The American Dream is Not Out of Reach
In recent discussions of the American Dream, a controversial issue has been whether America still offers access to the American Dream to “…the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.” On the one hand, some argue that America remains the “Land of Opportunity,” where people can be born into poverty and still end up wealthy and successful. On the other hand, however, others have lost hope in the American Dream and believe that it doesn’t exist anymore. The American Dream is someone reaching his or her full potential, becoming successful, or finding happiness. Although some people may have to work harder than others to achieve this dream, it is still possible for everyone. The idealistic portrayal of our nation in early American literature is still accurate today.
In the poem “America the Beautiful” by Katherine Lee Bates, she describes the hopeful settling of our country in the lines:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness (31).
The freedom Bates is discussing is the basis of the American Dream. An American citizen has the freedom to obtain an education in the school of his or her choice, and to pursue whatever career her or she chooses. Bates emphasizes that the first Americans wanted to find happiness Parker 2 and to be successful in the New World. These brave explorers were the first American dreamers who paved the way for the rest of us. She goes on to celebrate the soldiers who fought and won freedom for America:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life (32)!
If it weren’t for the soldiers who fought for freedom in the American Revolution, we would not be as free as we are today. The words of this poem may sound idealistic, but they are an accurate depiction of the beginnings of the American Dream, and the dream is still accessible today.
In his essay “They Live the Dream,” Dan Rather relates a story about a man named Curtis Aikens, who went all through high school and three semesters of college without knowing how to read. At the age of twenty-six, he finally asked for help. Referring to his literacy tutors, he said, “They didn’t change my life. They saved my life” (45). Aikens faced the challenge of not knowing how to read, but worked hard to learn, and ended up owning his own produce company, becoming a food columnist, and publishing three cookbooks. He didn’t have his American Dream handed to him; he had to work hard, and he did what it took to realize his dream.
Those who understand that it won’t...