The ‘American Dream’ in the 21st Century
The American Dream is an integral aspect of the culture and history of the United States of America. It is a ubiquitous concept embedded within the American territory and has garnered a great deal of reputation among other countries. The American Dream has made several immigrants view the United States of America as the Promised Land full of endless opportunities (Daka 3). It has also been an element that brings together people from different social backgrounds, races, and nationalities who uphold common values such as happiness, equality, and freedom. However, the 21st Century United States of America has continued to face challenges spanning from sup-par economic performance to material inequality. While the United States has its struggles economically, politically, and otherwise, the American Dream is still attainable in the 21st Century if the government adopts proper policies, and the marketplace is expanded, including sectors such as the high-tech start-ups of Silicon Valley.
A Glance at the American Dream
James Truslow Adams first used the phrase, ‘American Dream’ in 1931 in his book, The Epic of America. His definition of the American Dream was “a dream of a land in which life should be better and fuller and richer for everyone, with opportunity for each person according to ability and achievement “(Bloom at al. 95). The American Dream does not include high incomes and newest motor cars, but it is a social order dream whereby each woman or man should be able to accomplish to the full potential of their inherent capabilities and get recognition from others, regardless of their position or birth circumstances. Therefore, the American Dream goes beyond achieving material wealth to include power and status. Adam’s conceptualization of the American Dream is premised on democracy and opportunity, and the concept is associated with values such as equality and freedom (Abbott 18). However, since the phase is abstract and mostly used loosely, the definition has continued to evolve over the years.
In the book ‘The American Dream in the 21st Century,’ the dream is identified as a state of mind whereby individuals may continue to experience adversities, but they choose not to give up as they continue to work towards attaining their goals (Velikova 2). Apart from hard work, other values that have been incorporated as a guiding principle to achieving the dream include material wealth, competition, equality of opportunity, self-reliance, and individual freedom. Americans have been made to believe in the dream, and, unsurprisingly, most of them believe that they can lead a better life compared to the previous generations.
However, the United States has undergone significant economic, political, and social transformations, which have changed the original values of the American Dream through the years. For instance, people have continued to learn about the inequalities undermining the American dream in society. Furthermore, people have increasingly become more concerned about material gains while disregarding the moral and spiritual values (Daka 5). Americans have also increasingly become more of consumers rather than producers. Therefore, values have been corrupted, and the American Dream has become commercialized. The U.S. is not economically sustainable, thus, no longer the land of endless opportunities. Not everyone is lucky to have a good car, and an amazing house or even a successful business as some people continue to struggle, and others have tried and failed (Daka 5). Eventually, people get to understand that the reality is the American society goes beyond what has been captured in the American Dream.
The Reality of the American Dream in the 21st Century
Presently, the reality of the prospects of the American Dream is embedded in stories of success and failure. For instance, during the last presidential election campaigns, CNN Money conducted a poll to establish whether Americans believe that the American Dream is a reality. The findings indicated that most of the people in the United States have accomplished their dreams, and others indicated that while they have not yet attained their dreams, they still believe it is possible to even with the challenges (Ghani 40).
In 2015, the Ney York Times Newspaper featured an article entitled the American Dream is Alive which had the success stories of the American Dream in various domains (Ghani 43). The article highlighted significant government accomplishments and developments in areas such as technology, industry, and economy that has benefited the society as well as the populace. The marketplace has continued to expand with both start-ups and older companies, providing economic opportunities for all people without discrimination. The Market Watch website indicates that the realization of the American Dream varies from year to year and city to city. For instance, owning a home is mostly considered as a vital component of the American Dream. By 2017, homeownership was at sixty-four percent, which indicated that the American Dream is somewhat real (Ghani 41).
However, while some people get to attain the American Dream, others dismiss it as a mere myth. For instance, research done by CNN in 2012 about poor living conditions among American citizens and the government’s failure in addressing their issues and facilitating the attainment of their dream showed the darker side of the American Dream. The findings highlighted the increasing unemployment issues with unpaid student loans accumulating up to $1 trillion (Ghani 41). There are also issues of unemployed single parents who cannot afford proper healthcare for their children and the state budget deficit.
Furthermore, there is a noteworthy inequality between the average and poor people’s tax returns in the United States (Ghani 41). Companies also have the power to stay profitable at the expense of consumers. Therefore, the government is failing to develop proper policies to facilitate the attainment of the American Dream. In the book, The Great Divide, the author addresses issues of economic mobility and income inequality in the United States. The students’ loan crisis is another aspect that has highlighted the failure of the American Dream since it is both a cause and consequence of unemployment and slow economic growth.
Overcoming the Obstacles
While the inequalities and reduced opportunities are threatening the reality of the American Dream, it can still be realized through concerted efforts by the government and the populace. For instance, the government should adopt better education policies and especially regarding financing since the student loans are getting young people into poverty since one does not always get a proper job immediately after they graduate from college. Americans should also be economically supported so that they can be more producers than consumers can as they work on expanding the market place. For instance, the start-ups of Silicon Valley should be encouraged as they get to offer job opportunities. The U.S. Justice System should also exercise democracy because it maintains security and stability in the country (Ghani 43). The American society should also be committed to establishing an equitable system that provides equal opportunities to each person regardless of their social status or backgrounds and works on the systemic racism (Ghani 43). Therefore, American society should provide opportunities, freedom, and equality.
Overall, the American dream functioned to inspire Americans to keep working despite the adversities. It was premised on the concepts of equality, democracy, and opportunities. However, through the years, Americans have become obsessed with material success while disregarding the moral and spiritual values. Resultantly, America has continued to report significant inequalities between the rich, the ordinary people, and the poor. The reality of the American Dream has been compromised, but with proper government policies (such as policies, which promote equality) and the expansion of the marketplace, the American Dream can still be attained in the 21st Century.
Abbott, Blake. “Walking Away From an American Dream, Or How a Million Strategic Defaults Helped America Rethink Homeownership.” Argumentation and Advocacy, vol. 54, no. 1-2 (2018): pp. 16-33.
Bloom, Leslie Rebecca et al. The Myth of the American Dream: A Readers Theater. International Review of Qualitative Research, vol. 11, no. 1, (2018); pp. 95-115.
Daka, Nikolina. Advertising: Selling the American Dream. Diss. Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2019.
Ghani, Zoulikha. The American Dream; A Reality or a Myth? Diss. 2018.
Velikova Petkova, Boryana. “The American Dream in the 21st Century. Will Smith and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’.” University of the Balearic Islands. (2016).