If the American Dream was just about wealth and material gains through personal effort, I’d welcome the death of it. But though tens of millions have flocked to our shores in search of wealth, the heart of the American Dream has never been just “the acquisition of materials goods through personal effort.” As historian James Truslow Adams, who coined the term “the American dream,” once wrote, the dream is “of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers ”¦ in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.” The bedrock premise of the American Dream is not self-reliance, consumerism, or materialism. It’s liberty.
I suspect many Americans have been dealing with the same sense of loss over the past few years that I dealt with that day in the hotel room. College graduates who can’t find good jobs. Young couples and families forced to move back in with parents. People who have lost homes, lost jobs, lost cities and states they called home because they’re priced out of the market. Still, I’m not ready, yet, to let the American Dream die. Times are hard and there’s a lot of loss, but it’s not about self-reliance and materialism.
At least it’s not for me””and I don’t think it is for you, either. For me, it’s about liberty.