The American Dream

I was reading a post from someone a little while ago (and I’ve lost the link now, but if I find it again, I’ll link the post!)  She was talking about the American Dream.  In college, I had a whole history class devoted to the notion of the American Dream.

Dr. A was so great at what he did.  He was a fantastic professor.  I was in my senior year, my last semester of college.  I had already completed my Senior Thesis class the semester prior, in which I wrote about immigration in the United States–not an easy topic to be sure.  So, I thought I would take a 1000 level course with a professor that taught my Methods of Teaching History class.  He was tough, got me to think in new and creative ways about presenting the lessons of history.  My mind had never been so twisted in my life.  So naturally, I thought that he wouldn’t be too tough in a 1000 level course (read: I thought I was going to be taking an easy course)–not like he was in my 4000 level Methods class.  Boy, was I ever mistaken.  That history class was (and will remain) THE TOUGHEST college class that I’ve ever taken.

He was the only professor that taught current American History.  Most history classes start with Colonial history and it abruptly ends with WWII.  History stops for most people there.  I mean, we KNOW about Vietnam and the 70s and 80s…but too many teachers think that it’s too close in our American Memory and the wounds are too fresh to teach it.  It’s rather a shame, too, it’s interesting history!

So anyway, I decided that I wanted to have a definition of the American Dream.  I mean, I understand it–probably too well and I was kind of curious if the definition had changed much since I was in college (in what 8 years?)  It hasn’t.

I remember the first day of the class when Dr. A said, “Define the American Dream.”  He wrote on the white board (or was it chalk, I can’t recall)  And 44 students did not know what to expect.  So, I raised my hand.  I said, “A white picket fence, a dog a husband and a few kids running around playing in the precious Denver water”

That was *actually* not the correct answer, can you believe it?  I figured that most Americans WANT that (well, maybe not EXACTLY that, but something similar).  Dr. A started talking about the poor people in the US and how actually they were getting poorer and poorer, while the top 5% were getting richer…by means of places meant to steal from the poor and line the pockets of the rich: eg, Rent-a-Centers and Payday loan stores.  I could actually write a whole term paper on this thought, but I really don’t want to write someone’s paper today.

In the 1950s, the standard of living was set fourth by the types of items that you had in your home. (citation needed) Such lists included a refrigerator, washing machine and other various appliances.  Today, we look at whether someone has a computer and access to the Internet as a measure of some sort of wealth.  There is a technical way of determining wealth and the standard of living, but I’m not going to post that here.  That really isn’t the point of this.

I asked Rob on the way to the Class 6 what his American Dream was and he said that I was asking him to recite a 20 page essay to me.

My American dream is this: Husband (got it) master’s degree, own a home (I don’t need a white picket fence, but I do NEED a fence!)in a major metropolitan city (but near my husband’s family–I could totally agree with Cincinnati!), get a high powered journalism job, have at least one child (but I’d like 2 or 3), a cat and a dog (got it). 

What is your American Dream?

6 thoughts on “The American Dream

  1. That is so hard to pinpoint. I guess I am pretty much living my dream. I will have to think on it more. I have the house and hubby and family. I fell like something is missing. I am in search of something to fill in the spaces, some way to make a difference, to give back.

    I have a degree to teach history but haven’t used it yet. I am now a SAHM and know I don’t have what I think it takes to give to students with my life so busy at home. Maybe when the kids are older I will go back… Here from NCLM

  2. Girl…I could write an entire essay on this myself!

    I think my idea of the American Dream has changed over the last few years, which I guess is normal.

    I have achieved much of my dream (wonderful husband ~ at least today anyway, law degree, good health, financially comfortable). But, a big part is missing & that is children…which we will start working on via IVF in July! Also, I would love a house in the country…no picket fences here! 🙂

    On a bigger level…my dream is that there won’t be so much poverty. I agree that the places you mentioned (ie pay day loan joints) make it harder for the poor to ever get out of the hole & it is sad. Also, the fact that there are so many people in America w/o health care is a tragedy.

    But, I am only one person right?!?

  3. House with a yard in a good neighborhood with good schools, husband, kids, yard for dog. Job that pays well and challenges me and I enjoy the challenges; job that allows me to put family first.

    Here from NaComLeavMo. Great post!

  4. This is a great post, Amber!

    It took awhile but I think I now have my personal American Dream. I have the sexiest, most supportive husband, a brave and creative son who cracks me up, a 21 year old cat who I love to pieces and a balcony where I can drink my coffee as the sun rises. I’m also, finally, trying to write the Great American Novel while working in the legal profession. I can’t ask for much more.

    I would like to see more truth, less fear, lower prices and better health care.

  5. Mine is like yours. A husband, nice house with a yard, good job, dogs and 2 kids. I’m finally on my way to child #1, and I’ve got all the rest – so I’m pretty much living it. And loving it.

  6. Andie says:

    Here from NCLM … I”m from Canada so I’m not sure if my answer would go under the great Canadian dream?

    I wish I could say I’ve moved away from the “things” I’d like to have to more “inner directed” goals – like being at peace with who I am, and working to bring peace and a better life to all our fellow human beings in the world.

    But somehow those are hard to quantify & hard to measure, and as much as I do get flashes of inspiration to reach for them – it’s so much easier to think in concrete terms and to fall back into what I find comfortable or rewarding in the moment. (take tonight for example – it woudl be most in harmony with my deepest goals to tidy & clean the house, do a time of prayer/meditation, and get to bed early. Instead I am cooking up a favourite guilty pleasure, pouring a glass of wine, and spending time on the computer and probably with a book).

    Maybe my dream is to have all the basic necessities of life, and enough security & the comforts of life, to be able to not have them matter to me as much as they do. I hope that makes sense, otherwise it means the wine is hitting me early tonight!

    Thanks for a thought -provoking post.

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