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What Is the "American Dream"?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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The term “American dream” is used in many ways, but it essentially is an idea that suggests that anyone in the US can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy, successful life. Many people have expanded upon or refined the definition to include things such as freedom, fulfillment and meaningful relationships. Someone who manages to achieve his or her version of the American dream is often said to be “living the dream.” This concept has been subject to criticism, because some people believe that the structure of society in the US prevents such an idealistic goal for everyone. Critics often point to examples of inequality rooted in class, race, religion and ethnicity that suggest that the American dream is not attainable for everyone.


The idea of an American dream is older than the US, dating to the 1600s, when people began to have all sorts of hopes and aspirations for what was a new and largely unexplored continent to European immigrants. Many of these dreams focused on owning land and establishing a prosperous business that — theoretically, at least — would increase one's happiness. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, authors often wrote about the idealistic American dream, somewhat codifying the concept and entrenching it in American society.

Stereotypical Dream

american dream

The dream for Americans is often portrayed as being perfectly average. For example, some people might say that it is being married, having two children and living in a three-bedroom home with a white picket fence. Rather than being based on great wealth or success, this version of the dream might be based more on avoiding things such as poverty and loneliness.

Improving Upon the Past

Some people say that the American dream represents the desire to live a better life than the previous generation did — and that there is a legitimate opportunity for this to happen. The desire among many parents is for their children to lead happy lives. This is especially true among immigrants, because many of them fled extremely difficult circumstances in their native countries.


The idealistic vision of the American dream often disregards discrimination based on a person's race, religion, gender and national origin, which might inhibit his or her ability to achieve specific goals. Critics also point out that many versions of the dream equate prosperity with happiness, and that happiness is possible without wealth or even in poverty. To some people, the American dream might be more about personal fulfillment than about economic success or owning property.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1000417 — On Sep 19, 2018

I agree with idea that suggests that anyone in the US can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy, successful life, because America is a country with laws based on meritocracy.

By anon999993 — On Apr 30, 2018

The American Dream, in my opinion, is a deception and doesn't exist. Everyone has their own definition of success and prosperity, and although there are stereotypes, everyone interprets it differently; therefore, there is no unanimous "American Dream" because of the different opinions.

By anon999977 — On Apr 25, 2018

Varies for each person depending on their opinion.

By anon999278 — On Nov 27, 2017

There is no such thing!

By anon999126 — On Oct 31, 2017

I think this was very useful in helping me doing my project and I appreciate those who created this website to help me get a better understanding in E.L.A.

By anon997559 — On Jan 26, 2017

The American Dream is the freedom to choose to live how and where you want.

By anon996862 — On Oct 18, 2016

I see that the problem just with people who don't want to go work. They want to ask the American government for the American dream, without trying anything.

By anon996861 — On Oct 18, 2016

I think the American dream can't be achieved, because if everyone has it, it means it's easy to get it and the value is gone.

By anon996859 — On Oct 18, 2016

The American Dream may cause good or bed effects. Chasing the American Dream for a person is good because it provides a goal for American citizens. On the contrary, it can still make people work for money for their whole life.

By anon996858 — On Oct 18, 2016

I think that the American dream is not only for personal possessions, but more about mental. People should feel full of satisfaction and happiness when they made this dream come true. However, it's too hard to be ideal in the real world. There are still many people who can touch this dream, so that's just a way to motivate people to work hard.

By anon996857 — On Oct 18, 2016

The American dream is in a state of flux, as the generations change, The American dream also has transitions and turns. It is a kind of trend. Before, it represented the great economic success, however, it means just a stable and comfortable life in general.

By anon996856 — On Oct 18, 2016

For me, I think the "American dream" is a hope for some people because to some people, the American dream might be more about personal fulfillment than about economic success or owning property.

Today, there are lots of things that are about economic success or owning property, however, the American dream is that people in the US can succeed through hard work and have the potential to lead a happy, successful life.

By anon996855 — On Oct 18, 2016

It's a hard thing to let everyone achieve the American Dream. It's kind of hard for every different kind of person. But the American Dream is also the things that each generation needs to work on. It will make our families happier.

By anon996854 — On Oct 18, 2016

The American Dream is a kind of spirit of America for my view of America. I think the American Dream in that time just wants to encourage people to face the life, keep working and try their best.

By anon996853 — On Oct 18, 2016

In my opinion, no society is equal and perfect. So I agree with your criticisms. because I also think not only the American Dream but also the happy life is not attainable in today's society.

By anon996852 — On Oct 18, 2016

I thought the American Dream was like a magic word when I didn't know much about America. When I got older I thought it was like a word that governors in U.S. use to make people from all over the world emigrate to the U.S. After I read it I exactly knew where this American Dream word came from and most people think same dream. Like it said in the stereotypical dream.

By anon996844 — On Oct 17, 2016

Dreaming is nice and useful for motivation and the American Dream is a good example of it. But you also need to work to achieve it everyday and meanwhile enjoy little moments in life.

By anon996843 — On Oct 17, 2016

What an amazing summary you have! Even though every person has different dreams, all US citizens should follow the same dream, that is try your best and get a better life!

