American Dream

I’ve tried to avoid using this blog for a political platform and don’t plan to start today. But I have used it as a platform to remind us about traits upon which our country was founded – ingenuity, creativity, critical-thinking and problem solving and good old-fashioned hard work.

It just so happens that this week, several American Dreamers have captivated a national stage – partly due to their political association, but mostly because of their belief in the American Dream.

“Dreams that are impossible anywhere else, come true here,” said Marco Rubio Thursday night in front of a cheering crowd. “It’s a place where your past doesn’t define your future.” Does the Senator from Florida have room to talk? Ask his dad who escaped tyrannical Cuba, worked 18 hour days and sacrificed much so his children could live the Dream. But, it isn’t the story of one politician.

It’s also not the story of one former Secretary of State, a woman, of African-American descent who grew up believing that regardless of her race or socioeconomic background, she could be anything she wanted to be … with hard work, determination and tenacity. She lives the dream not because she was owed and someone gave it to her. She lives it because she dreamed it and accomplished one “impossible” after another. But it isn’t the story of one exceptional woman.

It is the story of anyone who dares to embrace it’s possibility. And that’s the beauty of the American Dream.

Moss Hart, an early Twentieth Century playwright described the dream this way in New York City: “It was possible in this wonderful city for (a) nameless little boy—for any of its millions—to have a decent chance to scale the walls and achieve what they wished. Wealth, rank, or an imposing name counted for nothing. The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream.”

Without hard work and determination, dreams can only get you so far. And can we consider for a moment that the American Dream (coined as such in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in The Epic of America) was never as much about fame and fortune as it was equality – an equal chance for everyone to dream and to realize their dream. Of course realization only reaches the extent to which we’re willing to fight for it.

But who’s willing to fight for it these days?

Most people, especially entitled young people expect someone to hand them the Golden Ticket. And why not? They’ve been handed tickets most of their lives. Some in the form of flimsily merited accolades and awards. Most in the form of parents and educators racing in to save, manipulate and finagle so that little Johnny is always happy. We’ve done a terrific job grooming them to be served – teaching them that not only do they “deserve”, they are, in fact, “owed.” As in: “Where’s my office with windows?”, “Here’s my college app for you to fill out”, “Can you get my clothes and put them on for me?” (The last was said to me this morning by my five-year-old. What’s a mom to do with those sweet brown eyes staring up at me? … “NO”.)

A study done by the Pew Research Center at the end of 2011 revealed that 49 percent of Millennials (age 18 to 29)—view socialism in a favorable light. In fact, young people are the only age group whose support for socialism outweighs that of capitalism.

According to a recent article in the DailyBeast, “[g]enerations growing up in recessions appear more amenable to arguments for government-mandated income redistribution. And since so few young people pay much in the way of taxes, they are less affronted by the prospect of forking over than older voters, who do.”

But, what about the American Dream? Glance past the political world to business. Was successful entrepreneur Steve Jobs looking for a hand-out to get his business off the ground? Did he turn around and want to give away his profit so someone who is “owed” could get it for free? The Dream only works when dogged determination paves the path. That’s the beauty of the dream. Blind to race, socio-economic class, nationality, and creed the American Dream offers opportunity to all who dare do it.

The success of the next generation is in everyone’s long-term interest. Before we look up, the Millennials will constitute the majority of voters, parents, homeowners (hoping they move out of their parents’), workers, and business owners. The numbers are growing. Up from 18 percent in 2008, this generation will represent 24 percent of eligible voters in the 2012 election cycle. In 2020, their ranks will total one-third.

Considering the fact that these future voters and leaders are our kids, are we training them to dream?

The American Dream can’t be accessed by an elevator. The only way to reach it is by the stairs. Step by step, floor by floor, we must encourage our kids to forge ahead, especially when the going gets tough. We just can’t step in and save. There’s too much on the line. We must stay back and cheer perseverance. Then, when they reach the top (because they will), we can point them to the next building and to the next, never needing or expecting an elevator.

Might our kids, like Condi Rice savor the flavors of problem-solving and critical thinking. May they embrace impossible at each and every turn along the way.

Here’s to the possibilities when we, take a back seat and make our kids run the stairs.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay

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