What is the American Dream?
The American Dream, at its core, is a national ethos premised on the notion that anyone can attain their own version of success and prosperity in the USA. Embodied by ideals such as democracy, personal liberty, civilian rights, equality and opportunity, the American Dream holds the promise of upward social mobility, regardless of a person’s race, background or circumstances.
This ethos celebrates those who work hard, take risks and sacrifice in the name of achieving their goals, and it is a cultural construct that has seeped its way deep into literature, music and politics. It is also frequently cited in celebration of America’s rich ethno-cultural diversity.
To achieve the American Dream, individuals must enjoy political and economic freedom, the rule of law, as well as private property rights being upheld. In the lore of American nationalism, the American Dream is regarded as the country’s competitive advantage. Home ownership is frequently associated with the notion as a key indicator of having achieved this dream. And while cultural critics throughout the decades have been quick to point out that the reality of American life does not measure up to the American Dream for the majority of its citizens, the idea ins inexorable woven into the fabric of the American psyche.
Origins of the idea
The celebrated American writer and historian James Truslow Adams is credited as having coined the phrase in his best-selling book, Epic of America (1931). The book outlined a vision for a better future for the country, and served in many ways as a manifesto for the idea, yet the American Declaration of Independence supported the American Dreams’ tenants long before, stating that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”