“The American Dream is not about what one attains, but rather the journey to attain it.”
–Jennifer Lee, University of California Irvine
I remembered much this Memorial weekend about loved ones and young warriors passed, whose lives given have benefited mine. It’s not the length of their lives but the power of their example and the lessons of their love that live. Oh, the countless who have perished prematurely!
For what? A world of freedom and opportunity? A place to achieve individual potential with some reward of personal and financial success? America? Maybe more in the past than today. Looking specifically at median aftertax income, the U.S. middle class is no longer the richest in the world. Canada has pulled ahead, according to a recent report in the New York Times.
In 1931 historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase “the American dream.” It is not just a yearning for affluence, Adams said, but also for the chance to overcome barriers and social class, to become the best that we can be. Adams concluded the United States didn’t fully meet the ideal, but America came closer than anywhere else.
Our forefathers, immigrants all, came to this land, some before the United States, for the reasons Adams stated. It was less class bound, more meritocratic, and offered more opportunity. But more and more of us are feeling growing American inequality.
If our futures are determined to a significant extent at birth, we’ve regressed to the feudalism our ancestors fled. “Equality of opportunity–the American dream–has always been a cherished American ideal,” Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University Nobel economist, emphasized recently. “But the data now show that this is a myth: America has become the advanced country not only with the highest level of inequality but one of those with the least equality of opportunity.”
For the sake of all those whose lives’ lessons we recognize and revere, as well as for our future, let us commit to providing every individual, regardless of race, parentage, birthplace, or age, an equal opportunity to achieve a high school degree and go to college. It’s the American (egalitarian) thing to do. Horizonte does.
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