By anon996842 — On Oct 17, 2016

The American Dream is a target of the citizens in the United States. It has positive aspects and also negative aspects. The American Dream makes people work harder than before, and contribute to the society. But the target may be too difficult to accomplish, and people always think about it instead of doing the real action in life.

By anon996841 — On Oct 17, 2016

For the humans, we couldn't get full of happiness. Although they have everything in the States, they might move to another region to get more happiness.

By anon996840 — On Oct 17, 2016

For me I think American dream is for the nation; people have the freedom to get education, work in their jobs, choose what they really need for their life. I guess the American dream is perfect life plan for all kinds of humans. DM

By anon996839 — On Oct 17, 2016

I believe that in times of difficulty we dream to help us escape and overcome those times. I guess that's the point of the American dream, but some people seem to think of it in a kind of a different way as in to be the most successful but in a materialistic kind of way and forget about other things.

By anon996838 — On Oct 17, 2016

I think there was their own dream but there were many things that affected the dream and it became too eager for the same or undeserved things. I don't know.

By anon996837 — On Oct 17, 2016

I think the reason that Americans have a dream like that is because of what happened before and the wish of having a better life. And also, I'm from China and we have those dreams too.

By anon996834 — On Oct 17, 2016

I totally champion the view that American Dream symbolizes the ultimate happiness which one can acquire after pouring in enough efforts. Moreover, the reason why the interpretations for American Dream differ is that each person has different perspective on happiness. Some believe that materialistic happiness is true happiness. On the other hand, psychological or mental happiness is true happiness.

By anon990739 — On May 07, 2015

I believe that the American Dream is about living a good life and acting compassionately, and not about material possessions which one attains throughout their earthly lives. After all, there's no way to bring things that you own with you once you die, but you can bring the actions which you have done to help others and make other people's lives better.

Since the American Dream is focused around the idea of complete happiness, it is impossible to attain the American with solely material possessions because human nature makes us selfish and makes us desire for more than we have. Therefore, I believe that the American Dream has less to do with what you own while you're alive, but more about what you do for others while you're alive.

By anon990738 — On May 07, 2015

As a European, I feel that the Americans are brought up to feel that they can never be content with anything. In Europe, we are taught that we should get what we aim for, and be happy. However, in the States, they always want more. They have poor living conditions compared to what we have in Europe, but they only care about becoming millionaires instead of fixing their more immediate problem. The American Dream has become less of getting up and working hard for yourself, and more of just being greedy and aiming for the highest goal, and then getting angry with society and keep going, instead of lowering their standards.

In Europe, we have nothing like this. We are taught to set realistic goals, and be content with that. Of course, if we believe that we can achieve higher, then we will, but we don't chase silly dreams.

By anon990733 — On May 07, 2015

I agree that the American Dream is mainly superficial, and that although people believe that achieving the American Dream will bring them happiness, materialistic goals and achievements can never make a person truly happy. However, I also believe that some people's idea of the American dream is more along the lines of having a family and a stable life, which can bring more happiness than wanting a big house and a well paying job.

Also, it is true that not everyone can achieve the American Dream. When people picture a family living the American Dream, they usually picture a stereotypical white family, and do not open up the idea of the American Dream to different races or ethnicities.

By anon990732 — On May 07, 2015

It is impossible for everyone to acheive the American dream, because if everyone has it, its value and seeming perfection will go away.

By anon990646 — On May 02, 2015

When I was growing up, my Daddy worked hard to buy his family the "American Dream" - our own home. He put his family first, worked hard and got us a home. Something that would always be ours and no one could take that away from us. My Daddy fought in World War II and went through the Depression. He knew what hard times were. It was hard for families to buy that "American Dream" during those hard times, but they all wanted it.

Everyone wants their own home, not for material reasons, but for security and to feel safe. We had a modest home when I was a little girl, but I remember feeling safe. Today people still want their "American Dream", but most want fancy and expensive houses and that is materialism.

I am 61 and want my "American Dream" like my Daddy told me about. Home is safe and security, not a mansion. American is all wrapped up in careers, fancy cars, and homes. Fathers and Mothers are both working to have all these things and their children are wondering what love, safety, security, and family is. I remember what all those things are because I lived in a simpler time when what was suppose to be important was.

Today our children don't know what is important because we buy them anything they want and call that love. I know what love is and the true "American Dream" my Daddy worked so hard to give us. My Daddy taught me what love was by loving me. Daddy died when I was 16 years old, but he made sure we had a love, security, and was safe in our home. His "American Dream".

By anon990612 — On Apr 29, 2015

I agree with you because I also think that the American Dream is living in a big house, with a loving and caring family, and a successful job. And I also think that this is something that everyone will strive for.

By anon990527 — On Apr 26, 2015

I think the American Dream is an important goal for everyone living in the united states. Yes it is true that you can have happiness in poverty but the American Dream is what everyone strives for. The American Dream is living in a nice large home, having a loving and caring family and a successful job. I also believe that not everyone can acquire the American Dream. I think the American Dream can discriminate against other people of race, color, and gender which inhibit his or her ability to achieve specific goals.

