A complete essay on American dream, its virtues and origin
Americans fear that the great American Dream is dying a slow death in contemporary times. Ever since the Declaration of Independence in the US, governments have protected the rights of the citizens to pursue their notion of happiness. Furthermore, this is what defines the American Dream that is meant to safeguard Americans' rights to discover their own paths to economic prosperity. The very idea that lays the foundation of this dream is that every government which rises to power should protect every citizen’s right to choose their pursuit of happiness. In the United States, people are not mandated to pursue their father’s profession. Moreover, there are no legal compulsions that are determined by caste, religion, or gender, and all citizens have an equal opportunity to decide for themselves. So, the simplest definition of the American Dream is that it is an idea that all political regimes must empower the citizens of America to have equal opportunities for a better life. This American Dream is what makes the United States one of the finest democracies in the world, where citizens feel empowered beyond any discrimination.
It is interesting to know that not all countries value the rights of their citizens to lead their own path to economic prosperity. According to a new study conducted by the World Bank, 88 percent of nations restrict economic opportunities to women. To substantiate, there are around 167 countries in the world that have at least one law to restrict women from choosing their desired profession. So, in principle, the United States does not deny opportunities to its citizens on the basis of gender or religion. In practice, some forms of discrimination may exist, but there are laws that safeguard the entitlement of Americans to pursue a better and happy life as per their own decisions.
How does the American Dream inspire citizens?
Moving further, the “American Dream'' inspires a set of ideals in the U.S citizens as they relentlessly work towards creating a better life. These ideals include the perspectives of individual rights, liberty, democratic virtues, and equality that are encouraged by the American Dream. This further instigates hope in Americans that with conviction and hard work, they can rise from rags to riches and ascertain financial success in life. It is an undeniable fact that the citizens of all nations strive for equality and equal social and economic opportunities for themselves. While people dwelling in democratic nations have better access to this equality, those living in authoritarian regimes have little hope. But in the US, irrespective of the political regime or discourse, the Americans always find great anticipation in their beloved American Dream.
Over the years, the American Dream has found various versions and interpretations that explain it. During the transition of America to become an independent nation, the definitions of the American Dream have also changed constantly. The US attained independence from the British in the year 1776 after a long-fought battle. From then to now, the American Dream has come a long way to blend with the modern ideals and virtues of the 21st century. However, the core ideas of liberty and happiness have always been the underlying principles of this dream, even though all modifications and transitions. To understand how the American Dream has aged over time and how it attained its present form, it is vital that an individual knows about the origin of it. In the subsequent section, there is a detailed illustration of the origins of the American Dream that Americans have preserved for more than two centuries.
The origins of the American Dream
The Constitution of the United States is the oldest constitution in the world. The American constitution was enacted on June 21, 1788, to facilitate a Constitutional Federal Republic form of government. Now, the origins of the American Dream come from the very constitution of the United States that is the highest law of the land. The constitutional principles that govern the US are largely inspired by the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, the Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are equal and are entitled to certain unalienable rights. Hence, there is extensive mention of the rights of freedom, liberty of life, and pursuit of happiness in the declaration as well as the constitution. Besides, these vital virtues find a legal validation and protection in the constitution of the US that has been designed to create a society that is attractive to those who aspire to change their lives for the better. Therefore, the widespread rise of the American Dream began with America’s rise to becoming an independent nation. Further, different Presidents have shaped the American Dream in subsequent years. For instance, one of the most vital modifications made to this dream took place when President Abraham Lincoln included slaves in the ambit of this dream. Before that, the dream was only extended to white property owners by the Founding Fathers of the US. Next, the following section highlights some more presidential changes that have been inculcated in the American Dream over the years.(Eaton, Eaton, Eaton, Johnson & Johnson, 2020)
Some major changes in the American Dream under various Presidents/p> (2020)
President Woodrow Wilson favored the voting rights of women, and that led to the 19th Amendment to the US constitution, making way for women’s voting rights.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed an Economic Bill of Rights in 1944 to define decent housing, a good job, education, and health as crucial elements of the pursuit of happiness.
Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were in strong favor of the Dream of homeownership.
President Barack Obama was in support of the legal merits of the marriage contract without any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Further, he extended unemployment benefits and government assistance to people during times of recession.
So, it is quite evident that with the transition of the world and social cultures, those who have been in power in the US have added different dimensions to the American Dream that the US citizens take pride in. Further, this essay sheds light on the present-day scenario of the American Dream and its relevance in American society currently.
