What do you believe the American Dream is today?Is it still possible to achieve the American Dream or is it a false dream? Do Americans have common goals and ideals? Why, in your opinion, do people...

What do you believe the American Dream is today?

Is it still possible to achieve the American Dream or is it a false dream? Do Americans have common goals and ideals? Why, in your opinion, do people from other countries want to come to America?

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think this is a good and an important question. To me, the American Dream involves a vision of financial self-determination and self-reliance.

The perception of America, from the outside, is that this is a nation possibility. People will not be constrained by former limits, but will be empowered in the US to pursue the achievement of financial success and upward mobility.

Inside America, as the country becomes a bit poorer than it has been recently, we see this same vision of upward potential being reconstituted.

People are again being prodded to go to school to improve their earning potential. However, there are fewer perceived opportunities for real advancement in the US now compared to the perception 25 years ago.

The dream of upward mobility is still intact, but it is mitigated somewhat by a sense of a ceiling for earnings and upward movement, and an uncertainty as to what the "American Story" is now.  This is a time of redefinition, where the dream still plays its part, but where it stands next to a gaping question as to what this country and the world will look like next year. 


clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the heart of the American Dream can be boiled down to striving for independence.  It is humanly ingrained in us from the time we are children, that the "goal" in life is to one day be independent.  

Today, the focus has become "financial freedom," living debt free, and self-provision.  In that way, I think the nation is divided.  It seems that probably half of the adults in America (possibly more) are not only receiving some sort of financial help (whether from family, friends, or the government) but now, more than ever, no longer seeking to get out from under it.  In fact, many believe that receiving help from others is their "right." 

I think American Dream has become divided.  Some still adhere to the traditional goal to "make it" on their own, while others are fighting hard to make sure everyone is "equal" when it comes to success, at whatever cost.

teachersyl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of the American Dream is ambiguous enough that it can withstand any example of how it is impossible to achieve. People can define it for themselves in a variety of ways, and the concept itself can shift based on cultural and social norms. 

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is probably the clearest example of how the American Dream is not for everyone. His heroes have the chance to gain success, but they fall short through circumstances surrounding them. 

But that doesn't make it a false dream. For every story of falling short, there are other stories of success. Look to non-fiction, and you can see plenty of memoirs that tell of individuals achieving the American Dream (The Pursuit of Happyness, David Gardner or Homeless to Harvard, the Liz Murray story)

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've often thought that the term "American dream" really just means that people want to have the ability to pursue their own happiness. We seem to attach the specific goal of home ownership to the term, but I think it's a lot more than that. You can rent or lease a place to live and still pursue your own goals and have the freedom to look for happiness in your own way.

Is the American dream still alive? Of course it is. As long as we are free people, we can pursue the dream. It might be more difficult now than it was 30 years ago, or it might involve different goals, but it still exists.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think the American Dream has changed very much since its beginnings.  We all believe, like Gatsby, that we will achieve financial success, win the princess (or prince), and live happily every after, no matter what our humble beginnings might be.  What I do think has changed is that the younger generations seem to think that they have to put in less or no work in order to realize the dream, and while I do understand that times are very tough right now and it's a dream deferred, the fact is that you have to more than show up with whitened teeth to have your dreams come true. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

e-martin defines the idealized American Dream of "self-determination and self-reliance" that the most of the immigrants of Colonial Amerca and those who came through Ellis Island possessed.  Nowadays, one perceives more of the satirized dream of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby with materialism at the apex.  Worse than this is the concept of coming to America for "free" things such as food, housing, education, and whatever else one can grab. A dream for some; a nightmare for others who must pay the price of this pipedream.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The American Dream is the idea that anyone with drive can make it here! People are attracted to this country because of religious freedom, freedom of speech, artistic freedom, freedom to obtain an education and freedom to make your dreams of success a reality if you try hard enough. The idea of the American Dream is that anyone, regardless of background has an equal chance and that is what attracts people from all over the world to America.
etotheeyepi | Student

Poster #1 asked why do people come to the United States?  In post #3 I gave a list of the reasons of why, people whom I have met, came to the United States. In most of the cases, they had more of a nightmare than a dream.

In almost every case that I have asked, the grandparents would return to the old country if they could, but the children and grandchildren want to stay here.

I had a teacher, whose family was from Japan.  During World War II, some of the family lived in Japan and some lived in Hawaii.  A few years ago, she went  to see the family in Japan. She was shocked at the limited opertunities for women in Japan. 

etotheeyepi | Student

The term, American Dream, means owning a house or achieving success.

I live in a neighborhood in which many people came from other countries. 

A Chinese relatives could not go back to China when Mao too over, so the lived in Vietnam.  An American destroyer picked to up in the South China Sea after the Communists took over Vietnam.

An Iranian family could not go back to Iran after the mulahs took over.

A Christian Lebanese family left Lebanon when the Hezbollah took over.

A Hungarian family left Hungary when the Soviets sent tanks into Budapest.  

A Cuban family left Cuba, when they could not get nails to fix their roof. 

A Mexican family came here to pick lettuce in Arizona and Fresno, California.

A Columbian family came here during La Violencia.

A Jewish family came to escape the Nazis.

A Haitan family came to escape poverty.

A Canadian family came to work in movies.

A Japanese family came to pick pineapple.

An English family came to escape the health care system.

A man from Mali came to teach in a university.

A Pakistani family came to avoid some kind of ethnic violence.  I don't know the details.

My Irish relatives came during the potato famine.

My Italian relatives came later.  I'm not exactly sure why.

My Scots-Irish relatives came to distill whiskey, at least that is what they say.

My great great grandmother came from Mexico because her father was killed in a train wreck.

A friend here on Enotes want to come here to work for NASA.