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Gabriela Serna

English 1102 Honors


Professor Sotirakopulos
December 12, 2016
The American Dream: A State of Mind
Ten years ago, the American Dream was alive and well. Ten years ago, homeownership
was at its all-time high and jobs were around every corner. Ten years ago, nearly every American
had either been living their dreams or in pursuit of them. Ten years forward and attitudes towards
the American Dream have become hostile and filled with accusations that it is merely a myth.
Today, the American Dream continues to be a controversial topic. On one side of the debate,
experts believe that the American Dream is only an elusive goal. Researchers at Pew Research
Center argue that United States is a victim to racial disparities which enables minorities to
succeed and furthermore achieve their dreams. On the other side, scholars argue that those who
dont believe in the dream simply arent working hard enough; a Forbes 400 list of Americas
richest demonstrates that the majority of the richest Americans are, surely, immigrants. I will
claim how the American Dream is, in fact, achievable with the correct financial moves and
morals. In this essay, I will examine both sides of the question: Is the American Dream Real?
Focusing on the education and labor aspects to analyze statistics and experts research to
determine the reality of the American Dreams existence? Ultimately, the motive of this essay is
to fully examine both sides of the American Dream controversy and by using my own field
research unravel the American Dream in its purest form.

The American Dream is stemmed from the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas
Jefferson penned his famous statement of the peoples inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. Since its birth, the dream was a simple premise that anyone, through hard
work, and fair dealings, could attain independent economic prosperity. But 2007 marks the year
the American Dream lost its credit. It felt like the world had been tilted to its side in America
when the greatest economic even in 75 years unfolded, The Great Recession. Trillions of dollars
were being lost in the stock market, employment was considered a blessing, and income
inequality was becoming conspicuous. Prosperity in America has since decreased and the
American Dream is considered a tragedy.
The fact of the matter is that just like our nation has evolved so has the American Dream.
Citizens are no longer dreaming of white picket fences but instead of a happy life in whatever
shape or form it comes in. A 2015 report conducted by Lifestory Research interviewed over 200
Americans in 66 cities and asked them what the American Dream was too them. 86% of those
reported a physical and mental healthy life. 80% personal freedom, 77% healthy marriage and
family, 77% financial well-being, and 77% education opportunity and degree. In another study
conducted by, Journal of Poverty, considers how some individuals and families who are low
income think about theirs dreams. After interviewing several low-income families, researchers
noticed five themes that are consistent with research found by Lifestory; job and financial
stability, ideal homelife, values about their freedom, and aspirations for their children. After the
recession, Americans have learned their lesson and have become more financially mature.
Redefining the American dream; Americans goals are no longer private jets and yachts but
instead a steady job, financial security, and safe retirement. The harsh reality is, believe it or not,
you have to work for your dreams. The American Dream is based on perception and the key to it

is self-motivation. You can have anything you want if you want it badly enough. You can be
anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish, if you hold that desire with
singles of purpose as said by Abraham Lincoln, America allows you to have your own selffulfilling prophecy.
The United States is the perfect battle ground for anyone to accomplish their dreams. It
holds solid business environments, a legal system that promotes entrepreneurship, and a culture
of positivity. It is a place comparatively free of the shackles of feudalistic nepotism. The
American Dream is no longer the accumulation of wealth and possession. Financial guru, TV
personality and motivational speaker Suze Orman claims in her book, The Money Class, that the
American Dream is dead but that a new kind has resurrected. She highlights key financial rules
to achieving the new American dream. Learning to stand in your truth and becoming your own
personal accountant is a critical foundation of honesty on which to build your America Dream.
Living below yours means but within your needs; drawing a line between what you want to what
you need. And the golden rule, which is looking forward not back by focusing on working and
saving towards your American dreams. Orman argues that the American dream is real and
achievable with any financial circumstance with the correct financial moves and mindset.
Indian University student, Brandon King, in his essay, The America Dream: Dead,
Alive, or on hold?, justifies that the American Dream is solely based on perception and that it is
up to an individual whether that dream comes true: [based]on the way someone can imagine
how to be successful. Both Orman and King agree that the American Dream is still achievable
but with the correct career strategies and mentality. For example, one cannot expect to work at a
fast food restaurant and suddenly after ten years have someone give them, say, a graphic
designing job at Marc Jacobs. One must first approach the situation with the correct financial

