The American Dream Essay (English 1A)

I chose this essay because I spent a lot of time working on it and i feel it showed my ability to write efficiently and effectively about an opinionated topic. I also found the topic very interesting and it was relatively fun to write compared to other essays I've had to write in the past. 
Today, many people immigrate to the United States of America in search of the American

Dream; freedom, equality, and the opportunity to achieve their personal goals in life that they

could not otherwise achieve in their homeland. The American Dream is the pursuit of prosperity

and opportunity that drives people to push their own limits and persevere in order to lead

successful lives and achieve whatever goals they set. The American Dream is a reality; every

citizen of the United States of America has the opportunity of its achievement no matter what

prejudices they may face, depending on their perseverance and luck.

The term “ The American Dream” has a few interpretations, but one of the most popular is “ Life,

liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence1) which is the dream

that most Americans strive for. In simpler terms, The American Dream is the opportunity of

the pursuit of freedom, opportunity and satisfaction of needs and wants. As Thomas Wolfe

said, “ 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” (Wolfe2). This quote explains how everyone in the United States gets the right

to fulfill this American Dream: to function as a member of modern day society and to pursue

their hopes and dreams. If you come to America underprivileged or destitute, then you have

the chance to turn that around through hard work and determination. As the explanation of the

term states, everyone has the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, depending on how

much effort they put in or how fortunate they are. In other words, some people will be able to

work hard and achieve their dreams, while others will work hard and not end up being fortunate

enough to complete their goals.

Even though the concept of the American Dream is relatively well known, most people don’ t

realize how long ago it originated or it’ s true meaning. Unbeknownst to most, the term “ The

American Dream” was actually coined in 1931 in a book called The Epic of America by James

Truslow Adams. In this book, Adams states that “ 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” (Adams2). He goes on to say that “ 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” (Adams). Basically, he says that everyone has equal opportunity. So no matter what

race, religion, or ethnicity someone is, they all have the same exact chance at success. This of

course depends on how hard each person works towards their goals. If everyone works hard to

achieve their goals and ultimately, their own personal American Dream, then they will succeed

in their efforts.

A lot of the American dream has to do with the concept of achieving success, because the

American Dream has evolved into the dream of being successful at performing tasks in everyday

life. A good example of this would be in the life of Philip Maung, the CEO of Hissho Sushi

(dBusiness News3). Maung immigrated to America from his home country of Burma with

only $13 and the dream of a new and improved life for him and his family. In 1998 with the

assistance of his wife Kristina, Philip Maung founded the Hissho Sushi company, and became

the major distributor of sushi to supermarkets, restaurants, and schools all over the United States.

This small anecdote is a perfect example of how the American Dream is sometimes fulfilled.

Maung came to the United States as a poor immigrant, but had the determination to change his

financial status for the better of himself and his family. “ We had very little money, but very

big dreams” said Maung, after receiving the illustrious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the

Year regional award on June 18, 2009. He also went on to say that “ Even in a tough economy,

if you are passionate enough about what you do and surround yourself with equally passionate

and dedicated people, success is always possible” . Even if you come to America on the bottom

of the social ladder, as long as you have the “ dedication and passion” to succeed at achieving

your personal goals, you can usually work your way up to the top of the corporate ladder like

Philip Maung did. Unfortunately, another factor that hasn’ t been touched on is that Maung may

have also been extremely lucky to be able to immigrate to the United States and start his own

company. Hard work and perseverance aren’ t the only factors in achieving the American Dream;

it also comes down to how fortunate you are. Some people will be very lucky and be able to

achieve their dreams with ease. Some others, unfortunately will get a “ bad break” and have to

work harder than most to get to where they want to be and achieve their dreams.

Today, the American dream of the 1930’ s of having opportunity to achieve your dreams in this

plentiful land of America, has been revived and revised to fit into modern day America’ s

standards of everyone being able to make it big and becoming rich by doing very little work at

all. In this day and age, many people seem to feel as though the American dream is tied to a

material component, or “ hittin’ the jackpot” and getting extremely lucky. The media is a strong

influence on the modern view of the American dream because of it’ s grip on society. On TV and

in the cinema, people are frequently shown getting rich quick on shows like Wheel of Fortune or

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or achieving fame and fortune by being an overnight success on

shows such as American Idol or America’ s Next Top Model. The ordinary folks at home

sometimes view these types of media, and believe the hype that such programs produce; that

anyone can get rich and famous quick, by just being on a game show. Another good example of

this would be in the US lottery and gambling systems. As Michael Sandel said, the message that

lotteries seem to convey is “ ...a message at odds with the ethic of work, sacrifice, and moral

responsibility” (Sandel 4). He also goes on to say that “ ...with a little luck [people] can escape the

world of work to which their misfortune confines them” (Sandel 4). This quote says that many

people in the US believe that they would rather get rich quick through luck and fortune than get

rich through hard work and determination, like the original American Dream implies.

Unfortunately for them, this method usually does not work, no matter how tenacious the gambler

is. Most of the time, people end up gambling themselves into bankruptcy instead of to an

immense fortune like they hope for. This is because some people in America believe that they

can achieve use instant gratification to achieve the American Dream instead of making it big

through hard labor and determination. If people rely solely on luck and ignore hard work and

perseverance, then achieving the American Dream will usually become impossible.

Compensation from accidents is another way some Americans try to achieve the American

Dream, by making money off legal disputes. Many people in American blame their own

misfortunes on bad engineering on the company (or local government) that produced the means

of their accidents. A good example of this would be Thomas Redlin in Hanover Park, Illinois

(Lunney5). Mr. Redlin decided it would be a wise choice to become intoxicated and then attempt

to pilot his friend’ s motorcycle. Unfortunately, he ended up crashing into a median in the road

that happened to be unmarked. Redlin later sued the city for his own negligence, claiming that

the city had no signage announcing the presence of the median whatsoever. Thomas Redlin

made around six million dollars off the lawsuit. This is a good example of how some Americans

exploit the legal system to obtaining wealth quickly like the revised American Dream seems to

convey, instead of achieving prosperity through demanding work and lots of determination like

the original idea of the America dream. This also shows how the American Dream has changed

from the old definition of “ working hard to achieve your goals” , to people being able to receive

compensation for their own mistakes. It shows how American have gone from being noble and

hardworking, to lazy and ignorant. Some people exploit the system because they know it will be

an easier way to make a fortune than it would be through hard, honest work.

The American dream is the right of equal opportunity and success for all. It is the freedom

everyone in America has to pursue their individual hopes and dreams and to lead rich, full, lives.

Even if you come to America as a poor immigrant, you can still have the opportunity to climb

the corporate ladder or even become the CEO of your own company. The achievement of the

American dream almost always comes down to your own determination and willingness to work

as hard as you can towards your goals. If you work hard and have enough perseverance, you may

be lucky enough to achieve the success that you seek.


1 . Hancock, John. “ The Declaration of Independence” July 4, 1776 <http://>

2 . “ What is the American Dream?” Library of Congress December 12, 2002 <http://>

3 . “ Living the American Dream: Hissho Sushi CEO named Entrepreneur of the Year”

dBusiness News July 7, 2009 <

newsid=186327& type_news=latest>

4 . Sandel, Michael J. “ THE HARD QUESTIONS: BAD BET,” New Republic, March 10, 1997, p. 27

5 . Mark Lunney, “ Letter from America: Tort Reform Illinois Style,” p. 50