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A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a
who hired him to assemble data for the Paris Peace Conference following \Vorld War I. Truslow Adams was told. 1854 THAT TITLE WON'T WORK. Adams. which he attended as a cartographer in the American After the war. Adams wrote his "New England trilogy"-which included the Pulitzer recognition The Founding New England a volume in the highly for Provincial . Edward M. Adams. No one will pay three dollars for a book about a dream.INTRODUCTION: A Py"". he went to work on Wall Street himself. -Henry that if one and endeavors David Thoreau. House. A man with elite bloodlines dating back to the seventeenth century. Walden. (His father was an unsuccessful Wall Street broker.rm"". His local histories of Island brought him some renown and attracted the attention of adviser Col. born in had nevertheless grovvnup under relatively modest circumstances.) After graduating from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 18g8 and a master's in at Yale in 1900. author of a series of books on American history-think of him as the David McCullough or Ken Burns of the Ig30s-was to broaden his literary horizons. making enough money to devote himself to writing. when one of his ancestors came to Virginia as an indentured servant and ended up in the landowning class.t· advances contidentlv to live the in common hours.
"American Dream" could be dis- he would remain ~r. and every rank.~"'~'· out of step with the temper of his disappointed with his country. which is the greatest contribution we have made to and welfare of the world.. Ever since of each has seen an dream from the forces which armearcd it. academic historians.tprj it from someone not in reluctance to use it '~f\merican Dream" was use elsewhere. That dream or has been became an in(:\e.>n"pr of his PUPU'UUdL'U Adams wanted to write a one-volume for the and his there was no wanted to contribute was a broad sized historical themes. present from the start. So in to it is notable that the edition of the book I two hundred veal'Slater.. ..lerlde:nt nation. He was now nr. Adams invoked it over times in The and the rapidly entered comas a for what he his country was all in the United States but in the rest of the world. than what he called life for all our cirithat American dream of a better.""<1.' book The American Dream. in it seems odd that Adams was talked out of his wish to . In any event..rAnr. richer.. While it's not clear nn.4 American Dream off the shelf A of American Life" series edited Dixon Fox and Arthur M..
.. the United States has also benefited from some of the that holds other nations. is the theoretical basis of American To be sure.hr American dreams in a . But at the turn of the century.i--Clrlri attained..Dream American Dream remains In the and yet national element of that may well be marked a before.~r.. Sometimes "better and richer and fuller" is defined in terms of the contemporary United one could almost believe this is the definition-but there are others.rp.-il" New geogracomes Yet the United States the country. but the devil is in the details: what does "better and richer and fuller" The answers vary. which founder on the confidence of individual citizens that will be the ones who overcome the odds and one of great themes of American And celebrities who find themselves overwhelmed the verv Nl".. On the other of nation that has been re-created as a deliberate act of conscious choice every time a person has landed on these shores. some of that social cement transnational institutions like citizens far more than local government does. This book few varieties of the American Dream: their their their describQn. inheritance. educational sexual available at any have also over time and comfor the status of common sense.·n. Economic and racial stratification have grown doubts about the breadth and of And amid the greatest surge of in our h13from more of the world than ever At a time like the an idiom that The American Dream would' have no drama or self-evident falsehood or demonstrable dream as an that prevent collective This book grows out of belief that any attempt to bilities and limits of the American Dream bromide but rather there are many American on their and their in the of The life should be better and richer and fuller for every man" may be fine far as it goes. Over the course of human is itself was existence of a ""..
. I then look the most realized American Dream: home this is an old I pay attention to passage of Homestead of suburbia in the secLincoln in of the suburban dream ond half of the twentieth and has had consequences that have been both me to my final American Dream.'"r'nrp it is that the American Dream bound up with freedom and that this book had kind of of that concept well.8 order. understood in terms of ecoThis too took root At the locus of this stood in terms American American Dream.'.nU" Introduction: A Dream 9 WfWQh"""n nr"rF'p. Lincoln's rise from in the remorseless to understand the dream he embodied-makes lens which to understand the H1e-.1 to examine what I call the charter of the American Dream: the Declaration of This the cornerstone of the American the small group of men to seize the reins of power from the British.n.J. Bl0re than individual fulfillment. I that of small groups of traversed an ocean way of Their dream was one of manifold involved their CLq.. the made it difficult for his to resist It ment to define that dream in terms of Q".21". If so. then the book will have succeeded on some ""nn... This is the most and insidious of American and one that seems to have become nrpnronl1 the start of the rwenryfirst as you read you may note any number of even to map out additional varieties of the American Dream. him a American of is m observer onee dubbed "the American Creecl"shared like the Declaration of define the American Dream in the eager to to remind even C011- . Like the its roots go back to the from the so-called adventurers sudden of the their But nowhere does this dream come more into focus than in the culture of sermmythic unlike in the Dream of fame and fortune were all the more if achieved without obvious effort.. the American Revolution was tax But it me than ever before that freedom has meant many ur.. For a measure because I believe freedom for marketers and conservative enlist it in their causes. From that of n01111C dream social advancement. members of some think tanks like us.'h than exhaustive.ncr the marrow of smce. As with many dreams that become a has turned out than I to n. This is also dream albeit of a different kind than that the Puritans or Abraham Lincoln.. But itself and the intentions of the men who it.'u..
Arthur Miller's 1953play The which used the Salem witch trials of the seventeenth century as a for the witch hunts of the twentieth century.uaH'-'-. the sex scandal LV1Dl~VU 1 . and most the Puritans are widely regarded as very unpleasant people. In its broadest sense. in turn. To be sure.~lp that we out freedoms our or civil liberties. The pluralistic nature of freedom can be a source of but also a source of hope. like the presidents of the late nineteenth century.IO The American Dream in American for pv~n. Some figures. There are a number of reasons for this. CHAPTER I DREAj\.have had others. into deserved obscurity. But the Puritans have had a COIlS'IS(lel reputation that stands out like a scarlet letter in collective national memory. like the quickly ascended into our pantheon of Confederates of the Civil "Val'. lies at the very core of American the bedrock upon which all else depends. However include the freedom to commitment-all notions of freedom rest on a sense of the idea that individuals have control over the course of their lives. But such an encansulauon does suggest the tenor of national and sugthat has marked it also suggests the role a 111 with an idea that seems to as the air we breathe. One of the greatest the the American Dream is that its foundations were laid a belief that did have control over their destinies. The word "puritanical" is still in wide usage in the twenty-first century. if prominent. to heirs who elaborated a of self-help and ends with people who to make any effort at all. a because all these types have been around at every in the last four hundred years.l OF THE G THE PURITAJV EJVTERPRISE FEW PEOPLE in American history have been as disliked as the Puritans. to many. have tively rare. This course. you say that the narrative arc of this book who denied their efforts could affect their successors who later declared to get that \. And they have often received grudging that's about as far as it goes. remains a fixture of high school literature providing millions of American schoolchildren their most vivid of Puritanism. paraHenry David the Dream assumes that one call advance in the direction of one's dreams to live out an life. usually as a synonym for and knowledgeable observers at home and abroad have attributed American prurience and self-righteousness (typified.
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