What does ‘The American Dream’ mean today? [BYD]


USA Today recently defined the American Dream pretty strictly: basically, two parents raising two good and healthy kids in a solid and relatively safe home.

And if you want that, that’s awesome, because if you can swing it, that’s an utterly amazing accomplishment. According to the paper’s math, that costs $130,000 every year. 

You know how many American families even bring in that much dough? One out of every eight.

And if you add one more child and another vehicle, it could easily cost as much as $150,000.

So yeah. You make that happen? Huge. You’re a champion, man. You have won life, ma’am. Well done.

But is that the American Dream?

Based off that, some say the American Dream is dead.

Is it though?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think it’s just different than what it used to be.

All I really know is that I’ve gotten insanely curious what people — everyone, really — thinks of when they think of ‘The American Dream.’

You could blame this on the book I’m writing about Kenney Moore right now, Behind The Drive. If ever someone seemed destined for a lifetime of anonymous mediocrity and struggle, it’s Moore, a poor beach bum rebel from eastern North Carolina. By 28, he had a wife and an infant son and no job and no money. He’d failed, over and over again, both in business and in life. With his last few hundred bucks, he made a last-ditch effort at taking control of his life by opening his own restaurant, a ’50s-style burger joint. That is now Hwy 55, a multinational corporation poised to make a billion dollars.

A big turning point for Moore — well, the first of many big turning points — came when he was 29, and the restaurant was failing like everything else had failed, and he realized that what he thought was the way to the American Dream wasn’t the way at all. He had to basically overhaul his entire life philosophy in order to keep him and his wife and his infant son afloat, and then more hard things but also amazing things happen, and ahhhhhhhh! it’s awesome and I need to shut up now before I ruin the book.

Point is: Now I really want to know what other people, what lots and lots and lots of other people, think ‘the American Dream’ really means and what they’re doing to chase it, or not chase it, and all that good stuff.

So. I hereby launch a series exploring the American Dream. We’ll call it Behind Your Drive. I’ll publish BYD posts weekly-ish.

I know you have passions, dreams, goals, ambitions. I know you want to do something, or many things. So let’s work together to figure out the best ways to make things happen. Maybe some of you already are making things happen. We need to hear from you, too. We all need to learn together.

And we’ll start with this question, the first of many we’ll explore. What does the term ‘the American Dream’ mean to you, and why? And give us a little context: Where are you from? Who are you as a person — what’s your name, your age, your current occupation/means of supporting yourself?

You can respond in the comments or by emailing me at bmsneed at gmail dot com. You don’t have to be a writer or anything — just share your heart. This is a series for people just being people, just trying to find their way in the world.

Everyone who responds is automatically entered in a monthly drawing for signed copies of Behind The Drive. I’ll give away, oh, two copies a month, and I’ll ship ’em out soon as the book comes out in December.

Cool? Cool.

Can’t wait to hear from you.

4 Responses
  1. Art Novak

    The American Dream traditionally meant getting married, raising happy, healthy kids, making a good living, having a nice home in the suburbs. Sure, that’s not realistically attainable for as many people as before. But that’s not all bad. Because when you strive to achieve some arbitrary ideal just because others are achieving it, you’re not free. And shouldn’t any definition of the American Dream encompass freedom — the freedom to formulate and reach for your own dream. My dream is different than your dream. .In fact, my dream is different than my dream of ten years ago. It’s always evolving. Some people’s dreams extend far beyond the family — they have dreams for the planet. Those may be the most inspiring dreams of all, and, unfortunately, the most difficult to attain. To even speak of an American Dream these days seems kind of quaint and outdated, not just because of the difficulty of achieving it, but because Americans’ hopes and dreams have become intertwined with those of people all over the world. We probably should start talking in terms of the Human Dream or the Universal Dream. We’re all on this boat together.

    1. Brandon

      Hey Art, thanks so much for the awesome response. I’m going to have to repost this as its own blog post sometime soon. Thanks a ton. This was great.