The American Dream is such an elusive term that almost everyone has their own definition. Some people claim it means having a family, a home or a car, while some assert the American Dream doesn’t exist.
But what does the American Dream mean?
In 7th grade, when my English teacher Mrs. Graham assigned my class to write about the American Dream, I remember writing about wanting to have a home big enough for my entire family. On top of that, I also wanted a room for every single video game system that has ever existed – you know, what every typical 13-year-old dreams about.
I wrote this paper with a purple pen I had just found because I had forgotten my only pencil at home. Unfortunately, I also forgot to put my name on my paper, which is why my skin crawled when Mrs. Graham loudly demanded to know, “Who wrote this paper in this beautiful purple ink?” As I sheepishly raised my hand, Mrs. Graham proclaimed, “This is the only paper that understood the assignment. This is exactly what the American Dream means.”
But is it really what the American Dream means? Is the American dream really a house filled with video games? Probably not. I’m ok with not having video games in every room of my house, and not just because my wife wouldn’t let me. It’s because I was incorrectly defining the American Dream.
Far too many people think that the American Dream is about having material wealth. But it is not. Don’t get me wrong, having a home and a stable life where you enjoy your favorite pastime is a staple of independence. But, if having a house was the American Dream, there would be nothing special about it since people own homes in virtually every country. Having a home is not what sets America apart.
The American Dream is about finding purpose. It is the idea that each of us is free to pursue his or her own path without fearing the shackles of the government. In many other countries, people have aspirations for greatness as well. But they often have to jump through artificial hoops and obstacles that their own government set up to maintain their power and hegemony.
The American Dream is not about money; it is about freedom. And every American has the freedom to chart their own destiny and find their own purpose.