What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about America? Is it freedom? Equality? Diversity? Maybe it’s all of these things combined, or maybe it’s none. America means something different to everyone, but many of our core values are the same. The ideas our country was founded on are still relevant today and still an important factor in our lives. One of the most important beliefs in our society is the American Dream, which is not what it used to be. The American Dream is a dream for equality, prosperity, diversity, and acceptance.
The American Dream has deteriorated over time, or at least that’s what the article “The Transformation of the American Dream” by Robert J. Shiller says. Material goods and their worth have become increasingly important in our society. Forbes Magazine has started an “American Dream Index” which is based on material measures of prosperity such as bankruptcies, entrepreneurship, labor participation rate, and unemployment claims (Shiller). This perspective on the American dream is more common than it used to be and different from the usual definition of the American Dream. This difference becomes more obvious when looking at James Truslow Adams’ book “The Epic of America” published in 1931. This book is an advocate of opportunity based on ability and social order in which everyone is able to realize their full potential while being “recognized by others for what they are” (Adams qtd. in Shiller). The contrast between now and then becomes glaring after looking at these sources side by side.
Langston Hughes is one of the most well known poets in America for his work about the country. In his poem Let America be America Again, Hughes details the foundation of American society. He writes as though equality, diversity, freedom, sovereignty, are all important qualities in America. Hughes then goes on refute this belief by saying how America has never been America to him; he hasn’t experienced equality like it was meant to experienced. His exact words are “There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free”” which shows that although equality is one of our founding pillars, America is not always equal. According to Hughes, equality is a part of the American Dream but the fact that he has not experienced it shows how the dream is changing.
Despite the inequality that plagues our country, we have long remained a beacon of hope. The values of America are deeply rooted in our history according to “What it Means to Be an American in 2016” by Michael Cooper Jr., but we need to make a return to those traditions. Right now America has allowed “commercialism to take root” (Cooper Jr.) similar to what the first article said. We have allowed materialism to make an appearance. This is in violation of American traditions and values, and shows the step back we have taken, focusing on material goods. When our country was founded, there was a focus on what were to be American values, and what rights the people would have. The materialism Cooper Jr. speaks of is a depart from these original American principles, revealing the change in the American Dream.
America has long been known as a place of freedom, equality, and diversity but these characteristics don’t always apply. We need to step up to help preserve our American identity to stop from heading down this dark path. To get back to our American Dream is to come together and make a change. What will you do to keep the original American Dream alive?
Cooper Jr., Michael. “What It Means to Be an American in 2016.” U.S. News, 4 July 2016, www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-07-04/what-it-means-to-be-an-american-in-2016 Accessed 2 October 2017
Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 25 Oct. 2016, m.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again. Accessed 2 October 2017
Shiller, Robert J. “The Transformation of the ‘American Dream.’” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/upshot/the-transformation-of-the-american-dream.html. Accessed 2 October 2017
Is the American Dream Changing? by Emilee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.