How relevant is the American Dream today? - An Analysis
Today, a lot of Americans feel that the American dream is dying, or it may be dead by now. The citizens of the US feel that financial security or financial independence is a core value of the American Dream. According to a survey conducted by Massachusetts Life Insurance in 2018, around one-third of the US citizens feel that the ideal American Dream is already dead as citizens are under too much debt. The Americans now feel that they do not have the kind of financial independence they would like, and hence most of the things are now out of their reach. There were times when the US citizens included the dream to own a house in their understanding of the American Dream. However, things seem to be changing now as more than 80 percent of Americans expressed in the above-stated survey that now, for them, the American Dream simply means financial security.
("The American Dream may be dead," 2020)
Moving further, as per Statista, the public debt of the US was more than 27 trillion dollars in October 2020 as against 23 trillion dollars in 2019. So it is evident that increasing debt on the nation and its citizens has become a major threat to the great American Dream that has inspired citizens for decades. While people consider financial security a fundamental component of this dream, financial turmoil has started shaking the core of it.("Debt to GDP by country 2017 | Statista", 2020)
To continue, there are more factors that are challenging the persistence of the American Dream in the US civil society. One of these reasons is that of low-income mobility, and the situation is quite deplorable as the US has lower income mobility rates than other developed nations like Canada, France, Germany, and Denmark. Income mobility or economic mobility is defined as people’s ability to change their incomes. Thus, the widening income inequality in the United States is holding back economic mobility hence killing the American Dream of financial or economic prosperity. Furthermore, US citizens are of the opinion that climate change is also one of the major reasons why their ideal American Dream seems to be fading away with the passage of time. They fear that in the coming years, phenomenons like global warming are going to slow down growth. Also, solutions to climate change like the Green New Deal are going to put immense pressure on the financial resources.
How has COVID-19 given a major blow to the American Dream?
Like other economies of the world, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has hit the US economy hard. By October 2020, the United States accounted for 20 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the world. Millions of Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic, and the unemployment rates in the US spiked to the highest ever since World War II. The US economy fell by more than 31 percent in the second quarter of the year, causing a great economic depression. Further, the number of unemployed workers in the US increased by 6.8 million between February 2020 and October 2020. Therefore, the pandemic has played a large role in further upsetting the American Dream of the US citizens, and it snatched from many people their livelihoods and their financial security.(Patton, 2020)
American Dream under the new political regime
The 2020 US Presidential elections saw the defeat of Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden is all set to be the new President of the US. Now, how the American Dream further shapes under the rule of the newly elected remains to be seen. People have voted for him with new hopes that he can revive the American dream in a much more efficient way than the outgoing President. Joe Biden has often described America as a land of possibilities and has strongly represented his own idea of the American Dream. He stated in one of his speeches during the electoral campaign that he believes in the idea of equal opportunities for all Americans to achieve their dreams. Since independence, different Presidents have added different virtues to the American Dream. Now, when the US citizens feel that the dream is dying, it is going to be interesting to see what Joe Biden can bring to the table. The US is reeling under paramount public debt and joblessness triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, America’s path to recovery from a grave economic downfall is what is going to define Joe Biden’s stature as the supreme leader of the United States.
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Sample essay: America dreaming a new dream
Change is the necessity of life, and in a similar way, the American Dream has changed as the needs of the US citizens have grown and evolved over the years. Even when the Americans feel that the contemporary challenges are posing a great threat to their valuable American Dream, they are not losing hope. The US citizens are now dreaming of a new American Dream, which is a lot different than how the founding fathers of the US envisaged it. Those who initiated the idea of this dream did not know that the US is going to be a superpower one day and is going to be a symbol of world dominance. Also, the Declaration of Independence that paved the path to new possibilities for America did not define how happiness should look like and even did not mention any particular lifestyle as a means to happiness. But the new American Dream that the US citizens are seeing is about a set definition of happiness, economic prosperity, and liberty. This new version of the American Dream is further shaped by the various economic and social challenges that Americans are facing in unprecedented times. This essay further highlights how the American Dream has changed over the years and what are elements that the US citizens prioritize when they view a new notion of this dream.
Economic prosperity and happiness have always been at the core of every version of the American Dream. In the present scenario, owing to the effects of globalization, global economic conditions and the socio-cultural dynamics are changing at a fast pace. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the American idealism of economic growth and the prosperity of citizens. To add, there is a new political regime rising in the US with the election of democrat Joe Biden to the office of the President. All these factors are now shaping a new idea of the American Dream in the US citizens, and they are anticipating new positive changes.