moves, by saving up for a degree in graphic design. Next, one must have the right morals, after
saving just enough to go to university, get your degree and start your graphic design career, or
dont go to school and instead safe enough to move to New York to network your graphic design
portfolio, and etc. The beauty of the American Dream is that there are a variety of ways to
achieve your dreams in America, its about saving, not splurging, and taking the right life moves
towards your dreams.
I understand that there are many who feel cheated by America; those who have worked
hard their entire life, and still not even close to their dreams. These tiresome people argue that
The Great Recession has yet to end due to a combination of stock market decline, high
unemployment, and the most worrisome problem income inequality. Of the most diehard haters
of the American Dream their argument revolves around inequality. The lions share of economic
growth in America over the past thirty years has gone to a small, wealthy minority (qtd in
King). American society has created social barriers against the lower minorities of the United
States which cause all the wealth to accumulate to the top. The National Center for Education
Statistic has provided a table that lists the median annual earnings of full-time year-round
workers 25 to 34 years old and full-time workers as a percentage of the labor force, by sex,
race/ethnicity, and educational attainment through the years of 1955 through 2012. It shows that
when it comes to race/ethnicity white citizens make substantially more money than any other
race/ethnicity in the United States. In 2012, the annual earning of whites of all education were
around 40, 960. While annual earnings of African Americans were $31,790, Pacific Islanders,
$32 090, and Hispanics a rock bottom $29,900. The statistics portray that the higher education
the higher the income, however they also prove that a white male can have the same educations
as a Hispanic male and still get paid more. When it comes to gender income inequality, males

annual earnings for 2012 were $40,000 and females was a devastating, $35,000; even with the
same degree females made much less than males in 2012. Overall, the statistics exposed the
hidden income inequality that lies in America.
These inequalities mean barriers to achieve success for the lower minorities of America.
Journal of Poverty researchers address that the American Dream has proven to be more of a myth
than a reasonable expectation because of its insistent individualism, a failure to consider
institutional and structural barriers that appear repeatedly to inhabit access to certain
opportunities for persons of different incomes, races, and ethnicity. Individuals and minorities
who are low income often experience various forms of educational an occupational
discrimination due to policies implemented by mire advantaged class members in schools and
work (Jefferson). Despite a strong work ethic, an intense desire to succeed, an understanding of
the value and utility of education, and a trust and belief in the American school system, the
academic achievement of Latinos lags behind others in the United states (qtd. in Jefferson). In
correlation with Journal of Povertys research, Pew Research Team in a public opinion,
demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research
demonstrates how the American Dream cannot be fundamentally possible if there are still
significant racial disparities in the Unites States. 69% of blacks and whites believe that their
groups get along pretty well. Research also presents that blacks are in severe and unfair
treatment compared to whites. The research ultimately compares how far we come versus how
far we have to go in America. How can someone move up the economy when the economy itself
is dying?
Those same people who argue that everyone is entitled to higher education and swear that
the America Dream is fat lie because of the lack of minorities who continue their education, fail

to push for the policies that support an equal distribution of higher education. Brandon King
argues that to regulate the after math of the Great Recession and inequality that lies in
educational and labor opportunities, the federal government must enact the right policies. The
government should fund wall street and struggling business, and the government should create
possibilities that fill the opportunity gaps that minorities face when it comes to education and
labor. Another element that King points out is that the government should not raise taxes on the
rich. Instead, the more money they have the more they spend; the more the rich spend the more
jobs it creates, which directly decreases unemployment. The only thing the government can do is
provide a solid foundation for Americans to go out a attain their dreams.
And in spite of economic and social barriers that need to be corrected by policies the
American Dream still lives. Today, The Unites States is openly known as the country for second
chances to immigrants around the world. Contrary to beliefs, America is exceptionally
welcoming to immigrants as it leads in immigration integration and better success than any other
country in the world. Mobility is integrated in American law and economy, and it is this that
makes the American Dream possible; anyone can be a CEO and anyone can be the president.
And if the American Dream is a myth why is the wealthiest American of all time a result of the
American Dream; from rags to refineries, John D. Rockefellers quit school and took the risk to
enter the oil business and manage to acquire a net worth of $340 billion (ODonnell). And yes,
this number is translated to be equivalent to todays share. Others, in todays society, who have
come from humble beginning are Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jay Z;
living verification of the American Dream. The Dream feeds off the desire to see the most
disadvantaged succeed against all odds. Immigrants achievement of the American Dream is also
prevalent; Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans of 2016 shows a record 10 percent are