By anon988291 — On Feb 10, 2015

To me the American dream varies from person to person. For some, it may be having a family and a steady job. For others, however, it may be accomplishing certain goals they set out for themselves. Either way, everyone has their own American dream (or should I say just 'dream') to be successful. It is up to them to decide if they reach it.

By anon974992 — On Oct 22, 2014

The "American Dream" is life, love, and the pursuit of happiness!

By anon973050 — On Oct 08, 2014

No society is perfect, in my opinion. The American dream has to be about doing good things and having a nice life. I think the American dream is not only about material things!

By anon971646 — On Sep 28, 2014

Work hard and pursue happiness? That's the American Dream -- are you serious? No wonder I never fit in. Sounds like a statement made up by people that glorified the thought of slavery, and owning people in general.

Anyone with a heart and soul knows one doesn't have to work hard to achieve happiness. The reason the dream has been altered by the people to include freedom is because life has to be free before it can even explore what it is to then have a chance at pursuing happiness. Life cannot explore itself if it is it micro-managed to be something else.

The books, legal and religious, that outline the standards that are to be violently forced on everyone, except those enforcing them, need to be changed. The elite need to understand that we are not all one, not in that respect, so their standard of living shouldn't be violently forced on everyone. We can learn to respect each other, but we have to let go of our fear of freedom and attain a respect for life, so we can work to help each other achieve our own paradises, instead of working to oppress one another, but what of those whose paradise includes owning slaves, and what of those that feel the moral obligation to free the slaves?

One thing I do know for sure: those who work to force their way without any regard for freedom and peace will always be at war, and spreading the war.

By anon958297 — On Jun 26, 2014

It is time for Americans to wake up! Dreams happen while you sleep.

By mainakhan — On Apr 14, 2014

No society can have one hundred percent of liberty, equality, fairness, happiness, etc., available to all its citizens at all times. But the United States, thanks to our wise founding fathers, comes pretty close to it.

By mainakhan — On Apr 13, 2014

The United States, and North America in general fails to come anywhere near it. It is not hard to see, either. Take a drive downtown, and look at the slum housing, arguably worse than anything the Soviets ever put up, the export of low paying jobs, and the weakness of the minimum wage which removes liquid assets which can be saved.

The American dream only works if there is something for nothing: the Frontier, or if everyone is able to have some minimal liquid assets. This is what is not met in the poorest sections of the country.

By anon943778 — On Apr 03, 2014

what up

By anon940587 — On Mar 19, 2014

I believe the American dream is having a good life and doing good things.

By anon936001 — On Feb 27, 2014

I am not a politician or an economist. I don't have all the facts about the "American dream". I probably know less than the rest of the commentators (I'm only 15, after all), but there is one thing I know. No society on Earth will ever be perfect, including the United States of America. The American dream may very well be unattainable for some people. It will probably won't be granted to everyone who works for it. However, we can come come close.

The only thing stopping it from spreading is the people in charge of it, like managers, politicians, etc. If you don't believe that the American dream is legitimate, then work to make it so.

By anon927414 — On Jan 24, 2014

The American Dream is all what you make it to be. If you're happy and content with what you have, you're "living the dream."

By anon353955 — On Nov 04, 2013

@ Post 104: I'm from Germany and I agree with you. --Katharina

By anon351871 — On Oct 17, 2013

Thank you. This really did help a lot for my essay. So many different points of view and facts.

By anon337982 — On Jun 09, 2013

Reagan began the march to where we are today. Trickle down economics is a farce and there is no greater proof of that than today's economy.

The top 1 percent have had record gains for years and the lower 99 percent have seen declines in their worth and incomes. Clinton drove us even further down the road of no return with signing the Commodities and Futures act, which allowed for very low risk speculation in the energy and commodities markets that has driven the cost of living through the roof.

George W. Bush brought about the death of the middle class with his tax cuts that not only incentivized shipping jobs overseas, it paid for it. In GW's eight years, 56,000 factories closed in the United States and moved to low wage countries, all with $1500-$3000 per "job created" from the American taxpayers, under Bush's policy, not to mention tax credits for shipping the equipment and training the "new" employees.

Obama is no better. The corruption is past the point of return. Read "The Unwinding," by George Packer. This book really lays out exactly where we are and why. Another good read is "Retirement Heist,” by Ellen Schultz.

I myself do not buy anything new, am working on going off the grid, and do not buy anything from companies that have stripped there workers to the bone. It is not easy. The off the grid is going slow, but steady. I have cut my electric bill by 42 percent in 6 months and have done it revenue neutral.

I am shopping locally for food at farmers markets and from farmers directly. I have no illusion that things will do anything but keep going in the direction they are going now, but my family is doing the best we can to prepare for the decline. Life insurance is part of the plan.

Anyone who believes that if the poor rich guy just would just get another tax cut or be allowed to pollute without recourse, then all would be well, is completely delusional. Record profits, record poverty, pretty much says it all.

