How does having dreams and aspirations positively affect people's lives?

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Having dreams and aspirations is incredibly important and can positively affect people's lives in a number of different ways, both on an individual basis and on a broader, global scale.

On a global scale, the civil rights movement in America began, for many, as a dream. Indeed, in his famous...

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Having dreams and aspirations is incredibly important and can positively affect people's lives in a number of different ways, both on an individual basis and on a broader, global scale.

On a global scale, the civil rights movement in America began, for many, as a dream. Indeed, in his famous speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. declared that he had a dream to one day see "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners . . . [sit] down together at the table of brotherhood." Many people at this time thought that racial equality was an impossible dream, and that black and white people would never be able to live with one another in peace and harmony. In fact, many people, including many black people, considered that the only solution was for all Americans of African descent to move to Africa. This was known as the Back-to-Africa movement. However, the civil rights movement, led by people like Martin Luther King Jr., believed in and fought for the dream of racial equality, and it is because of people like this that we are now much closer to that dream being a reality. One might even argue that we are as close as we are to that dream being a reality because Martin Luther King Jr. aspired to achieve equality through peaceful, nonviolent protest. Many others, like Malcolm X, believed that this was an unrealistic and unhelpful aspiration.

The civil rights movement, which began as a dream, achieved a number of goals which have positively impacted the lives of millions of people. In 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which made illegal any racial discrimination in the workplace or in schools. One year later, Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, which brought an end to spurious legal barriers which had previously prevented black people from voting. Over fifty years later, it is certainly arguable that King's dream is yet to be fully realized, but it is indisputable that this dream has, nonetheless, positively impacted the lives of millions of Americans.

In addition to the accomplishments of the civil rights movement, there are plenty of other examples of global achievements which have positively impacted the lives of millions of people and which have begun as dreams or aspirations. Equality between the sexes began as a dream, for example. Like racial equality, it is not yet fully realized, but thanks to people like Emmeline Pankhurst (an English suffragette who helped secure the vote for women in 1918) and Susan B. Anthony (an American Quaker who campaigned for the vote for women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), millions of women now enjoy greater equality and have access to many more opportunities than was the case in the relatively recent past.

There are, of course, also examples of dreams and aspirations which have negatively impacted people's lives on a global scale. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party had an aspiration to ethnically "cleanse" Germany of Jews, Romani, and homosexuals, and this aspiration became a reality in which millions of people, including six million Jews, were brutally tortured and murdered in concentration camps. Not long after the atrocities committed by the Nazis, Chairman Mao presided over what is now known as the Great Famine of China (1958–1961), which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. This famine was in large part caused by Mao's aspiration to accelerate China's process of industrialization so that it could compete with the likes of America. The famine was also caused in part by policies enacted in the name of Communism, such as the forced collectivization of farms into communes.

Therefore, for every dream or aspiration that has led to significant positive impacts upon people's lives on a global scale, there will be an example of a dream which has led to significant negative impacts. The logical inference is that dreams and aspirations only positively affect people's lives if those dreams and aspirations are moral and seek to alleviate oppression and suffering, rather than add to or exacerbate that suffering which already exists.

On a more personal level, dreams and aspirations can also affect people's lives in both positive and negative ways, depending largely upon the nature of those dreams and aspirations and also upon the moral character of the individual who is pursuing the dream or aspiration. Having an aspiration to become rich, for example, could affect a person positively or negatively, depending upon how moral or immoral one is prepared to be to achieve that goal. On the one hand, the aspiration for wealth could make a person work harder and thus contribute more fully to society. On the other hand, aspiring to become rich could result in a person neglecting family, friends, or their own health.

The sporting arena is a good place to demonstrate and develop this point. Athletes work incredibly hard to achieve their dreams, whether it be an Olympic medal, a World Cup, the Super Bowl, or something else. Most who achieve their dreams do so by living healthy lives, persevering, and working hard. And for many, the result is wealth, perhaps fame, and the satisfaction and happiness one gets from achieving a dream. All of these consequences are, ostensibly at least, positive. There are also some athletes, however, who achieve their dreams by cheating. Lance Armstrong (an American cyclist who won seven Tour de France titles) is a good example of an athlete who allowed his dream of success to cause a negative impact. His desperation to win at all costs made him resort to blood doping. His cheating was uncovered in 2013, and he has since been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

In summary, dreams and aspirations can positively affect people's lives in ways which are life-changing and enduring, but they can also affect people's lives negatively in ways which are devastating and horrific. Whether the impact is positive or negative seems to depend on two factors. The first factor is the moral character of the person or persons who have and work toward the dream or aspiration. If one is prepared to achieve one's goal in a fair and moral way, then it is more likely than not that that dream will have a positive rather than a negative impact. The second factor is the nature of the dream itself. If the goal of the dream is to reduce oppression rather than increase it and increase the scale of human happiness rather than reduce it, then it is possible that the dream, with the right people behind it, can have a huge positive impact.

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