How are you planning to celebrate the anniversary of the day our country’s founding fathers declared independence with the hope of a brighter and more prosperous future for all Americans?
While the meaning of the American Dream has been the subject of great debate recently, particularly as it pertains to home ownership, it’s important to always remember that each generation is charged with shaping it for the next. At least that’s the way representatives of the original 13 US colonies who joined together and penned a document declaring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as unalienable rights on July 4, 1776 saw it.
According to recent surveys conducted on behalf of Public Notice and the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, although Americans’ faith in our nation’s promise has been shaken by the economic shocks of recent years, it continues to be resilient.
However, there are warning signs that our leaders should heed, according to Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice, and Michael F. Ford, founding director of the Center for the Study of the American Dream.
The surveys found that for most Americans, the American Dream invokes ideals of financial security, freedom and personal well-being for one’s self and one’s family.
“Interestingly, most Americans – a full 75% – told us they had ‘already achieved some measure of the American Dream,’” Hamel and Ford reported. “Most (63%) were also confident in their individual ability to reach that dream.”
Although, when it comes to the future, the surveys show people are not so sure.
“Throughout our history, Americans have believed their children and grandchildren would enjoy greater opportunities than they have had,” Hamel and Ford added. “In March, the Mellman Group, polling on behalf of Public Notice, asked if the next generation would be better off economically than the current generation. Fifty-nine percent answered no, and 11% were unsure.”
Last year’s Annual State of the American Dream Survey™ conducted by the Center for the Study of the American Dream revealed a similar sentiment with Americans professing little faith in government, business, politics or the media.
“That survey found that 78% of Americans admitted they have ‘less trust’ in government than a few years ago,” Hamel and Ford explained. “Similar results were found when respondents were asked about corporations and the media.”
When it comes to realizing the promise of the American Dream, each generation is charged with finding new opportunities in order to reach their goals.
“The American Dream isn’t something that is handed down to us but something we have to strive for and earn in each successive generation,” Hamel and Ford concluded.
Despite our current economic challenges, international uncertainty and institutional distrust, the American Dream continues to be defined by aspirations of home ownership, modes of transportation, education for our children, health care, retirement security and vacations. The fact that we are still guaranteed the very same rights and freedoms our forefathers proudly fought for and won – including the freedom to practice or not practice religion however we want, to say or write whatever we want, to go wherever we want – is by far the best possible proof that the American Dream is still alive and well.
Just as each generation before us found their way when it came to sustaining the freedoms and opportunities necessary for a good life and financial security, our generation must find its way. Perhaps we can start by reflecting back in history to the fine example of socially conscious behavior set by our founding fathers and rediscover the caring and compassion that provided the impetus for a Declaration of Independence outlining the Want, Will and Hopes of the People.