By anon336467 — On May 28, 2013

Look what the government dragged in. What's the matter? Congress got your tongue? People are blind and they don't see that we aren't really "free." That is only an illusion that those in power force the masses to believe. The American Dream will never be reached because it is a utopia that America, or any country, can never become. Wealth doesn't equal happiness and you have been taught this concept time and time again and yet we still cling to the hope that it does. All that my peers (I am 17) want when they grow up is money and they don't care how they obtain it. Most of these schmucks won't get it and those who do will find that it is not the answer, it never was and never will be.

It is a dream in the sense that you have to be asleep to believe it (the words of the wise George Carlin.)

By anon333546 — On May 06, 2013

The American dream is simply a point of view that all people don't share equally. One's desire to have a Rice Krispy Treat factory may not match to another's desire to have a potato farm.

By anon333545 — On May 06, 2013

The American dream is when everyone succeeds at what they're doing and everyone is where they want to be in life.

By anon330843 — On Apr 19, 2013

Everyone was their own opinion in defining the American Dream. There are those that have similar definitions that I do and that I support, and there are others in which a highly oppose; overall I respect every and any opinion anyone has to say.

My definition of the American Dream is for one to have acceptance, be respected, find love, live in peace, have a home and family, and overall, to be happy. And in order to get all these things, one must be willing to understand. We as Americans have a hard time doing that, and if everyone would at least try to understand each other, I believe the world would be a better place. ~Maemi

By anon316159 — On Jan 27, 2013

I know what the American dream is to be and that is to live our lives with the right to be left alone. The Real ID law will end this right. Some 56 states and territories are now required to scan all personal info into a database your Social Security number, birth information, any and all proofs of name changes and your bills to show where you live. This data base can be changed to include any information that the states or federal government want to track on you. This database is open to all states and territories. You can read about it online.

Evey state in America now has to conform to this law. We need to have it overturned and the American people are the only ones who can do it.

By anon315882 — On Jan 25, 2013

I believe that "The American Dream" is attainable and possible, unlike some critics, because everyone has their version or "The American Dream" and different opinions and definitions of success and freedom which are common concepts of The American Dream."

By anon312014 — On Jan 04, 2013

What are the five components of the American Dream?

By anon306642 — On Nov 30, 2012

Money is not evil--the love of money is the root of all evil. If you had no money, I think your mind would change pretty quickly. Money does not corrupt people. It can bring out the corruption that is already in people. People are naturally bad.

By anon302002 — On Nov 07, 2012

The "American Dream" for me is simple. It's not about the material possessions, which, by the way, is a late 1950's idea, but something truly universal. I am living my dream, and it has nothing to do with what I own. It is waking in my husband's arms in the morning, the untainted joy in my children's eyes, and knowing that while I may not leave them the material things when my time ends, they will know that they where loved everyday of their lives.

Money is truly an evil thing that controls the thoughts and lives of so many. The hint for everyone who is chasing that dollar is to stop and notice the simple things in their lives. If your dream contains money, then you have missed what life really is about.

Help those around you, laugh when you can, love with all your being, rejoice in the small things, smile because you can, but most of all enjoy your life, because you never know when it will end.

By anon298612 — On Oct 21, 2012

Yeah, it's not only about material things. It's a chance to improve and develop yourselves - in the right way, of course. It could be "the more you want - the more you know", like the limits of your universe.

By anon289677 — On Sep 05, 2012

I think "Fight Club" when the word consumerism gets tossed around.

Tyler Durden was right. Think about it. If the American dream is to, as Durden put it so eloquently in the film, "take jobs we don't want so we can buy ... we don't need" end quote, then we are in desperate need of the 'American wake up call' to snap us free of the American dream's materialistic bindings. Consumerism is not the way to achieve the American dream. It is not achieved by following the crowd. Products cannot complete us. We are already complete. We just need to accept that as fact and embrace the idea.

By anon273387 — On Jun 06, 2012

The American Dream is about doing what you want to be successful in. It is about going for your dream(s) no matter what anyone says. It focuses a great deal on individuality and power that one could hold. It is about freedom to think, say, and do what one wants to do.

By anon260567 — On Apr 11, 2012

I finished school, and I had all A's in my country, and when I came here, the same thing, and I was a good, excellent and cooperative student. The teachers were of good quality. I was satisfied.

Simply, I cannot get another job. It is hard. I am a high school graduate. I have some college credits, and two proficiencies in office assistant certificates. Believe me, it is hard to find a job.

I was told that in Utah is easy to find a job. They give you the job the day after tomorrow. How can it be so easy to find a job in Utah? Wow! I was very impressed. It is hard to find a job here in California because there are lots of people.

By anon259106 — On Apr 04, 2012

"The American Dream" is a verbal subset of the infinite hypocrisy that surrounds consciousness expansion. It's a dream; it's vague; it's blurry and strange. It may have meaning and it may not.

Maybe we could call it The American Dragon and just keep on chasing it, whatever it is. I mean, why not? It is, after all, America.

By anon256172 — On Mar 20, 2012

There is no Dream today. If there was at some point a dream, it must have died some time age. I was taught that the American Dream was to have a well paying job, with a picket fence, a wife or husband with children and a dog in the from yard.

