The term ‘American Dream’ was first coined by James Truslow Adams in a study called The Epic of America. The concept of it is to provide opportunity to all people according to their talents and dreams. Adams believes that the idea of achieving one’s goals without any restrictions in regard to class or caste can develop from the need in people of “being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman”. In Europe, this concept of freedom in pursuing one’s dreams could not be fruitful because of the class divisions. America being a classless society can adopt this concept of American Dream with much freedom. But, to achieve something according to one’s abilities and to gain respect irrespective of his status in society, one has to get rid of his selfish desires and should not indulge in “physical comfort and cheap amusement” (Schnell, 2010, p.3).
Achieving American Dream
To achieve a successful life is the fundamental concept of American Dream. Generally, the idea of American Dream is to get high income through a secured job and financial security. Financial success is just one part of American Dream. People also tend to achieve social status by getting membership in social clubs or by achieving the peak of one’s chosen career. Success also means attaining a position in the society where one can have the right to speak his mind, do whatever he wants to do and create a world which will be worth living for everyone. The way of achieving success can also lead to conflict in American families where children can forego the wealth and social status of their parents for the want of accomplishing more meaningful goals in life. The goal of American Dream is not to achieve millions of dollars, but for general people the focus is on attaining enough wealth to lead a decent life with dignity and self respect (Hochschild, 1996, pp.15-16).
The concept of success can also be relative in nature. A person may want to lead a better life compared to his own childhood days or his neighbors, a character from a book or movie or to another gender or race. There is also a competitive nature of success wherein a person can become successful only when another person faces failure like in competitive events like beauty pageants. Most Americans feel that the future generation of their nationality can live a better standard of living and can achieve success in attaining their goals in life. In America there are many opportunities for everyone who is ready to work hard to achieve success. One definition of success can be wealth. Although money cannot buy happiness, it can nevertheless buy the things necessary to live a comfortable life (Hochschild, 1996, pp.16-19).
Obstacles in achieving American Dreams
Many Americans believe that it is difficult to achieve the goals that they set in their own lives. This is because they say that there is no security in their financial status and also there is lack of proper infrastructure for public education. They feel that the government who claims to help the people of the nation is actually a hindrance in the path of their achieving dreams. The African-Americans believe that the existing racial discrimination can make it difficult for them to pursue their dreams. Almost 72% of Americans believe that the government must strive to help the people in achieving their dreams of a comfortable and respectful life (Longley, 2004). In America there are various public policy tools which aim at giving the children of poor parents a chance to earn high income. Such policy tools along with the nation’s economic system are not achieving the desired results. The laws to deal with racial discrimination also do not prove to be fruitful in most cases. There are several social and economic obstacles in achieving American Dreams. The children of poor families attend inferior schools and get poor education. The children from rich families inherit more wealth and this gives them an added advantage. It is important for the future generation of poor families to earn high income not only for making their dreams a success but also to use their potential fully (Wascow, n.d., pp.1, 4, 7)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and his American Dreams
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born on 30th July, 1947 in Thal which is a small village in Austria. His father was the local police chief. He was a mediocre student in school. His family faced financial crisis. In his lifetime he has been a professional bodybuilder, actor, director and a politician.
