The American Dream is a term that dates back to 1931, at which point James Truslow Adams writes about it in his book The Epic of America. Truslow writes, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” (P.214-215) However, the American Dream is actually a rather ambiguous term. Is it The American Dream of those who live in America? Or, the dreams of America for those who wish to live here? Depending on where a person lives, how they grew up, and ultimately who they are as a person will shape their definition of the American Dream.
The beginning of the United States declaration of independence contains the foundation for many “American Dreams.” The declaration of independence states… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” For many people in different countries, a government that’s basis is formed from these ideas is just a dream for them. Perhaps, the American Dream. Immigrants from all over the world move to the states to enjoy its liberties. For example in some parts of China, if you are caught practicing Christianity you may be put to death. In America however, you have the freedom of religion. Not only does America have religious freedom, but as the bill of rights states, a whole slew of liberties and rights. Several of these include freedom of the press to the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. People living under dictatorships live in fear everyday of their governments. These are the people whose American Dream can be found in the first paragraph of our declaration of independence.
For some people, possibly whose governments are similar to the United States, and are guaranteed these freedoms anyways, America is “the land of opportunity.” During the United States history, immigrants have been traveling here by the thousands. People come from all over the world, which is evident throughout America’s diverse culture, to start new lives here. Whether it was for the fertile land to farm, western gold rush to strike it rich, or its industrious nature, America was the place to be. In the past, when America was a much younger country, there were these stories that traveled worldwide about America. That anything was possible, and everyone got more than their share. For many people, the just all the opportunities, was the American Dream.
In contrast to an outsider’s view of the American Dream, many American citizens definition of the dream is nothing more than material prosperity. Americans do not really see the American Dream as freedoms and rights because many take these for granted. Instead, Americans work longer hours and more jobs so they can enjoy more cars, bigger homes, and just more stuff. America has become a very consumer based society. It seems to be everyone’s goal to “keep up with the Jones’s.” The rich people in America are idolized. They have TV shows about them, magazines, or in Oprah Winfrey’s case, both. Also if someone is not wealthy, that person may be looked down upon. For example many people have this idea that people on welfare are just leeches on society and have a negative predisposition about the poor.
The American Dream has an entirely different meaning to everyone. America appeals to many people because of the government system set up here; the basic rights and liberties guaranteed to its citizens. For others, the “land of opportunity” was an exciting new place to start a new life. American citizens often define the American Dream as becoming as rich as you can.