Now, with that out, I'll say that has left the building, I want the reader of this post to go out and actually ride around for a while and look for a house with the white picket fence. If you find it, go and ask if they have a well paying job, how many kids do they have, and is there a pet?

The dream is a generic "Government Issued" idea of what people want. In my eyes, I see it as the wealthy's dream to keep the lower social class happy and optimistic enough to keep them working hard to get to where they are, all while they are growing to an unreachable height.

I'm only 18 years old and I see these things. The dream is gone. We only have the time of now to stand on feet and make what we have last.

By anon254673 — On Mar 14, 2012

American Dream: Be able to afford a nice house by having an upper echelon job.

Be happily married with a wife and a child/children.

Have nice amenities like plumbing and new electronics that were offered from the 1920's.

By anon249914 — On Feb 23, 2012

To be happy. That's it. No strings attached,no worries, no fear of imperfection or the future. Because being happy makes life more bearable.

By anon242632 — On Jan 24, 2012

To anon post 104, US is the best.

By anon240622 — On Jan 15, 2012

The Americans never realize that they have a wrong understanding of the rest of the world. Since they usually see only devastated regions on the news, they get the idea that only the US is a country of freedom, wealth and happiness. How narrow minded and sad!

Europe as an average, has a much higher standard than the US. To Europeans, the US pretty often appears very close to a third world country. Why do the Americans think that everybody would want to live in the US?

By anon239773 — On Jan 10, 2012

The American Dream is the ability to become the idealistic middle class American. All around the world, there are many people who do not have what even the poorest American can afford.

America is blessed because of several things, including her free enterprise system of life. Anon 234233 (post 100), you have to understand that the American Dream is not to do whatever you want, live without constraint, and without morals, because that is far from being the case.

Government is an entity that is meant to constrain people from infringing on other peoples God given rights. Happiness comes from worshiping God and being in His perfect will. The chief end of man is to glorify God. That is the only way you will really be happy.

By anon238586 — On Jan 04, 2012

To me, it is to have a good time and have a family that is happy.

By anon236941 — On Dec 26, 2011

The original poster is factually wrong. The USA "people" excludes serving-convictees, native-Americans, slaves, Chinese and other imported slave-workers, non-citizens...". Historically, at the time of the USA's creation, non-whites and most women did not vote. The Arnold Schwarzeneggers (current governor of CA) are still not allowed to ever be president of the USA. Historically, would he ever have had the power to vote?

By anon234233 — On Dec 11, 2011

You don't need a country to live, culture to follow or society to teach.

The "idea" is seek out what makes you feel good. Embrace the idea. America offers it.

By anon231775 — On Nov 27, 2011

This bugs me as I may not be american but people keep posting about greed and money as if it is the most evil thing in the world (religion is also useless nowadays). Greed is good as it is evolution in a nutshell. That and the American dream is nice, but material possessions are also awesome.

By anon226720 — On Nov 01, 2011

We only called it the American Dream because we are americans, but the truth is every human being has dreams and goals. After reading many posts, I can see everyone is correct because the dream is extensive and infinite, just like your ideas.

Calling it the American Dream, I would think of freedom, liberty, to wake up in the morning and without being questioned and go after whatever your dreams were the night before.

By anon214052 — On Sep 13, 2011

the american dream is what you make it!

By anon206543 — On Aug 16, 2011

The American Dream is that a black man from Kansas can become the most powerful man in the world in this country. 'Nuff said.

By anon185588 — On Jun 12, 2011

Achieving the American Dream is getting to paradise in a sense, but people define their own paradise, so it is up to them to decide if they are happy or not.

By anon185573 — On Jun 12, 2011

Nowadays it is certainly not easy to life the American dream, but i think we should never forget that money is not everything in life. Some amount of materials, money or other goods are not as important as a healthy family in your background. In times of globalization it has become more and more important to be happy with small things. The next point is that you can live this dream today also in other parts all over the world, for instance, in Austria or moreover, in Europe. But take care that it is really your dream and then try every day to give your best, never give up, push yourself and try to gain as much experience as possible. Then each of us can achieve much more than you think.

By anon180796 — On May 27, 2011

The American Dream is not about money, like people think. In fact, I believe that the American Dream is to be happy in life. Money does not make happiness and until people realize this The American Dream will be lost in time.

By anon180241 — On May 26, 2011

The american dream is subjective. Lets not forget what the latter half of the phrase is.

I have enjoyed reading the article and the comments. There have been proponents of both sides of the debate and i love this rapport. I don't usually do the "post my opinion" thing, but i have been inspired by a few things i have read.

First, i would like to speak to the students using this as a resource for a paper on the american dream. Yes, the ideas are great, but on such a subject i would search myself for what the dream means. Ideas and opinions are great, but it is your interpretation that makes it the dream. Easy paper? OK, it has to be five pages or something. I'd say my dream is to have a single paragraph count as five pages, then debate it (extensively) with the teacher until they cave. A lot of my teachers hated me, but in the best way possible.

Second, this one is to number 9. This is not intended to be a personal attack, but i feel that somehow it will come across as such. The person who taught this in school is extremely cynical. However, that viewpoint does apply to all greedy people. Not all are so greedy, you just don't notice them for their lack of whining about everything. I once learned in school that the u.s. won the vietnam war. Just in case you learned that too, we lost.

