In describing why business models must change, Kay Plantes pointed out a study that indicates 78% of respondents believed the American Dream has died.
This has bothered me all weekend.
I believe that most positive change comes from optimists building what they believe is possible. (Have you ever worked with a pessimist trying to build what they believe is impossible? It makes for a long day.)
Could it really be that the the U.S. is depending on 22% of the population for that optimism? Maybe that is enough in Ayn Rand’s world , but I like the odds when more folks are on board.
So this evening, rather than thinking about how much I enjoyed watching Mr. Burns drink a Coke during the Superbowl, I’m thinking about what is the American Dream. The study by Context-Based Group softens the blow a bit by indicating respondents felt the meaning of the American Dream might have been hijacked by materialism of the past few decades – so maybe it is not dead, maybe it is changing.
What is the American Dream?
For me, the answer is personal but I think rings true:
The opportunity to better myself as I choose and establish a launching pad so my children will have even better opportunities than I.
There is no question that the recent financial upheaval has shot a few bullets at people’s ideas of betterment.
- The idea that Wall Street can make everyone rich.
- The idea that we all can borrow ourselves to riches.
- The idea real estate always goes up.
Good bubbles to pop in my opinion, but when did the American Dream become only about wealth.
Maybe the American Dream has been lost because we fear for our children.
- The threat of Global Warming.
- The threat of pollution driven illness.
- The loss of good jobs.
- The burdon of debt on our government and us.
And yet we live in amazing times.
- I carry a phone with more computing power than Dick Tracey or Flash Gordon every dreamed of.
- Anyone can open a shop and be selling products internationally in the space of a day.
- I can listen in to courses at Stanford, Northwestern, and Harvard. For free.
- A 7 year old can make a big difference by riding his bike 5 miles and raising £72,000 for Haiti.
The tools of betterment and more are available more widely, across more socioeconomic groups than ever before. It seems that anyone can change the world.
So if the American Dream was to consume till we drop — Good riddance.
If the American Dream involved success without hard work — I’m glad we’re waking up.
If the American Dream is the chance to do something extraordinary no matter where we are in life — Then sign me up.
I think the American Dream can be as alive for my children as it was for me.
But only if we believe. (Shall we clap? Will Tinkerbell live?)
What does the American Dream mean to you? (And is it Alive or Dead?)