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Elena Dickens

Ms. Price

English I Honors

20 March 2019

The American Dream

The American Dream was an idea that started as early as the founding of America. The

founding fathers of the United States included in the Declaration of Independence the ideals that

would later contribute to the concept of the American dream (The American Dream in the

Twenty-First Century). This eventually came to symbolize the “ideal life” that immigrants could

achieve in coming to the United States, an idea that is still present today. In modern society

many people feel that it is impossible to achieve (or just unfair in general). The American Dream

can be defined as the opportunity that any American has to pursue one’s own happiness and

success through perseverance and will power regardless of one’s circumstances. This definition

presents the idea that maybe not everyone has a chance to reach the American Dream. Through

how the concept has evolved since it was created and the different ways it is viewed today, one

can see how this definition is indeed reflected today in society.

The American Dream has remained a significant concept in American society since it

was first shaped and throughout history. In the The American Dream in the Twenty-First Century

article, the author states, “In the Declaration of Independence…The famous document states that

all people are created with “unalienable rights,” including life, liberty, and the pursuit of

happiness” (The American Dream in the Twenty-First Century). Back to when it was first

shaped, the American dream was an idea that anyone could come to or reside in the United States

and pursue happiness. This directly reflects on what it is defined as today. In The American
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Dream article, the author pronounces that “For many of the immigrants who flocked to the US

when the country was new, the American Dream meant the possibility of becoming a

landowner—an objective that was all but impossible in their home countries” (The American

Dream). This supports how the American Dream is defined today through how Immigration to

America is still extremely relevant. In modern society, the US continues to propose a chance for

anyone to come and be successful, get a job, build a family, and so on. Millions of immigrants

have seen America as an opportunity for a better life, a place to obtain this dream. However,

what are the chances of one achieving said life?

Inequality of opportunity has led many to believe the “American Dream” is not possible

to achieve for every person. America is full of considerable diversity, whether it comes to race,

religion, wealth, or education. Because not everyone is given the same chances, the American

Dream is not attainable by everyone, at least in a fair manner. This idea is presented in The

American Dream article, where the author states that “The American Dream has come to

symbolize tremendous, one-in-a-million success—something very few people actually attain”

(The American Dream). The author then goes on to say “A poll from the Pew Research Center in

2017 found that 36 percent of adults say their family has achieved the American dream and 46

percent say the American Dream is within reach for them. In contrast, about 17 percent say the

American Dream is out of reach” (The American Dream). America does indeed offer an

opportunity for people to obtain this “ideal’ life, however it is easier said than done. This

supports how the American Dream is defined because not everyone may get to the American

Dream, although possible. This makes it a possibility, but not for certain; the odds are not so kind

to everyone. Similarly, the author of The American Dream: Slipping Away? Article states that,

“Economic inequality is real and growing. Between 1977 and 2007, the income of families at the
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99th percentile increased by 90 percent; the income of those at the bottom 20th percentile, by

just 7 percent” (Neuman). Problems such as economic inequality and unemployment continue to

plague the US and contribute to the impression that the American Dream is not attainable for all.

Many people accept as true that the American dream may be slipping away, adding to how it is

defined today (Neuman).

It is seen that the ideology of the American dream is a complex one, and not everyone

views the concept the same way. So, what is the ‘ideal happiness’ then? The author of The

American Dream in the Twenty-First Century states that, “In times of economic hardship,

Americans’ perception of the American dream shifted. After World War II (1939–1945), it

became a promise that hard work and contribution to society would result in a career, access to

education, and a home. Later, during the Great Recession…the American dream became finding

a happy, fulfilling life” (American Dream in the Twenty-First Century). The American dream is

up to interpretation based on the person and what that person wants. One being in a place where

one is satisfied and happy with what that person has can be considered obtaining one’s own

dream, happiness, or success. The author of the article also presents that, “Some individuals

decided that the American dream is to find a happy, fulfilling life…This new dream…its

ultimate goal was self-fulfillment, not social advancement…many Americans believed it more

attainable” (The American Dream in the Twenty-First Century). This directly connects to the

how the American Dream is defined and one’s ‘ideal happiness’. To some, the American Dream

may not be the “picture-perfect” life, but a stable, happy one. Beauty is in the eye of the

beholder, this is the same when it comes to the American dream and achieving one’s dream(s).

Finally, it may be concluded the ideals of the American Dream have given not only

Americans, but immigrants the chance to achieve success through hard work no matter who one
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is. This concept, as old as the founding of America, has transformed much throughout history.

The journey to obtaining it has proved inconsistent, as well as today there are many contrasting

views on it. It is important that people recognize the impact the ideals of the American Dream

have on the country. In taking all this into consideration, one can see how evident it is that the

American Dream, although an uncertain idea concerning society, has been very real beam of

hope for many individuals and will continue to be.

Works Cited

Neuman, Susan B. “The American Dream: Slipping Away?” Educational Leadership,

vol. 70, no. 8, May 2013, p. 18. EBSCOhost,


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search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,custuid&custid=s8455861&

db=f6h&AN=87529514&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

"The American Dream." Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2018. Student

Resources In Context,

http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ2181500227/SUIC?u=ncowl&sid=SUIC&xid=fff8

bb1e. Accessed 17 Mar. 2019.

"The American Dream in the Twenty-First Century." Gale Student Resources in Context,

Gale, 2018. Student Resources In Context,

http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/HROFHK001023560/SUIC?u=ncowl&sid=SUIC&xi

d=0f4f1188. Accessed 17 Mar. 2019.


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