“The American Dream” is a phrase that was coined in the early ’30s that, in its most basic interpretation, represented the population’s optimism of what it meant to be an American. Chances are, if you are over the age of 40, you grew up believing that all Americans had the same opportunities for success. It discarded the notion of “only the rich can succeed” and propelled the belief that anyone can attain all the material goods and status one wanted by simply keeping one’s nose to the grindstone.
This simple phrase has meant different things to different people over the last 80 years. Just what is the American Dream and does it still exist?
Whoopi Goldberg, American Actress, Academy of Achievement, announced in recent years, “I am the American Dream. I am the epitome of what the American Dream basically said. It said you could come from anywhere and be anything you want in this country. That’s exactly what I’ve done.”
Yet, so many Americans feel as though they have tried again and again and failed. Is failure a testament to their lack of superior effort or a live demonstration of dream turned nightmare?
Suze Orman, celebrity financial guru, states, “My only fear in life, when it comes to money, is what’s happening in the United States of America. The American dream is dead for the majority of America.”
The dream she is referring to is not even a Cinderella story; it’s much more practical. Orman believes the hope of someday owning a home, of working one job for life and retiring at 65 has been crushed by the financial crisis. “The middle class has disappeared,” she continued. “We have a highway to poverty and no roads coming out. I fear for [those] who have been kicked out of their homes, could be living on the streets and don’t know how to get another job. Many of the millions of jobs lost I don’t think are coming back. I am really afraid for the majority of Americans today.” (Source: Forbes)
Searching for even more current and localized thoughts on this debatable topic, many of San Diego’s community leaders were asked to offer their thoughts on the subject. Interestingly, all of the queried figureheads refused to respond, with comments such as, “I couldn’t begin to put my thoughts into words on this subject. It would take me an hour to give you my thoughts. What dream? I think it’s a nightmare.”
However, key business owners were much more eager to respond.
Chef/restaurateur of Adams Ave.Grill, Tim Klepeis, was happy to share his thoughts on what the American Dream means in today’s business climate, “I hear myself say to fellow owners — that the level of customer service is here today and must be raised tomorrow. Raising our game means we actually need to exceed today’s expectations since we need to be better than the competition. Nothing is off-limits, so bring every creative thought and bone in your body. That describes my version of where the American Dream is at this point.”
Craig Keolanui, owner of Raquel’s Closet, responds, “The American Dream is possibly our only hope out of this recession. Just like with the dream we ‘had’ of buying a house, the time is perfect for the dream of doing your own thing and being your own boss, especially with very few successful companies hiring. The Dream crusher seems to be the ‘fear chain’ that has banks unwilling to lend money after getting burned so much from their outrageous lending practices during the housing bubble.”
Keolanui adds, “We’re entering another year with this recession and our only hope is with small business. Large business will have no need to get bigger if offered little or no competition. Why hire when you have no pressure to and why extend raises when so many people are out of work? Our ‘Dream’ has to remain alive or the whole cycle will not be able to start up and the recession buster, ‘small business,’ will never lead us out.”
Kellie Christensen, owner of Solana Beach Coffee Company sums it up in one telltale thought, “Lately my version of the American Dream changes on a daily basis, but I’m still hopeful.”
Dream or nightmare? Apparently at this point, the dream is being recast. If you want to be heard and help shape the next phase of our American Dream, add your comments below or send an email. We will monitor and create a follow-up article of what the American Dream means to you.