American Dream



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American Dream” AP Synthesis Essay Writing

Synthesize the following ideas from the given sources, and create an argument about whether it is still possible in our country for everyone to achieve the American Dream. Use the following sources to inform your decision. Use a minimum of 6 quotes from 3 different sources to either substantiate, refute, or qualify a portion of your argument


Source A: Clark, William A.V. Immigrants and the American Dream: Remaking the Middle Class. Introduction. New York: Guilford, 2003.

The theme of the American dream has inspired many artists, writers, politicians, and teachers for decades. Every year, students and professional writers, both native-born and immigrants, write many essays exploring their beliefs about the American dream. Politicians invoke the dream in speeches, teachers develop class plans to study the dream, and Hollywood returns to the dream in movie after movie, to the delight of millions of filmgoers. Many people nod with understanding when the dream is mentioned because it has become a powerful symbol of the aspirations of a nation of immigrants. Yet the phrase "the American dream" is misleading because it implies that there is only one dream. In fact, there are many versions of the American dream, and how people define it depends greatly on their age, cultural identity, and citizenship status.

In 2004 the National League of Cities (NLC) conducted a survey of more than one thousand participants aged eighteen and older, asking them what they considered the American dream to be. The NLC found that for the majority of Americans—adults aged twenty-three to sixty-five—material prosperity is at the heart of the American dream. For many this prosperity is symbolized by home ownership. The hope that children will be able to build on the success of their parents and rise to a higher social class is also a central aspect of the American dream for millions of Americans and immigrants. As the Aspen Institute, a research institute on American culture and policy, proclaims, "the opportunity to save, invest [in the future] and own is the foundation of the American dream."

For many adults older than sixty-five, however, financial abundance takes second place to quality of life in their vision of the American dream. Over one-fourth of the older respondents of the NLC survey rated the ability to enjoy good health as the primary priority, in contrast to only 5 percent of the eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old respondents. Author Gary Goshgarian also describes the importance of health in his best-selling popular culture anthology The Contemporary Reader:

Healthiness is a part of the American Dream that everyone seems to overlook. I believe that when it comes to living a so called 'perfect life' there is nothing more important than having good health. A person can have all the money in the world; a person can have all the spare time in the world; a person can have the most loving family in the world; however, what good is all of this if he or she is dying from an incurable disease?

Young Americans aged eighteen to twenty-nine also hold a view of the American dream in which prosperity is secondary. According to the NLC survey, over 45 percent of the younger respondents believe that living in freedom is the most important aspect of the American dream. Twenty-five-year-old Chris Hueter explains this version of the dream on his "Magnifisyncopathological" Web site. "The bedrock underneath [the dream]," writes Hueter, "is the fundamental right to one's life and to decide how to live it. When people dream about saving lives through medicine, becoming President, making themselves rich, or quietly living with those [they] love, what they are really dreaming about is the freedom to do so."

For many Americans the American dream is living in a country where all citizens have equal rights and opportunities. For example, American minorities who have experienced discrimination tend to envision a dream that eliminates inequality and prejudice .

King's American dream that all citizens will someday receive equal protection under the U.S. Constitution and will live in a nation where "they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" is a dream held by many in America.

The dream of equality encompasses the dream of having the right to own land—a right that for many years was denied to African Americans—women, and other minorities. Author Audrey Edwards describes the history of injustices African Americans have faced:

For more than 300 years we were slaves in America, which by definition excluded us from owning anything at all. And even when we were freed and told we might receive 40 acres and a mule following the Civil War, it was a proposal soon undermined. Indeed, much of our history with land and property ownership in America has revolved around our seeing it stolen, burned to the ground, redlined or denied through blockbusting.

Although discrimination still exists, since the civil rights movement more African Americans have achieved the dream of owning a home and having financial security.

For many immigrants the American dream is about enjoying civil rights as well as the opportunity to gain economic security. This is especially true for new Americans emigrating from countries that suppress political and religious diversity and persecute those who disagree with the government. Tehreem Rehman, a Pakistani student from New York, writes, "My dad came here because he wanted more opportunities, better living standards, equal rights, and most of all his freedom. He wanted freedom of speech, thought, and worship." Immigrants who have been oppressed in other nations take solace in the words inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

In the twenty-first century millions of Americans continue to pursue the American dream, however they envision it.


Source B :Matthew Warshauer, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Changing Conceptions of the American Dream,” American Studies Today Online, February 2003. Reproduced by permission of the publisher and the author.


Matthew Warshauer is a professor of American history at Central Connecticut State University and is currently writing two books about President Andrew Jackson.

The American dream has always included achieving financial success; however, the celebrated method of acquiring money has changed over the centuries of American history. Early versions of the American dream honored thrift and hard work as the preferred way to become successful. Since the industrial revolution, however, Americans have dreamed about finding shortcuts to extravagant wealth, including winning on lucrative game shows or buying a lucky lottery ticket. Some people have also attempted to win millions of dollars in lawsuits in their pursuit of the American dream of instant wealth. The emphasis on good fortune rather than industriousness and perseverance is eroding the work ethic that once made the American dream a respectable goal.

Traditionally, Americans have sought to realize the American dream of success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. However, the industrialization of the 19th and 20th centuries began to erode the dream, replacing it with a philosophy of "get rich quick". A variety of seductive but elusive strategies have evolved, and today the three leading ways to instant wealth are large-prize television game shows, big-jackpot state lotteries and compensation lawsuits.

How does one achieve the American Dream? The answer undoubtedly depends upon one's definition of the Dream, and there are many from which to choose. John Winthrop envisioned a religious paradise in a "City upon a Hill." Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of racial equality. Both men yearned for what they perceived as perfection. Scholars have recognized widely varying conceptions of these quests for American excellence. One component of the American Dream seems, however, to be fairly consistent: the quest for money. Few will deny that Americans are intently focused on the "almighty dollar." In a society dedicated to capitalism and the maxim that, "the one who dies with the most toys wins," the ability to purchase a big house and a nice car separates those who are considered successful from those who are not. Yet the question remains, how does one achieve this success? How is the Dream realized?






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