Arnold’s childhood dream was to live in America and to become the world’s greatest bodybuilder. For this he needed to learn to speak in English and to educate himself accordingly to achieve his dream. His dream was also to become financially rich and invest in real estates. According to Arnold’s friend George Butler, his ambition was to become an actor, producer and director. He wanted to get rid of anything from his old life in Austria that stood in the way of his progress. He also wanted to be “get invited in the White House, marry a glamorous and intelligent woman and become involved with politics”. Arnold succeeded in fulfilling all his dreams in a systematic manner in his life. Arnold knew that to fulfill his dreams he needed to leave Europe and settle in America. He concentrated on building his body as he knew it was the only avenue through which he could enter the land of America (Krasniewicz & Blitz, 2006, pp.3). In the 1980s, Arnold had a very successful movie career and the major reason behind this was a change in the movie industry. There was increase in making of movies based on action, fantasy and science fiction. Arnold was a self made man and he built his body according to the needs of the culture industry. (The American Dream Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2010)
On 16th September, 1983 his dream was fulfilled when he became citizen of America. It was a major event in his life as it was the culmination of his dream that he held from childhood. He was already a famous actor but he was still a foreigner in America. For Arnold it was the ultimate pleasure to tell the world that he is an American. There are several requirements to become citizen of America and Arnold fulfilled every one of them by 1983. He learnt impeccable English during the 15 years that he stayed in America. He had gained deep knowledge of the History of America and he respected the law and order of America. In the next few years following his citizenship, Arnold achieved great success as film actor, professional bodybuilder. His displayed his power in American politics within just seven years of becoming citizen of America. Arnold attributed all his personal and professional achievements to America. (Krasniewicz & Blitz, 2006, pp.99-101)
Henry Alfred Kissinger and his American Dreams
Henry Kissinger was born in Germany on 27th May, 1923. His family was German Jews and his father was a teacher in school. In 1938, his family moved to New York to escape from Nazi persecution. He completed his education in America and he used to excel as a student. He is a political scientist and diplomat in America and he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
In Germany Kissinger and his family faced racial discriminations due to which his father lost his job as a teacher. Only in America he could live without the fear of any discrimination. For Kissinger, America was a country where one could achieve his dreams and ambitions (Suri, n.d., pp. 719). In 1950 he received the BA Degree Summa Cum Laude at Harvard College. He completed his masters in 1952 and received his PhD Degree in 1954 from Harvard University. In 1954 he was appointed as Faculty member of Harvard University. Till 1971 he remained a member in both Department of Government. From 1957 to 1960, he served as an Associate Director of Center for International Affairs. From 1955 to 1956 he served as Study Director as Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy for the Council of Foreign Relations. Kissinger was also a writer and he wrote many books and articles and his subjects were US foreign policy, international affairs and diplomatic history. In 1958 he received the Woodrow Wilson prize for his book on international affairs and politics. He received various other prizes and medals for his range of books. He was a consultant in various departments of US government like US Arms Control, Department of State, Rand Corporation and others (Henry Kissinger Biography, n.d.). Since Kissinger was a Jew, he faced racial prejudice at all stages in his career in spite of his fame and loyalty towards America. In his youth he saw intense cruelty of human beings and so he could never feel comfortable in his social position in the American society. In spite of all odds he achieved his American Dream and had a successful political career in America (Suri, n.d., pp.746).
Both Henry Kissinger and Arnold Schwarzenegger entered in the land of United States as immigrants. They had dreams in their eyes to become big and successful and US gave them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Henry came to America from Germany and he had a Jewish background while Arnold was an Austrian born with a middle class background. Arnold came to America to fulfill his dream of becoming a US citizen. Arnold’s motivation for his ambition to gain name in the international arena and to make his mark in politics was because of his violent childhood. He had a drunken father who used to beat him up and a mother who failed to give him the time and attention. He had a brother who was better than him in many ways and was favored by his parents. Arnold’s childhood was spent under the strict regimen of his father and a fear of failure always dominated him. Such inferiority complex led him to dream of an independent adulthood and a successful career so that he can make his own decisions and take up challenges. He set for himself goals and desires and he gave it the name of “The Master Plan”. Later on he explained this as his American Dream (Krasniewicz & Blitz, 2006, pp.1). Henry Kissinger being a German Jew also witnessed terrible violence in human beings. In Germany his family faced extreme ostracism and racial discrimination. His father became jobless and Kissinger was forced to attend segregated school for Jews and as a result the education he received there was of poor quality. His father moved to New York in 1938 to escape the Nazis. In the land of America for the first time he could breathe freely without the fear of getting captured by the Nazis. For Kissinger, America became his savior where he and his family like many other immigrants could take shelter and he could get proper education to prepare himself for a bright and successful future. America’s idealism and humanity gave him the optimism to make his American Dream come true (Suri, n.d., pp.719).
Both Arnold and Kissinger made their marks in US politics. In 2003 Arnold became the Governor of California. His celebrity status as a movie actor helped him in building his political career unlike Kissinger who had MA and PhD degrees from Harvard University. Kissinger’s career was politics and as such he held numerous positions in different departments. He has also emerged as a successful writer and has written many books and articles on US foreign policy and diplomatic history. He has also received many awards for his books. Arnold’s was an actor by profession and in his acting career he received many awards and accolades.
The original concept of American Dreams which is to achieve success in life through hard work has changed since the Depression in 1930s. After the stock market crash, there were huge increase in the number of unemployed people and there was urgency to seek jobs. It was a struggle to maintain livelihood as circumstances were difficult (Schnell, 2010, pp.5). The aim was to build a competitive society and hard work was promoted as moral obligation.
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