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Friday, December 27, 2013

The American Dream ... If You Can Dream It, You Can Do it ... Still Alive and Well

We have lots of serious issues, aka headwinds, that are making too many of our fellow Americans pessimistic about the future opportunities for our kids and grandkids. Ourselves as well.

A goal (at least here's my definition) starts out as nothing more than a dream with a timetable attached. Both are equally important. Yet the dream always comes first, and it always will be so.

But the American Dream is a dream that's never finally fulfilled and our work will never be finished. We are a 'rising' nation of 'becomers,' and 'dreamers,' and our society is always moving forward.

Right now we're not moving forward as fast as we'd like, and sometimes, as now, there's are detours and seemingly too-big-to-overcome obstacles along the way. But in the end, they are just 'rocks in the pond.'

And these rocks in the pond will be unintended but useful stepping stones which will aid us in creating a better America, and thereby continue to serve as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

But now let's be practical and face our current reality squarely. We're in a deep hole that we've dug for ourselves, albeit one dug with the "helpful leadership" of our elected officials over many years.

So it's time to begin to climb out of that deep hole. It's very much past time, in fact.

And when trying to get out of a deep hole, the best advice is to first stop digging.

5' 7" slam dunk champion Spud Webb perhaps said it best about the potential power of dreams: "If you can dream it, you can do it."

And so it is in America today. But first, here's a glance at our reality.

We have issues of too much debt, too big, too incompetent and too intrusive a government, a poor and too expensive system of education from kindergarten through college, and to top it off, an underfunded government run public sector pension system (city, state and national) and health care system (primarily national) that are pretty much train wrecks no longer waiting to happen but occurring in real time and right before our eyes.

All that said, we also have the 'can do' legacy of those who came before us and the God given natural and Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That's more than enough to see us through the hard times.

So don't worry; be happy. It's always darkest before the dawn and a revitalized and freedom loving group of Americans are beginning to take the reins from an incompetent and coercive government knows best gang that apparently hasn't a clue --- at least not yet.

It's about time.

Underestimating the American Dream tells the story well:

"The American public has been subjected to a seemingly endless stream of books, articles and commentaries on the downsizing or outright death of the American dream. A Google search for "the death of the American dream" yields more than 276 million citations. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said last year that "the American Dream is a myth" because "inequality is worse than you think." Even President Obama speaks of "diminished levels of upward mobility."
Commentators almost always define the American dream as the expectation of rapidly increasing material wealth. But this perspective unnecessarily narrows the concept, setting it up for dismissal as a corpse or a fantasy whenever the economy slows down.
The American dream has always included material aspiration, especially for those who start out with little or nothing. But as James Truslow Adams —who popularized the term in his 1931 history, "The Epic of America"—wrote, it was "not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." It was the freedom to seek and pursue one's own path. Most important, it was the freedom to follow one's conscience without constraints from governmental authorities.
The American dream in its full sense has been especially evocative for young people and immigrants. I have a vivid memory from my own youth of how stirring this idea can be.
As a ninth-grade sports reporter for my high-school newspaper, I covered a soccer match against a team of immigrant kids from then-communist Eastern Europe. They were great players but ragged and indigent: I can still picture the green pepper and bacon-fat sandwiches that their mothers had packed for their lunches. Yet when I spoke with these boys, I heard them talk excitedly about the American dream.
                                                 
What did it mean for them? One mentioned an uncle back home who was in jail for a sign he carried. Another said that his parents were forced to conceal their religious views in their old country. There was also talk about our wide-open American culture, the amazing prospect of being able to pursue whatever careers they wanted, and, yes, the hope of getting rich. It was a heady mix, fueled by desires that ran the gamut from the material to the spiritual.
Now, decades later, I've had another chance to observe how young people envision the American dream, in a three-year study my research team at the Stanford Graduate School of Education will complete in June 2014. As part of our study, we ask native-born and immigrant youth what they think about American citizenship. We've had a wide range of responses from hundreds of young people, with scores of them offering more elevated and broadly conceived views than can be found in today's standard daily news feed.
Here's what one 18-year-old, native-born student had to say: "I think the American dream is that people can be who they are. Like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of action and stuff. I do believe in that. People can be who they want to be. They shouldn't be influenced by the government, influenced by anyone else, other than themselves, to be themselves." . . .
If the American dream is dismissed as dead or never existing, or confined to its narrowest dimensions of material gain, it may seem that our future prospects are dim. But for those who appreciate the elevated meanings of the American dream that have triggered hope in good times and bad, it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, a harbinger for a nation that is still rising."
Summing Up
So here's the deal.
The American Dream is alive and well.
Let's all work hard and continuously to keep it going.
We the People are in charge, and that's good enough for me to remain a "dreamer."
Now let's all get to the "doing" part of moving forward.
Future generations are depending on us, just as we depended on prior generations of dreamers and doers.
We'll win. We always do.
That's my take.
Thanks. Bob.

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