Many lament the perceived death of the American Dream, particularly as the job market and slow economy limit opportunities and make the doors more difficult to open. However, it is refreshing and encouraging to note that immigrants, prospective as well as arrivals, not only continue to believe in that dream but also enjoy considerable success in achievement.
The American Dream is defined loosely as a national ethos of the United States — the notion that everyone has the freedom and the opportunity for success, prosperity and upward mobility. The product is achieved through hard work. The idea of that dream springs from the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed ... with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
To most parents, the American Dream is that their children will attend and graduate from a four-year college or university in preparation for a better career than was available to the previous generations. That is a noble aspiration; nevertheless, it is neither universally attainable nor mandatory for success.
As I have written previously, in my generation and earlier ones, the work ethic for achieving the American Dream was embodied in the works of such authors as Horatio Alger Jr., a 19th century writer of dime novels of rags-to-riches success stories for young boys: "With uncommon courage and moral fortitude, Alger's youths struggled against adversity to achieve wealth and acclaim."
Accordingly, the American Dream is essentially an idea portending that success is the result of hard work, attention to detail and perseverance. Further, its concept implies that it applies to everyone, without regard to race, color, creed or ethnic origin.
Admittedly, while the perceived inequalities faced by those cited in the above paragraph are factors that may impede the pace of progress, to suggest the dream is not attainable by all is, at best, a cop-out. The individual successes enjoyed by Gen. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Denzel Washington, Chubby Checker, Tuskegee pilot Col. Charles McGee and Tiger Woods, to name just a few, belie that notion.
Unfortunately, for far too much of the population, the dream no longer embodies freedom of opportunity, but rather opportunity for "free stuff." Much of this is attributable, in part, to our elected officials in the creation and expansion of entitlements without regard for the cost, or who is to pay.
The entitlement mentality has created worlds of opportunity for attorneys such as former presidential hopeful John Edwards (ambulance chasers). The volume of TV ads touting law firms soliciting claimants for disability, Social Security, asbestos-related illness, auto-accident injuries, a litany of ailments caused by medications, misdiagnosis/mistreatment by hospitals and the catch-all "tripping and slipping" is enough to make one wonder if working for a living is necessary.
Further, the juvenile, property destructive and anarchist actions of the "Occupy" movement against the productive and successful are highly illustrative of today's "I want what you have without having to earn it" mentality. The misplaced ardor of the protesters is fueled by both the tacit and the overt approval of their aberrant and lawless behavior by many of our elected and appointed officials.
This entitlement-driven indolence has also infected our education system, particularly in the high school and college curriculum. Inflated grading, passing students who deserve to fail and lowering education standards might please the students and the teachers, but they do no favors to that young man or young lady about to enter the workforce.
The notion that everyone must be afforded a college education makes for excellent political points, but there is no evidence that a college education is either a necessity or feasible. We have created an employee class that believes manual work is somehow beneath its dignity and is entitled to a desk, an in-and-out basket and a secretary to do the heavy lifting.
Too many of the current crop of students opt out of engineering, physics, mathematics and other sciences in favor of easier and less stressful social studies. While they may be of interest and stimulate the intellectual palates of some, what corporation or small business seeks to hire graduates of such disciplines as ethnic, gender, art and music appreciation, philosophy and other fine arts/social studies?
Contrary to the progressive spin, there are jobs that Americans just won't do — they require strenuous manual labor, they are beneath their dignity or they are just unnecessary because food stamps, welfare, disability shams and other entitlements trump the necessity to seek employment.
The American Dream is alive and well; why else do legal and illegal immigrants find employment and prosper? All that is required is for Americans to swallow their unearned pride, get off their lazy behinds and be willing to begin the climb at or near the bottom rung of the ladder.
Honest, hard work never hurt the able-bodied — a safety net is in place for the widows, orphans and truly disabled. The Silhouettes 1957 No. 1 hit "Get a Job" remains the recipe for the dream.