immigrants. The vast majority of those listed were self-made billionaires who started with
nothing and built their everything. Big names such as Tesla and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk,
who was born in South Africa and now worth $11.6 billion because of her immigration to the
United States. The list demonstrates, as evaluated by Amanda Hoover, that there is no other
country on the planet where you or your parents can show up with a lot of hard work and create
huge wealth within one generation. Staff uses the list to convey that the American ecosystem sets
the stage for hungry and scrappy immigrants and entrepreneurs to create big companies and
enormous wealth.
To further my claim, I conducted my own research and interviewed two immigrants about
their American Dreams. I first sat down with Peter Brzezina, 35, he emigrated to the US when he
was only 3 years old. His Parents and along with Peter left Poland in 1984 to escape
communism. The family felt limited in what they could dream for because of the strictness
aspect of Polands political methods at the time. Peter expressed to me be that him and his parent
were successful in finding better opportunities in America. His father managed to run a
construction company and after that opened his own tax business in a country where everything
was completely new to him. Today, Peters parents are comfortably retired. However, the
American Dream is most obvious in Peter as successfully for the past 11 years has served as a
sheriffs deputy with no college education. Maria Brzezina is 36, and is Peters wife. She came to
the Us when she was 19 from Mexico in search for a brighter future. Maria told me that her jobs
in Mexico were limited and low paying. Mobility in Mexico, interms of income, was hard to
achieve, even with hard work. Since coming to the US, despite not knowing the language, she
was given the opportunity to learn English and go to beauty school. Today Maria Lozano is a
senior stylist at Migdalias Caribbean Salon and recently she has been offered to become the

owner of the salon. My final question to the immigrant couple was if they believed the American
Dream existed? Peter responded with, I do believe it exists and the proof is the thousands of
people that come here every year. Its close to 500,000 people a year and thats not counting the
illegal immigration, he believes if the American Dream didnt exist people would not want so
desperately to come here. It is even more obvious that America has something wonderful to offer
when I then asked Maria. She also agreed with her husband by stating, I believe it is real, my
whole family and I could go to school and find a better job, but ultimately I found my husband.
For both Peter, Maria and even Peters parents the American Dream proves its existence. All three
were able to take advantage of the United States easily accessible economic mobility and
through hard works arised from their previous living standards.
The American Dream today in its purest form is to achieve a happy and healthy life; how
the dream is shaped is up to an each individuals own unique destiny. Regardless of
circumstance, the American Dream today is also still possible for anyone with the correct finical
mindset and morals. The United States set the perfect economic and social mobility foundation
for anyone to fulfill their Americans Dreams. Like Maria and Peter Brzezina, both immigrants
who were successfully integrated and made use of the Americas fine economic system to
achieve brighter futures. Although, Kauffman researchers found that most immigrants still face
substantial roadblocks to achieving success better policies, as argued by Brandon King and
Amanda, could boost the success rate of immigrants, who play a vital role in creating business
and the jobs that benefit the country. The fact of the matter is, the American Dream is simply
that. A dream and a vision to find new ground, fresh possibilities, and be successful by the sweat
of your own brow. It is an idea, a belief, a dream. It is not a written law or a right. No one is
going to give you your dreams; not in American, not anywhere. You can live your own American

Dream, it is possible and millions of Americans are living proof, and if you havent already what
are you waiting for.

Works Cited
Brzezina, Peter & Maria. Personal Interview. 28 November 2016.
King, Brandon. The American Dream: Dead, Alive, or on Hold? They Say / I Say: The Moves
That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings, edited by Graff, Gerald, et al. Norton,
W. W. & Company, Inc., 2015, 610-617.
Lifestory Research, The American Dream: A State of Mind, 2015. pp. 3-5,15-19. Web.10 Nov.
2016. http://lifestoryresearch.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/05/Lifestory_Research_2015_American_Dream_Report.pdf
Jefferson, Anna. Lucio, Joanna. Peck, Laura. Dreaming the Impossible Dream: Low-Income
Families and Their Hopes for the Future. Journal of Poverty, vol. 20. 2016, pp. 359-379.
Academic Search Complete, doi:10.1080/10875549.2015.1094772.
National Center for Education Statistics. "Digest of Education Statistics. 2013,
https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_502.30.asp.
O'Donnell, Carl. "The Rockefellers: A Legacy of Historys Richest Man." Forbes. Forbes
Magazine, 14 July 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/carlodonnell/2014/07/11/the-rockefellers-the-legacy-ofhistorys-richest-man/#2a9e620c60e7.
Orman, Suze. The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream. Publisher,
Spiegel & Grau, 2011.

Pew Research Team. Kings Dream Remains an Elusive Goal; Many Americans See Racial
Disparities. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing: With
Readings, edited by Graff, Gerald, et al. Norton, W.W. & Company, Inc, 2015, 627-637.
Hoover, Amanda. "Forbes list boasts more immigrants than ever. Is the American dream alive?".
Christian Science Monitor. 06 Oct. 2016. Academic Search Complete.
http://web.a.ebscohost.com.cod.idm.oclc.org/ehost/detail/detail?sid=740ebf88-95214df0-be72-3e9540a13dfe
%40sessionmgr4006&vid=0&hid=4107&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZ
T1zaXRl#AN=118571786&db=a9h. Accessed on 7 Nov. 2016.