The American Dream Essay Research Paper CONTEMPORARY

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The American Dream Essay, Research Paper CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN SOCIETY - The American Dream? : DEAD or ALIVE? INTRODUCTION Originally, the ‘Dream’ was envisaged to be life in a new world where anything successful can happen and good things might (Hochschild, 1996). In 1963, Martin Luther King Jnr said that he too had a dream “that on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood” Video: The Legacy). Since then, many aspects of Martin Luther King’s Dream for the American people have come true, but some remain a dream. Today, the notion of the ‘American Dream’ stretches far beyond the idea of political and religious freedom to a more economically oriented base. The United States has

increasingly become a consumer-based society, so the idea of ’success’ is now measured by material wealth – a white picket fenced house in the suburbs complete with car, dog and two children. The American Dream is still alive, but only in the minds of those citizens who have the resources to fulfil the definition of success, namely, material wealth. DISCUSSION The US is the most influential country in the world. This is seen not only in monetary strength and business power, but also in the choice of music, clothes and recreational activities. It is this perception that draws people to the idea of the great American Dream and the ‘land of the free’, a perception that for the right person at the right time, everything is possible. America has traditionally been a land of

immigrants and the home to people of many nationalities and cultures, all aspiring to achieve the Dream. Early immigrants have left an indelible mark on American cities and society, from the Italians in New York, the Scandinavian farmers of Wisconsin and the Mid-West, to the more recent waves of immigrants from Asia on the West Coast (Hochschild, 1996). All came to pursue the Dream and entered the great ‘melting pot’ in the desire to become a successful American. The United States has a history of racial tension and violence that has prevented certain minority groups, especially blacks, from reaching the American Dream. More recently, opposition to immigration has been rising (Daniels, 1991:400). As economic success has become harder for many to achieve, immigrants have been

seen as reducing the already shrinking portion of the Dream available. Although American society generally has become more tolerant of racial differences, the population as a whole is permanently divided into three main groups in all official wording – black, white and Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics continue to face a harder road to success and achievement of the American Dream than most whites. In The Legacy, the ‘Dream’ as Martin Luther King Jnr saw it was that all people would be treated equally regardless of race, religion, or sex. He dreamed that his four children would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. He waited for the day they could walk down the street and hold hands with a child of a different race. This part of

King’s dream, in theory at least, has come true. Segregation by race has been outlawed. In reality, whites and blacks still lead separate lives. In cities and towns, affluent areas are mainly white, poor areas black or Hispanic. The two rarely mix. The system of local government in America perpetuates the disadvantages as taxes raised from local home owners determine the levels of funding for schools and community support centres. Poorly funded schools cannot provide the level of education of those in wealthy areas, thus affecting the educational and economic future of the students and consequently the ability to achieve the Dream. So whilst King today would see black and white children learning and playing together, discrimination still exists. Although it is now mainly