Over time, the definition of the American dream has seemed quite problematic for most people. This is because the term has been defined and explained in different ways over some period. People seem to follow the different definitions of the term based on what they believe to be true. The “American Dream” was first defined by James Adams in his book, ‘The Epic of America’. This was in 1931. He referred to as the dream of the land whereby where people’s life ought to be richer and better for everyone (Abrahamson 39). This would mean that everyone is presented with opportunities based on their achievements or abilities. The definition provided by Adams is not quite prevalent at the moment. People have come with other definitions of the term though there are people who still work within the confines of Adams’ definition. Regardless of the definition that people adhere to, American dream is meant to make people move forward in pursuit of the good things that life can offer. It is an integral part when it comes to the motivation of people working in different areas across the country.
Goff (1) asserts that it is a high time that people redefined the true meaning of what being successful in America is all about. He asserts that majority of the people cannot afford the American dream as it is defined currently. Goff argues that it costs an estimated amount of $130,000 every year in order to actualize the American Dream. Only 1 in 8 American families can have the ability to achieve the dream given the threshold (Goff 1). In this respect, Goff was referring to the “white picket fence dream.” It is a dream that seems to be extremely materialistic. I tend to agree with Goff that the white-picket-fence dream is dying since a lot has changed (priorities, lifestyle and economy), and most people don’t have the means or ability to actualize the dream since things like college and housing have become too expensive.
Body Part 1
The Founding Father’s Dream
The dream was meant to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities with regards to living a comfortable and happy life. It did not revolve around the ideology of getting rich. Happiness was believed to be the main driving force. This would mean that people were involved in activities that brought happiness in a variety of ways. The level of contentment was quite high when this dream was being pursued. This is in comparison to the other dreams that came after it. The dream had an emphasis on people working as a community by looking out after each other. This made it possible for a good number to actualize the dream.
People are driven by the desire to attain the best possible jobs in the market; those that will enable them to acquire the most amount of money. This will ensure that they have the ability to afford favorable homes and other things that they might desire in life. That would include cars, limited edition items and expensive trips just to mention a few. All these prospects are meant to be enjoyed within the confines of the family. Under the White-picket-fence dream, people desire and work towards enriching the lives of their families in general.
The New American Dream
This dream is more focused on things that really matter. This includes things like the positive contribution to the society, spending more time with friends and family and creating a meaningful life among others. Amadeo (1) views it as a dream where people take more pleasure in saving compared to spending. There is the aspect of living below the means but within the needs. People are not spending every penny with the objective of impressing others.
The white-picket-fence dream seems to be different compared to the New American Dream and the Founding Fathers’ Dream. It is more concerned with material possession. People only desire of getting higher wages so that they can end up being rich. On most occasions, the means used to generate the wealth is not put into consideration, so long as it is attained. This means that the dream is based more on the capitalism perspective. The other dreams have elements that would help enhance the well-being of the society.
Body Part 2
The white-picket-fence dream is dying since a lot has changed (priorities, lifestyle and economy), and most people do not have the ability or means to actualize the dream since things like college and housing have become too expensive. During the period when this was being developed, the value of the dollar was higher compared to the present period. This would mean that life was better compared to the present period. With inflation and everything else affecting the economy, life has changed to a great extent. Achieving this dream has become quite expensive. Goff (1) had argued that it would cost an individual $130,000 every year in order to actualize the white-picket-fence dream. This is to mean that only 1 in 8 families in America have the ability to achieve this prospect. When something is not affordable to the majority of the people, its feasibility dwindles. People tend to ignore its prospect and focus on other things that are within their reach.
The benchmarks that are associated with the dream are also contributors of its negative possibility. It is more inclined towards home ownership, educating children, owning good cars and having stable families. The dreams of most people that live in America do not involve these issues. Not everyone desires to own a house. A good example is people that work in big cities like New York. Such an individual would be more intrigued by the prospect of getting an apartment with less rental charges compared to the home ownership idea (Covert 2).
White-picket-fence dream also referred to stable families as families that involved both parents and children. To some extent, it involved other extended members of the family. The changes in lifestyles have prompted people to live different lives. There are people who want to remain single throughout their life. Some of these choices might have been shaped by the things that they have encountered in life. To others, it is a choice, while others do not embrace the prospect of having kids or lifelong partners. Does it mean that this people cannot strive to attain the American dream? That is why people are trying to coin a different meaning of the American dream that is attainable based on their situations. As a result, the white-picket-fence dream as it used to be known is dying.
Body Part 3
Howard was born in Dallas, Texas though he moved to California while in his early 20s. He grew up in the 70s and 80s, and many significant events were taking place during this period. During these periods, the 26th Amendment was ratified, the USA boycotted Summer Olympics in Moscow, Nixon became the first president to ever step down, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan among other events. Howard is a White American and was brought up in a family of four children. His parents were farmers and took pleasure in teaching their children the art. Despite his elder brothers embracing the art of family, Howard and his younger sister were not interested. They had different plans for their lives. That was his main driving force when he moved to California at the age of 22. Currently, he considers himself to be in the upper middle class. He has had the ability to make his fortune from a chain of restaurants that he owns.
Howard began to envision the American Dream as he became of age. He viewed it as something that would enable him to move forward in life. His vision was based on the ability to build a big house for his future family. This would be complemented by the ability to provide them with various basic needs and other relevant luxuries. This would bring the desired level of contentment in his life. While growing up, the available resources were limited, so he did not have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of comforts. He did not desire for his children to have a similar experience.
Howard believed that he shared similar sentiments with his peers on issues to do with the American Dream. This is because they would meet while idle and talk about what they desire to achieve in life. He was surprised on how all of them desired to have families and provide them with the best life possible. The surprise was shaped by the fact that most people of their age were quite self-centered and only thought of how successful they would be without picturing other people in their life.
He asserts that his vision of the American dream has not changed with time. “Yes, a lot has changed, and people’s priorities seem to be shifting, but I remain true to what I have believed in for a long time” (Howard’s interview). Howard believes that the change in lifestyles is the reason why the current generation have a different perspective about the American dream compared to how they knew it while growing up. He believes that he has achieved the American dream. He lives in a tremendous house with his family, and has the ability to provide them with the best possible life.
However, he is not sure whether people should strive to attain the American Dream in the current generation. This is because the people now view it in a very different perspective. Howard thinks the American dream is dying since people do not have values anymore. They only care about things, money and possessions, and forget the concept of happiness. He believes that people should not strive to attain the American dream if they are going to uphold these self-centered ideologies. It would only bring more misery and not happiness.
The interview seems to support the thesis that white-picket-fence dream is dying since people are changing their ideologies.
The white-picket-fence dream is dying since a lot of things have changed. This includes ideologies, priorities and lifestyles among other things. The benchmarks set by this dream do not seem feasible as a result. People also lack the means and the ability of attaining the dream. This is because the living cost has gone too high. It is approximated that it would cost $130,000 annually for an individual to attain the dream.
In simple terms, people have changed their views of the American dream significantly. As a result, the prospect of attaining the white-picket-fence dream has become unrealistic and unfeasible for the current generation.
Abrahamson, Eric John. Building Home: Howard F. Ahmanson and the Politics of the American Dream. Berkeley: U of California, 2013. Print.
Amadeo, Kimberly. “What Is the American Dream Today?” About.com News & Issues. 26 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Covert, Bryce. “Whose American Dream Flies?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Goff, Keli. “The American Dream Is Dead, and Good Riddance.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 7 July 2014. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
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