For my last trick, i will attempt to explain what the american dream means to me. At the core, the idea is about progression, the idea that things will get better. If i am lying to myself, it beats being lied to by someone else.

Seriously, it means being kind, decent, and respectful of others no matter what the cost. I'm not talking about being a doormat either. Its about supporting your neighbors and helping someone in need if you can. Helping someone can be as simple as having a two-minute conversation with a complete stranger and just asking them how they are today. This is only one of many ways to show you care about others. I do my best to live up to it, but invariably fall short at times. But life isn't about how many times you fail, it's about the successes! One man made me realize that idea. His name was Thomas Edison. Inventor of the light bulb, something within plain view of all who read this. He failed so many times trying to make it work over many years, but when he had success with it, well, the rest is history. He is not remembered as the guy who wasted years of his life failing at something; he is remembered as the man who invented the incandescent bulb. We should all hope to leave such a mark on humanity.

I didn't really mean for this to be so long but look what happened. Oh well. Cheers, everyone!

By anon171594 — On May 01, 2011

I feel that the "American Dream" of yesterday is no longer the "American Dream" of today.

Once, to live the "American Dream" meant that if you worked hard you could (and would) live a successful life. This meant you could support yourself (and your family) and you also felt fulfilled on an individual level. Nowadays, I feel that is no longer the case. There are many people who work hard and still barely get by. They also may be so busy struggling to support their loved ones that they have no real time to focus on their own wants and needs.

It seems to me that now the "American Dream" has become a rather materialistic one in which individuals seek to barely work, but possess many things. I blame it on consumerism and our new obsession with having things complete us.

By anon162764 — On Mar 24, 2011

this is pretty interesting, useful stuff, but yeah, many people have achieved the american dream. it not all about material things. look at martin luther king jr. his american dream wasn't material, but equality. racial equality. he followed it till the end. it was a costly dream yes, but a powerful one.

By anon159810 — On Mar 13, 2011

The American Dream is the hope that every one of us has the chance to be all we can be.

It is being blown away by the takeover of predatory international monopolies who are buying elections and "our" (ha ha) legislators and our airwaves for their propaganda. They are the new Big Brother and we are fast becoming America Inc.

By anon152348 — On Feb 13, 2011

I do believe the American Dream is possible, just that people nowadays forgot that America was not built in one day, neither in a year. That same frame of thinking applies to the American Dream. For some it may take decades, for others, it may easily become true in a year, and yet, we all are responsible for making it come true for every American citizen.

Hard work actually means a lot of things like working smart, working better, working safer and working much much more productive each way, and yet, not everybody can make it the whole way. We should never forget we are humans and we get sick, and that may compromise the American Dream even more, and yet I think it doesn't compromise it at all.

The catch is the organization. The more organized we all Americans become the closer we will be to reach out for the American Dream.

Once we achieve it, what is next?

I believe it would be to perfect it and to enjoy the fruits coming out of it, for our quota would be done, and next generations will be enhanced and allow newer and better solutions, as long as humanity does not lose the track and does not become egocentric and too greedy to know what is valuable and what is a tool.

To me, money is a tool, I may not be rich, and yet, If i work hard and If I have my bills paid, I may be happy enough to tell I'am satisfied. For some others, it may be a miserable view and a miserable perspective. It is relative to everyone's ambitions! --AC S.

By anon150377 — On Feb 07, 2011

I rather resent the opinion of those that the American Dream can be achieved from working harder. My entire life has been spent working hard and saving at the expense of enjoying the day I was living in. At the end of 20 years after saving every penny, working to the maximum and experiencing very little outside work, what I have to show for these efforts is three emergency visits to the hospital for exhaustion, Where I was advised to take it easy; one hemorrhaged disk, medical bills that I worked even harder to cover and landed myself in the hospital again against much protestation. (I collapsed at work and an ambulance was called) After a few days in the (which my insurance wouldn't cover) I thought about it.

I've been working my whole life for an unattainable goal. I've robbed myself of 20 years of experiences so that I could be at work to overachieve without award. The whole time I was working and going to school to get a better job. I never got the better job and am still paying back the loans. I was grateful for the opportunity I had to have a job and never questioned that faith to continue killing myself while wearing thrift store bargains and residing in a lower income area and having the marvelous experience of being persecuted for my beliefs.

Life? Liberty? Pursuit of happiness? Well, OK, I have pursued happiness but what happened to equality?

What happened to that dream?

Now, I am in the wonderful position of not having a job because after this last hospitalization I've been diagnosed with degenerative bone disease and a heart condition that is inoperable caused by chronic stress and exhaustion.

I think I can say at this point that I've worked hard enough to attain the dream. The dream still remains elusive.

By anon143976 — On Jan 18, 2011

To Number 9, it's a shame that you have a teacher that would give you such a message. It is not true that all humans are incapable of being happy with their lives and position.

What your teacher gave you was a message that would create a hopeless/uncontrollable situation in your mind. When if fact, you can decide to be happy with your life, just where you are with what you have whenever you like.

