participate in healthy communities working for a common goal, together, for the achievement and fulfillment of dreams.




Columbus High School American Creed - Continuing the Conversation

This group consists of student responses to the American Creed documentary from PBS and Citizen Film.

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