The Myth of American Dream

Essay by jennatCollege, Undergraduate September 2009

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America historically owns the reputation of being the land of opportunity, and for generations immigrants have fled to the United States to experience the freedom and equality our government lays claim to. At the root of this reputation is the American Dream, the belief that with hard work anyone can succeed based solely on his or her merits. While definitions of success vary, the American Dream defines it as the ability to become a "self-made man," thereby rising to a more-than-comfortable state of living. The American Dream is believed to be blind to race, sex, or socio-economic status and at a first glance, seems to be almost Utopian. Conversely, repeated examples and statistics of the lower-classes, those continually facing the harsh reality that opportunity and equality are empty promises, only prove the opposite. The countless stories of failure to reach the American Dream significantly override the few success stories that keep the myth alive.

However, these few success stories keep Americans, as well as the rest of the world, believing in the false opportunities the American Dream puts forth. Although the American public is force-fed propaganda to believe the American Dream is attainable to everyone, numerous obstacles prevent the lower class in America from reaching the "self-made man" myth.

For generations, Americans have been led to believe that the American Dream is realistic through propaganda. For example, advocates readily use the example of Benjamin Franklin, a self-educated man who "rose from modest origins to become a renowned scientist, philosopher, and statesman," as a prime example of the validity of the American Dream (Money 295). Who better to use as an example than one of the forefathers of a country that prides itself on supposed equal opportunity? In addition to Franklin, advocates use the present-day example of Colin Powell, an African-American...