What Is Your American Dream? Part 1

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What comes to mind when you think of the American dream?

I am an American living in the United States. Over the years, my country has come to be a profound attraction to much of the world, and people flock here for their share of the “American dream.”

But what does that actually mean? And, as we'll talk about in an upcoming article, what does it mean in relationship to our financial decisions?

Defining the American Dream

Until recently, I never thought to sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write what the American dream means for me personally. It isn’t due to a lack ambition—I’ve wanted some things in my life. For example, I want a home and I want to own it. I want a car that I own outright. I want comfortable clothes and a safe place to work and live.

Yet when I tried to define the American dream from my perspective, I found it somewhat difficult.

What about you? What would you write if you were to sit down and answer in detail what the American dream means for you? 

Progression of the American Dream

Many attach the American dream concept to our founding fathers, who used powerful words like equal and inalienable when writing of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

At the time of our country’s birth, those three elements were directly tied to what our forefathers wished to accomplish. They wanted to get out from under someone else’s control. Why? So they could seek out life, liberty, and happiness.

But as members of academia explain, the American dream has shifted and they reference key presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. In the 1960s, Johnson launched his war on poverty, and we began to build a more prosperous economy that included new ideas such as a society without discrimination, which I like. Roosevelt, in turn, felt that the American dream should include housing, a good job, education, and healthcare.

When President Truman came along, he approached these things from a slightly different perspective. Certain elements of the good life weren’t just a part of the American dream, but you were actually entitled to them as an American. In other words, if you played nicely in the sandbox of the United States, you were entitled to housing, a good job or financial security, education, and healthcare.

I don’t mean to comment on entitlement here, but it is interesting to me how the concept of the American dream migrated from “I am free to do what I want, which is to pursue life, liberty, and happiness,” into entitlement that says, “I deserve to have these things as long as I’m playing nicely in the sandbox.”

It is like we chose to get rid of risk. As a people, we wanted the risk removed so we could live in a society where all we needed to do was play nicely in the sandbox.

Your Patriotic Assignment

Today, interesting ideas circulate about the pillars of the American dream. Here are a few of those ideas:

  • We need a meaningful life.
  • We need to be part of a community/society we contribute to.
  • We need to value nature.
  • We need to have time with family and friends.

Take some time this week to list what you, personally, value as part of the American dream. Be raw and honest. Don’t worry about what a leader or pastor would say—or even what the American dream means for the United States in general. This is a list for you, and it can include whatever you want. What is your American dream?

We’ll build on this concept next week. In the meantime, God bless your Prosperous Soul.



Lauren Stinton