Is today’s generation still fulfilling the American Dream?

Everyone has a dream.

Walt Disney had a dream to build an amusement park that could bring magic to children and adults alike. Steve Jobs had a dream of putting a computer in the hands of everyday people. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of ending racial segregation. And our Founding Fathers had a dream to build a nation free of tyranny and the right to pursue liberty.

James Truslow Adams wrote the most widely accepted definition of the American Dream in his book “The Epic of America” in 1931: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

This dream has been filling the hopes of many immigrants that have moved to this country wanting to start a better life for them and their children. The idea is that parents will build a better land so that their children will have more opportunities to learn, grow and succeed.

However, that American dream is dying.

Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor released a poll in September examining how Americans are experiencing the changing economy. One of the results found that only 20 percent of the adults surveyed believe when today’s teenagers enter adulthood, they will have more opportunities to get ahead than adults today.

An additional result shows that two-thirds surveyed believe that when today’s kids grow up, they will enjoy less financial security than adults today, and another two-thirds say today’s children face more challenges than opportunities.

Our parent’s generation perceives that our generation is less likely to succeed, essentially countering Adams’ definition of the American Dream. But we would assume that with technological and medical advances, our generation and later generations would be better off at fulfilling Adam’s American Dream.

It’s clear that in our generation’s case, we are taking a step backward. We aren’t being perceived as getting any closer to the American Dream than the generations before us. 

These pessimistic results can be contributed to the country’s economic woes including rising prices in education and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. YouGov, an Internet-based market research firm, conducted a poll in August and found that 64 percent of Americans perceive that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing.

Attitudes about the future are down. With all this being said, these polls show that the American people have not become completely pessimistic of the future. The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor found that teenagers and young adults were more upbeat about their futures compared to their adult counterparts.

But it is hard to deny that it is becoming increasingly difficult for more people to have social mobility, the movement of individuals, families or groups through a system of social hierarchy. Basically, it is moving up the food chain in terms of social class.

We can’t all be like Jay Gatsby who goes from a boy with nothing to a man with a big house that likes to throw big parties.

Students at the University and other colleges across the nation make up that percent that still believes in a better future. At this University, we are taught to strive for excellence and to preserver.

It is understandable for people to be cynical about the future. The government shutdown is certainly not helping. Watching politicians continue to argue and not cooperate to allow this nation to have a functioning government is frustrating for citizens to read and hear about.

As cliche as it sounds, it is important to not lose hope on that dream for a better tomorrow.

Robert Michels, a German social theorist, wrote a fable in his book “Political Parties” published in 1911. 

There is a fable of a farmer on his death bed telling his two sons of a treasure that is hidden within his land. So the sons begin to dig the land his father left them. They never find the treasure, but in their process of locating the treasure, they aerate the soil, plow the fields and produce a plentiful bounty for themselves.

The idea is that perfect democracy is the treasure we may never completely find. But the labor does produce enough bounty for us to provide for ourselves. And in that bounty is the American Dream.

Thaddeus is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]