Many citizens are now of the view that there is a need for a new definition of this dream which takes into account the modern needs of the citizens as well as the core beliefs on which the US was founded. Further, author Courtney E. Martin has mentioned in her book titled ‘The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream’ that Americans should return to discussing some fundamental notions like accountability, pride, and love for life to define a new American Dream. Moreover, she states that people should now consider some basic questions like how much money is enough and how do they wish to invest their finite energy. She emphasizes the need to have an examined life that people can be proud of and recommends that people should be open to the challenges and surprises of life. Hence, the idea of the new American Dream is pro-life and pro-choice.
Moving forward, the Americans now see a dream in which they see the United States dominating the global scenarios. The citizens feel that the US, after rising to great power on the international scene over the years, should maintain its dominance or rather grow its dominance with every opportunity. Besides, they feel that the economic rise of the US is going to have a direct impact on their individual economic welfare. Moreover, in the recent US Presidential elections, people have voted for a change. They have voted to bring the Democratic Party to power while showing the Republicans the way out. While Republicans represent a negative view on socialism and a positive view on capitalism, the Democrats view both socialism and capitalism with equal optimism. According to new research done by Pew Research Center, 46 percent of women in the US look at socialism as a positive ideal as against 38 percent of women who prefer capitalism. Also, around 65 percent of Black Americans are in support of socialism. So, it can be said that in the recent elections, Americans have voted for an improvised version of the American Dream that also favors inclusion and socialism along with capitalism in the pursuit of happiness.("Stark partisan divisions in Americans’ views of ‘socialism,’ ‘capitalism’," 2020)
Lastly, Americans now see financial security as a very important element of the new American Dream. While the traditional definition of the American Dream talks about economic prosperity, given the present-day economic challenges, they are more concerned about financial stability than prosperity. As unemployment is on a constant rise in the US due to the pandemic and the debt on people is mounting, the citizens have grave concerns about their economic stability. Hence, it can be said that there is a paradigm shift in the mindsets of people to now relate the American Drive more to the stability of income than the mobility of income. Besides, in the prevalent economic downfall, the US needs to focus on revival as well as growth in a balanced way. There is a dire need for the leaders of the US to define a path to economic recovery after the country has derailed from its track in the pandemic. COVID-19 has pushed back the economies of the world to miserable levels, and in the new elected President, they see a better ability to look beyond the collapse and lead the US to a fast-paced revival.
To conclude, the American Dream that finds its roots in the Declaration of Independence has come a long way to attain different meanings and perspectives. With changing governments and overhauling global conditions, new virtues have been included in this dream. Furthermore, this dream can be subjective and may mean different things to different people, but the crux of this dream is always going to be defined as the need to give people the equal opportunity to choose their happiness and livelihoods. Even the coming generations in the US are going to view this dream as their opportunity to be treated with equality and be granted equal chances to lead a better life. Also, the socioeconomic and political changes in the country are going to further revamp this dream in the coming years. At last, for Americans, this dream is an instrument of hope, and they are keen to preserve this dream against all odds.
To encapsulate, the American dream is defined as an idea that inspires the thought of equal opportunities for all US citizens to ascertain their economic prosperity or stability. After the independence of the United States from Britain, this dream has been a prominent feature of the American democracy, making it one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. Further, there are laws in the US that protect the basic rights of equality, freedom, and liberty of life that form the basis of the American dream. However, in the last few years, the Americans have started feeling that their American Dream is now fading away, and further, the contemporary challenges have supplemented such negative thoughts. But Americans are hopeful that this dream is going to stand the test of time, and they now see a new version of this dream which is more realistic and inclusive.
Eaton, V., Eaton, V., Eaton, V., Johnson, L., & Johnson, L. (2020). 10 Oldest Constitutions In The World | Oldest.org. Retrieved 26 November 2020, from https://www.oldest.org/politics/constitutions/
The American Dream may be dead. (2020). Retrieved 26 November 2020, from https://nypost.com/2018/08/22/the-american-dream-may-be-dead/
Debt to GDP by country 2017 | Statista. (2020). Retrieved 26 November 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/268177/countries-with-the-highest-public-debt/
Patton, M. (2020). The Impact Of Covid-19 On U.S. Economy And Financial Markets. Retrieved 26 November 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2020/10/12/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-us-economy-and-financial-markets/?sh=70f662c92d20
Stark partisan divisions in Americans’ views of ‘socialism,’ ‘capitalism.’ (2020). Retrieved 27 November 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/25/stark-partisan-divisions-in-americans-views-of-socialism-capitalism/