The term was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America which was written in 1931. He states: "The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." In the United States’ Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers: "…held certain truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream?
Were homesteaders who left the big cities of the east to find happiness and their piece of land in the unknown wilderness pursuing these inalienable Rights? Were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for their bit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their Dream? And what did the desire of the veteran of World War II - to settle down, to have a home, a car and a family - tell us about this evolving Dream? Is the American Dream attainable by all Americans? Would Martin Luther King feel his Dream was attained? Did Malcolm X realize his Dream?
Some say, that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families - but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.
Thomas Wolfe said, "…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him."
Quotes on the American Dream
“The American Dream means being part of a society that allows you to be or do whatever you want, and to have a sense that your individual optimism and hard work will be rewarded. It exists outside of the U.S. as well as inside. People continue to come here because they want to improve their lives, they want to be able to support themselves and they want to live in freedom. A lot of people who criticize this country still send their children here to study.” - Madeline Albright
“I think the American Dream used to be achieving one's goals in your field of choice--and from that all other things would follow. Now, I think the dream has morphed into the pursuit of money: Accumulate enough of it, and the rest will follow. We’ve become more materialistic. For balance, I think we need to get back to idealism and patriotism, but also be realistic with our monetary goals.” - Buzz Aldrin
“The American dream is one of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”- James Truslow Adams (The man who first coined the term “American Dream”)
“America can't work for only some people and become a dream for all people. It has to work for everyone. And even though everyone might not end up at the same place, if everyone starts with the same beginning, then that's the dream fulfilled. We all don't have the same abilities, but we should have the same opportunities.” – Al Sharpton
“The American Dream is freedom, prosperity, peace--and liberty and justice for all. That’s a big dream. It’s not always easy to achieve, but that’s the ideal. More than any country in history we’ve made gains toward a democracy that is enviable throughout the world. Dreams require perseverance if they are to be realized, and fortunately we’re a hard-working country and people. We are the luckiest people in history, just by the fact that we are Americans.” – Donald Trump
“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: / we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“TheAmerican dream is, in part, responsible for a great deal of crime and violence because people feel that the country owes them not only a living but a good living.” – David Abrahansen
“We need a new spirit of community, a sense that we are all in this together, or the American Dream will continue to wither. Our destiny is bound up with the destiny of every other American.” – Bill Clinton
If the American dream is for Americans only, it will remain our dream and never be our destiny”- Rene de Visme Willamson
“It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." – George Carlin