Many people do make that choice, and many people are very happy and consider themselves to have the dream. That doesn't apply to just the rich with lots of toys either. I have traveled a lot in the U.S. and out, and I have met more happy people living the dream than not and most were not rich with powerful positions.

You are in control. However, now that you have accepted the agreement your teacher has put in front of you, that you will never be happy, that you will always have to strive for more, because it is your nature and you have no choice or control, it is likely that you won't.

By anon142930 — On Jan 14, 2011

The american dream is something each generation should work harder to attain. So why is it that our society is going downhill? The answer is simple: nobody is trying to work hard anymore.

You see your friends not caring and so you stop caring for fear of persecution, but if you stopped caring and your friends followed, it would be a chain reaction, would it not? All I'm saying is instead of all of the research papers everyone is doing on the American Dream, let's put it into practice as well and work hard no matter what others think because we'll come out on top.

Definitely helpful for my literature essay. Thanks!

By anon142835 — On Jan 14, 2011

good articles.

By anon140684 — On Jan 08, 2011

this article helped me with my essay. very helpful. i think the american dream is attainable and hard work will help you to attain it.

By anon138158 — On Dec 30, 2010

To me the American dream is to have all the necessities of life, including opportunity to have the fruits of your labor. If people work and do not get ahead, do not better themselves, what is the point?

The American dream is to have all the basics that all people share. That means a normal portion of water, food, shelter, clothing, fuel, friends, and opportunities to improve life.

I worry the dream is dying because government is debasing the currency, taxing income, and selling children into debt slavery at far too fast a rate to benefit bond holders and rich people.

I also worry education has become too expensive. No education, no job opportunities other than self employment, which is risky and tough. K-12 costs $150,000 per student. A four year degree is $160,000 for private school and $80,000 for public with half subsidized by taxpayers. A $300,000 education is too expensive. I worry education has become the new form of segregation and class distinction.

I also worry about racism baked into society. Hebrews send 80 percent of their children to college because that is where the money is. Whites are lower than this. Other minorities send few, if any, children to college. Education is a crisis because we segregate and discriminate by educational level in America and it skews our society to Hebrews and whites. Education has to become cheaper.

The American dream is not embracing diversity or racist affirmative action quotas for Hebrews, Africans, women, homosexuals, immigrants, and minorities. The American dream is merit, doing a good job, well done. The dream is in danger because so many incompetent people have been promoted to meaningless high paying jobs like airport underwear inspectors. Government has to change. It is devouring the American dream.

By anon135207 — On Dec 17, 2010

the american dream is a nothing but a tool used by the rich to keep the poor in their place. Think about it: class distinctions are evident in this american society. We worships nothing but sex and money.

Religion is dead and our truth is a truth that is fed to us at a young age by TV. The rich fear losing us as their workers, so by instituting an imagination of the American dream the rich keep us working hard for them while we hope that we will be one day be "living the dream" but we won't.

If you even try to argue that there aren't social classes in america, then just look in your wallet and notice that feeling developing; it's called greed.

By anon134498 — On Dec 14, 2010

Just because the American Dream doesn't happen for everybody -- or doesn't happen the way someone wants it -- doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. America is the land of opportunity, and offers freedom and chances to those who aren't able to acquire it elsewhere. That was what the American Dream originally was and, if you think about it, it's still true today.

By anon134470 — On Dec 14, 2010

The American Dream is just something made up. I believe the American Dream is simply hope, and hope is all it's going to be.

By anon130982 — On Nov 30, 2010

The problem today is that everybody wants the government to give them the American Dream instead of working for it.

By anon129846 — On Nov 25, 2010

*sigh*, when will someone realize that this is not just the "american dream", but the lack of fulfillment in the everyday lives of American people, and the desire for material possessions?

By anon121432 — On Oct 24, 2010

why are people writing about the american dream for an essay?

By anon90090 — On Jun 14, 2010

Good article.

By anon89044 — On Jun 08, 2010

I have to write an essay on the American Dream. This was helpful-ish.

By anon81571 — On May 02, 2010

thanks. this helped my with my essay.

By anon80152 — On Apr 26, 2010

Perfect example Eddie Crowe. A man chasing his American Dream through a damn nightmare. It will be a great story of success or the greatest story of failure to achieve the American Dream ever written.

Contains music, bio, photos and his American Dream story.

Do some research eddie crow blues. Happy reading and listening.

By anon80097 — On Apr 26, 2010

the Canadian dream is so much better!

By anon78621 — On Apr 19, 2010

this helped me with my project research paper.

By anon72895 — On Mar 24, 2010

great ideas, thanks for your help!

By anon72786 — On Mar 24, 2010

The american dream is a waste of time!

By anon65258 — On Feb 11, 2010

Our government is out of control. Buy a couple simple shotguns, one for each adult in your home and lots of ammunition.

By anon63741 — On Feb 03, 2010

I don't agree with 35977. I know that that is probably not your opinion of it though. I think that we can achieve the American Dream if we work hard enough. We have to! As a lot of my friends and family say, great things come from hard work. If you work hard, great things will happen to you.

