Editor's note: This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.
The American Next, a Missourian series profiling teenagers and young adults from around the state, seeks to define the hopes and dreams, but also the trials and tribulations, of the next generation. Around the country, news outlets have written about the American Dream and how it's seemingly unattainable for growing numbers of the population.
Jon Meacham of Time magazine quotes historian James Truslow Adams, writing about the American Dream and a "better, richer, and happier life." With stagnant household incomes for the past decade, however, that dream may be slipping away for some of the 90 percent of Americans who identify with the middle class.
The political and economic gap between the elderly and young adults is at its widest since the 1960s, writes David Leonhardt of The New York Times. The recession and an unpopular presidency have pushed adolescents to the political left, and they would like the government and its citizens to stop cutting education and spend toward the future because they will ultimately be the ones living in it.
Zachary Karabell of The Daily Beast writes that rumors of the death of the American Dream are greatly exaggerated and blames the media and politics for the pessimism. The dream has always been linked to one's own efforts, but today's thinking of it as a birthright is leading to its undoing. However, the combination of low interest rates and a safety net provided by the government places the United States in a much better position than its counterparts to keep dreaming, refuting Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's view that the dream is becoming a myth.
In a contributing article for Forbes, August Turak writes that America's urgent problems are not economical, political or educational but rather social and cultural. Growing up in a nurturing household sets one up for success more so than hard-and-fast rules such as not marrying until the age of 21, graduating from high school and working full time.
The U.S. is celebrating its 236th birthday, and immigrants will be the reason America celebrates 236 more, according to Andrew Lubin of The Huffington Post. Immigrants come to America with a dream and are willing to take many jobs others wouldn't think twice about. Being "American" may not be a nationality so much as an attitude, causing exceedingly high aspirations and blinding opportunities that aren't immediately recognizable.
Immigrants also own 18 percent of small businesses, up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. Rohit Arora of Biz2Credit writes that the U.S. offers advantages in starting companies, helping immigrants to own more 50 percent of laundromats, a third of restaurants and a fifth of computer-related businesses in this country.
But for those of us whose American Dream is still slightly beyond the horizon, at least there's the option of visiting the American Dream Meadowlands, an entertainment and retail complex situated outside New York City complete with two National Football League franchises.
What's more American than that?