American Dream: What Does it Mean

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Dreams of becoming an absolute individual, living a carefree life, hoping for freedom, searching for unlimited options, and living without judgment and discrimination all cross different individual’s minds throughout their journey in life. All are thought of and considered to be a part of each of their American Dreams. The American dream is a term used so broadly and often changes from person to person and within different ages. It can be used in numerous ways but essentially the American dream is an idea that anyone who works hard, and obtains the potential to live happily, will have a successful life.

Lesson to be learned is that people always change. Not only do people change but their ideas and the way they see things around them change as well. Every individual has their own look at what a successful life includes. The American Dream is classified as the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American or a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.

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The American Dream was different between two famous people back in the late fifties or early sixties. First, Martin Luther King Jr had said he no longer wanted segregation to exist in American. His dream differed from John F. Kennedy’s in such Kennedy wanted to United States to run in a smooth manner and come together as one. The American Dreams are unalike within time and thought from altering perspective.

The dream is changed from person to person such as Dinesh D’Souza and Scott Russell Sanders. Souza said immigrants thought of Americans having everything they wanted and had the desire of coming to American. Sanders on the other hand wished to have a life like a woman. All four people had different dreams to get them to their successful lives.

A good beginning makes for a good end. Working hard to get what is desired gets things accomplished with a high held head. John F. Kennedy’s American Dream was for the United States to come together and run smoothly in order to reach goals. In Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address” essay, Kennedy talks about how we should accept others and help each other out. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”(482).

Kennedy was determined to see his dream come true. His main declaration was to not be discouraged by compromise. He states in his essay, “Let us never negotiate out of gear. But let us fear to negotiate” (483). Without negotiation and compromise Kennedy may not have accomplished his goal. Kennedy taught many a lesson of compromise without even trying. Every day, somewhere in the world, people are negotiating in order to find solutions to their issues.

As Jane Wells says, “Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.” Ever heard the saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”? Every day people are walking the streets being judged by the color of their skin. “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most memorable speeches of all time. King had a dream to end all segregation and wants people to open their eyes and realize that all are different and should be accepted.

In King’s essay he states, “I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by color of their skin but by the content of their character” (487). Yet time has changed and people have too, there are still people that judge by a person’s skin or race. “Even though we may face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed- we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” (487). King’s dream is slowly coming more and more alive through time.

Discrimination is a disease that can’t be tamed. Not only do people judge people by the color of their skin, some are tormented for their sexualities. Bob Summers’ American Dream deals with him wanting to be accepted for being gay. Summers writes an essay called “Oak Ridge, Tennessee”, expressing how he felt left out just because he was not straight. He was set apart from his East Tennessee community all because of his homosexuality.“The only things I excelled in were checking out library books, mural painting, and going to movies, usually alone (37).

Summers was not into sports all that much but the other boys were so he would memorize sports scores and batting averages just to impress his male classmates and his father with sports knowledge. Summer eventually finds a boy named Jack that he can relate to and walk to classes with. “We never grew to be best friends, but we did become well-acquainted enough to trade sly jokes in the hallway between classes” (37). Summers wanted to be accepted and be comfortable in his shoes but it was not until he met Jack that he was able to do so. Summers American Dream was to be recognized for who he was not by his sexuality.

You always want what you can’t have. For most it’s you want what others have that you do not. Observing another’s life and comparing it to your own, leads you to wanting not what you already have but more. In the essay, “The Men We Carry in Our Minds,” Scott Russell Sanders discusses the roles men and women played back in earlier years.

Typically the men were the working ones, whether it outside farming or building, etc. Women were in charge taking care of the kids, cleaning up, feeding the family, and anything to help out their households. When growing up Sanders did not wish to grow up and be like the men. Instead he wanted to live the life of a woman. He would watch his father slave over the farm. “Worked all day long whatever the weather, and when they came home at night they looked as though somebody had been whipping them” (295).

Meanwhile his mother would stay inside taking care of the house and children. Sanders states in the essay, “Before college, the only people I had ever known who were interested in art or music or literature, the only ones who read books, the only ones who ever seemed to enjoy a sense of ease and grace were the mothers and daughters” (297). During college Sanders learned that not only did he want the life of the women but women wished to be like the men because “fathers made decisions that mattered.

They ran the world” (297). Not every person wants what they get in life, but all can make an effort to get where they want to be. This is where your American Dream comes into play. If a desire is so high that an individual’s belief will make their life more successful and happy, they will push until they meet their goal.

The American Dream to a lot of people includes happiness, freedom, and most importantly wealth. Dinesh D’Souza’s essay, “Becoming American”, he expresses that immigrants want to come to America due to the money. Souza states “As for immigrants, they allegedly flock to the United States for the sole purpose of getting rich” (435). Not only does America have money but it has more opportunities to make a living because of the number of jobs and has more freedom. People view America as a better place then where they are living as immigrants.“The newcomer who see America for the first time typically experiences emotions that alternate between wonder and delight” (436).

America sounds like the flawless and ideal place to live. Souza mentions the difference between America and other countries by saying, “Here is a country where everything works: the words are clean and paper smooth, the highway signs are clear and accurate, the public toilets function properly, when you pick up telephone you get a dial tone, you can even buy things from the store and then take them back” (436). Coming to America is often a goal for others are the world and in many individuals “American Dream”.

There are many different ways to classify people such as class. Each and every class whether it may be upper class, middle class, or class, all have unique ways of going about things. In Floyd Dell’s essay, “My Sixth Christmas”, he talks about what living in the lower class was like. The only catch was Dell did not realize he was a part of the lower class himself until the end of the essay. “That was it. I was one of those poor children I had been sorry for, when I heard about them in Sunday school” (20).

Dell had finally picked up on the clues such as eating the same thing for dinner every night, his shoes were completely worn down and were not able to receive new ones, he didn’t attend school in the fall, and his siblings were sent off to a relative’s house. Dell believed that where you start out in life is relevant to your end point. Immediately Dell’s American Dream changed, now all he wanted was to not be a poor boy. American Dreams can change right before your eyes within a few moments because of an event. The American Dream is changeable from person to person and event to event.

The American Dream is nothing but a general term that cannot be classified as only one real meaning. Each and everything person has a different dream and perspective on what an American Dream is to them. The American Dream changes from each person within different ages and places. The American Dream has not changed, the perspectives of it has. Many things such as race, sexuality, and class all play into what each individuals American Dream becomes.

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American Dream: What Does it Mean. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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