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[Opinion] The American Dream

Posted May. 16, 2005 23:34,   


“Mother told me that I can do whatever I want to in America. Father told me that success is made of 99 percent effort and one percent ability. If mother gave me dreams, father taught me the way to achieve those dreams.” Jeremy Rifkin, the writer of many best-selling books such as, “The End of Work,” reflects on his past. Due to his parents’ encouragement of the American dream, Rifkin, who is not rich or born of the upper class, succeeded as a world famous intellect. It is gratuitous that Rifkin introduced this story in a book titled, “European Dream.”

The term “American dream” was first appeared in the book, “The Epic of America” in 1931. The writer, James Truslow Adams, should have named the book, “American Dream,” but could not due to the objection of his publisher. The reason he gave was that “there is no American man who will pay three dollars and 50 cents just to read about dreams.” However, immigrants still come to America believing in the American dream. The Mexican government even published a pamphlet about how to cross the American border. The amount of money the Mexicans send back to their home country from America adds up to $14 billion a year. Though they might work in jobs evaded by the Americans, it is better than a country where work cannot be found.

In fact, one in three Americans do not believe in American dream. They say that you cannot succeed no matter how hard you try. As more than half bequeath the income state and class of their parents’ time, the saying that American dream has died is not unreasonable. This is the reason Rifkin chose the European dream, which emphasizes the quality of life rather than material success, as an alternative plan.

Class is bequeathed, but is not inherited like social position. We need to focus on the fact that according to the ability acquired through education, we become like our parents. Therefore, it is important to increase the public education standard of not-so-well-off students to raise their potential. It is the role of universities to find elites of various classes and levels through diverse entry methods. As long as the children of Mexican immigrants working in poultry factories receive good educations, the American dream is still valid.

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com