Different Definitions of the American Dream

America is the land of opportunity. If you have a goal, such as owning your own sweet shop or becoming a movie star, you can attain it here through hard work and perseverance.

Is this just the myth of an American Dream, or does the American Dream exist?

I recently posed that question to several individuals, and I found that while there are different definitions of the dream, the dream itself is no myth.

How Immigrants Define the American Dream

The dream resonates with native-born Americans and immigrants alike; how immigrants define the American Dream sometimes depends on experiences they had before coming to the States.

Ratany Ma, an immigrant from Cambodia and a California-based entrepreneur, said achieving the dream is hard work, but she hasn't encountered true obstacles.

“To me it’s hard to find obstacles because of where I came from. To me an obstacle is no political freedom. Then you can’t do a lot.

“Immigrants from oppressed countries look at things differently,” she said.

Young Entrepreneurs and the Dream

Young entrepreneurs offer yet another take on the American Dream.

The autonomy afforded American teenagers at home and at school can be detrimental for some--but not for young entrepreneurs, according to a recent New York Times article. (See article here.) America is uniquely positioned to breed young entrepreneurs, the story says, because older, wealthy individuals support youth in their ventures. American teenagers also tend to have more work experience and greater access to capital that can bolster startups than their international peers.

According to the article:

It is a common American dream to want to start one’s own business, and this cultural influence spreads to the young. It sometimes replaces school and family as a driving force. ...

The new ideas and business principles behind the Web have carved out the ideal territory for the young. A neophyte is more likely to see that music can come from computers rather than just from stores or radios, or that it is best to book a flight without using a travel agent. ...

On a national level, these successes are rooted in the commercial, competitive, philanthropic, nonegalitarian and open nature of American society. America’s economic head start probably won’t go away anytime soon.

From immigrants to teenagers, there are many different definitions of the American Dream, and as technology advances, I suspect the definitions will continue to morph. It's reassuring to see different examples of the dream come to life: they testify that the dream is alive.

Stay tuned for my upcoming coverage on the American Dream.
-kc

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