How does the notion of the American Dream differ among WWII generation and their children who began to question their authority and cultural values?*Authority and cultural values espoused by...

How does the notion of the American Dream differ among WWII generation and their children who began to question their authority and cultural values?

*Authority and cultural values espoused by American Policymakers in the 1960s*

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historian James Truslow Adams (1878-1949) in his 1931 book Epic of America first coined the phrase "American Dream." He states:

" is 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.”

In his book, he began to question the efficacy of such a philosophy, and asserts that this belief that the Founders had embraced had begun to falter by the 1930's, primarily due to the ever-expanding government and its endless regulation.  The World War II generation (referred to as the "Greatest Generation" in the media) appears to be the last group that saw themselves as part of the vital American Experiment, where one could rise to his or her own potential through one's own efforts.  Having won the war, nothing was impossible. Ironically, the first post-WWII generation became the first generation to witness the end of the Dream on a large scale.  World War II not only destroyed countries and economies in the 1940's, it altered the culture of the world, but that impact did not become apparent until the 1960's, as that first postwar generation came of age.  Having no ties to what the antebellum world was, the young began to question the culture they had inherited.  What they saw was not the ability to reach one's potential, but exactly what Mr. Adams had stated that the dream was not -- obsession with material possession and "keeping up with the Joneses."  The Dream failed because it became not about living to one's potential, which could express that success through material items, but only in acquiring the material possessions themselves.  This shift in ideology was a result of the frustration individuals experienced in attempting to live fully, but countered at every turn by an expanding totalitarian state. In short, Americans began to see their freedoms continually erode. The 1960's thus saw the "Generation Gap" with the WWII era parents promoting values that the postwar generation saw to be a sham. The greatest contrast between these groups came at the culmination of the decade in the summer of 1969, which witnessed the WWII generation achieving the miracle of the Moon Landing, and the first postwar generation in full psychedelic rebellion at Woodstock.

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