THE CHANGING STATE OF THE “AMERICAN DREAM”
Undergraduate Senior Thesis
The future has never looked hazier, and as I gaze forward at what’s to come, I’ve wondered how it is that here in America -- the land of the supposed “American Dream” -- our collective identity has never felt more fragmented. Despite heavy national polarization, the world faces some shared concerns, such as a global pandemic, and the imminent threat of impending climate disaster -- two issues directly glaring at the first few graduating classes of members of Generation Z, the generational group of children born after 1996. The oldest members of this generation are entering into an economy of instability and turmoil, whilst all too aware of a socially unequal system, leaving them to wonder, what’s next? The once-mainstream ideal of the “American Dream” has today become synonymous with systemic faults and incompetencies furthering the country’s divide. The events that have transpired over this past year, alongside findings from my year of research and primary interviews, have made it blindingly obvious that the systems behind accessing the original so-called “American Dream” have long since expired.
The “American Dream” is entirely a man-made construct, signifying that shifting or changing the way that that construct is perceived is entirely possible. And if the previously popularized “American Dream” was a construct that attempted to define and encapsulate the notion of “Happiness” -- through the obtainment of material goods and wealth, as well as economic mobility -- then today’s reality reveals and affirms the sentiment that money truly cannot buy happiness; demonstrated, for instance, when individuals worldwide were all placed within the same restrictions of lockdown against Covid-19. Thus, how can “Happiness” be defined today?
The changing state of the “American Dream” might be demonstrated through uncovering how ideals towards “happiness” have shifted over time and through generations, and through first documenting my own family’s “American Dream” alongside the history of what transpired during my family’s immigrant journey to settle within the United States, I then explored attitudes and possibilities for how this new generation of young people might dare to envision a new set of values and identity for a so-called collective “Dream.”
This is an ongoing project.
WHAT WERE YOUR PERCEPTIONS OF THE “AMERICAN DREAM” GROWING UP, AND HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE IT TODAY?