By anon56469 — On Dec 15, 2009

This is kind of confusing but I do understand. I think this information will help me on my project greatly!

By anon55403 — On Dec 07, 2009

number 1 is the best definition ever.

By anon55140 — On Dec 04, 2009

Perfect definition. Factual meaning of the American dream, without the fluffy crap that they teach you in school. Good job.

By anon55080 — On Dec 04, 2009

why can't you say something like "it is a house in the suburbs with 2.34 kids" or something. What you said doesn't help me at all on my project!

By anon52654 — On Nov 16, 2009

you know what all i want to know is the history of the american dream for english coursework. why can't you do that!

By anon45383 — On Sep 16, 2009

I think that everybody has their own interpretation of the American Dream, but all within a similar context. At one point or another, every single citizen of the United States of America is given the opportunity to achieve their American Dream. However, people become very confused and mistake the fact that our opportunity is *not* a guarantee. Only you, as an individual, can achieve your dream. But nowhere does it say that *everyone* can live it.

By ostrich — On Sep 08, 2009

It does seem that America is spiraling down, which I find sad although I never believed really in the American dream. But I wonder how long this country will be at the forefront of the world. Seems we've had out day.

By anon44519 — On Sep 08, 2009

i used this article as my summary for my language arts class and i did great.

By anon38303 — On Jul 25, 2009

Yes, having what we have and living life to the fullest is the dream, but the way the world is working, a lot of unemployment is around. How can we make it while we are losing material possesions, bills are racking sky high, and so on. Our happy tank is getting empty while our banking accounts are following. And i'm scared! what is going to happen to the world, as we are in a depression? I'm lucky to be working 16 hours a week but it is not paying my bills, etc. I'm going to school full time in the criminal justice field? will I have a job when I graduate? Over 700 and some more sheriffs just got laid off due to the recession. But living life to the fullest until it pops is what us Americans have got to do. So to all who are reading, God bless, and anyone who takes offense to that. I'll be praying for all.

By anon35977 — On Jul 09, 2009

We learned at school that the American Dream is never obtainable because humans will never learn to be fully happy with their lives and position; they will always strive for more and never be fulfilled with everything that they have...thus, the American Dream is never achieved.

By anon35969 — On Jul 09, 2009

Great definition spasiba.

By anon31557 — On May 07, 2009

We don't try to have the American dream nowadays. We just live our lives to the "fullest" and do whatever we want to do. What do you think is the American dream?

By ostrich — On Feb 21, 2009

to anon25375 - I don't think we try AT ALL to try to make people come to the US. I think we do everything possible to refuse them entry, especially people from the Third World. I'd like to see evidence for why you think we try to make them come.

By opmom — On Jan 31, 2009

anon25375: Despite your rosy outlook on attaining the American Dream, I think that many can and continue to make their dreams come true. While the dream may have evolved over the decades, the bottom line is that the *opportunity* is still there. I know immigrants who came here with nothing, who worked, and scrimped and saved and established successful businesses, provided comfortable homes for their children, and are giving them the opportunity to accomplish their own goals. Did they accomplish the "American Dream?" Maybe, maybe not. While there may be a stereotype of what that dream is, it's different for everyone.

By anon25375 — On Jan 28, 2009

The United States, and North America in general fails to come anywhere near it. It is not hard to see either, take a drive downtown, and look at the slum housing, arguably worse than anything the Soviets ever put up, the export of low paying jobs, and the weakness of the minimum wage which removes liquid assets which can be saved. The American dream only works if there is something for nothing, the Frontier, or if everyone is able to have some minimal liquid assets. This is what is not met in the poorest section of the country.

Many people want to come to the United States, we try desperately to make them come. However the reality remains the same. How often do these people get a job which raises them out of poverty, and allows them to actually achieve their goals. The answer is very few.

The ability to do whatever you want is the aspect of the American Dream that we as North Americans have to wake up from. It should be re-written to read. "You can do whatever you want so long as you can afford it and with that we will give you no help." If read that way the "Dream becomes far more reflecting of reality. Minimum $40,000 debt for University, A minimum wage job which doesn't make ends meet. No pension plan, On average some of the worst health care in the developed world (Canada, and low level American Hospitals 18 and 37 Overall Distribution (1997) Respectively). What about that is a Dream to me it is a Nightmare.

By spasiba — On Oct 05, 2008

No society can have one hundred percent of liberty, equality, fairness, happiness etc available to all its citizens at all time. But United States, thanks to our wise founding fathers comes pretty close to it.

Perfection is just not humanly possible. Since we all have failings, we will undoubtedly do imperfect things. The task for all of us is to strive to be better, to work toward, and to uplift what is the best and highest in ourselves. And to that end, United States offers to all of us this opportunity. It is one of the best countries the world has ever known. People from all over the world come, and many more would give anything for the opportunity to come and live in the United States.

To me the American Dream is the liberty offered to its citizens; the freedom to attend school, to start a business, to work, to pray if you want to, and not how many things I own. Material possessions, albeit nice, are not what life and happiness are all about. As a matter of fact happiness is not directly proportional to material possessions. Happiness comes from appreciating and being grateful for what we do have.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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