The American Dream

The American dream is dead — for many native-born Americans, anyhow.

You remember the American dream. It was the hope that everyone can get ahead in America, that your kids will attain more prosperity than you.

It was the certitude that in America, anyone is free, with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The dream was alive and well when I was a kid in the ’70s. Despite a rough economic patch then, most everyone I ever knew dreamed of starting his or her own business.

My mother had a million ideas and tried many of them. My father regretted not buying out his uncle’s hardware store — he liked his job and worked hard, but never attained the freedom of the self-made man.

I started my own business as soon as I could mow lawns. By my junior year in high school, I was making considerable money — and had four employees — rebuilding stone retaining walls.

America’s restless, hopeful entrepreneurial spirit made our country great — but it is dying now.

Its death is made clear by the growing list of people who expect the president, through some government program, to hand them their “American dream.”

Though presidents like to promise such things, not one president ever delivered it — not one president ever can or will.

The American dream can be pursued only by the individual and through sheer initiative — what we call the American spirit.

That spirit is alive and well — though not so much among native-born Americans.

No, the American spirit lives in the hearts of immigrants, who still come here — legally — to make a better life.

The best of them ask nothing from our government — they don’t want handouts. They want nothing more than the opportunity to work hard and make their own way.

I have met many such fellows in Washington, D.C.

I know one, an Irishman, who came from a small Irish village to work in America as a butler. He married and started a family. To improve his income, he began selling insurance. By his 40th birthday, he had raised the capital to start his own highly successful Irish pub — one that afforded him a fantastic living.

I knew two brothers from India who owned a convenience store and sandwich shop. The older brother had been a professor at a technical school in his homeland, though his English was poor.

Thus, when he made it to America, he had trouble finding similar work. He didn’t complain. He took whatever job he could — busboy, cook, janitor — and saved every penny. He used his savings to bring his wife here, and then, one at a time, his five siblings.

He and his brother eventually saved enough to buy the convenience store, then a motel. He was in his late 50s when I met him. Both of his American-born sons were doctors.

His property had soared in value over the years. He was offered $6 million for the land on which his convenience store sat. He still makes sandwiches every day.

I met another guy who had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, where his father had two businesses and his family was well off. Then civil war tore their country apart. His family lived in a bombed-out building for three years before they were able to make their way to America.

When he arrived, broke, he took a job as a janitor. His siblings took on menial work. The family saved $20,000 and used the money to open a bakery. He is now the president of a bakery that employs more than 150.

Yes, the American dream is alive and well — just not so much among native-born Americans who want some politician or government program to make their dream happen for them.

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  • Cooky642

    And the Socialists all want us to apologize for what we have!!! There are still plenty of “native-born Americans” who have made a life for themselves and their families out of their own initiative and hard work. Should your Irish, Indian and Lebanese friends feel guilty for leaving their home countries and coming here and making a good life? No, and neither should we! We all need to be grateful to God Who allowed us the life, liberty, and OPTION for happiness that we have.

  • consecrata

    I have never been able to understand why Native Americans have been kept so far in the background. While so many, including those who are here illegally, DEMAND rights and privileges, you don’t often hear this from Native Americans. Is there a Native American in Congress? How many Native Americans are there in our Country? our Universities? I know there have been sporadic ‘protests’ on behalf of Native Americans by Hollywood celebrities through the years but I often thought that was more an ego trip on the part of the celebrity and I don’t recall anything good coming from their speeches. No one, Cooky, is asking for anyone to feel guilty – this article is just stating facts and I am not Native American – I am Swedish and Irish and my Swedish grandparents were born in Sweden and came here as adults…we have to admit that American Indians were exploited just as the Africans have been..white people went to Africa and took all their precious resources…and made the native Africans practically slave workers…this has to be said. When I lived in Haiti as a Catholic missioner, Europeans came to the Island and set up sugar cane factories…and when I spoke to them about the horrendous living conditions they gave to their workers, I was told they had come to the Island to help the people…not true! They were paying less than a dollar a day – a full day – sunrise to sunset … and while they lived in enormous homes their workers lived in hovels with no sanitary facilities. I told the Foreman to be truthful: they came to make money. So, the American Indian does not seem ever to have taken his rightful place in American society…and that if very sad.


    People are not lazy! Rthey are not lying around waiting for welfare checks! What about coal miners, nurses, hard hats, machinists? People have been working hard for thirty years and getting less while fat catsa get more and more.

    This would be a great article on a conservative political site but when so many Catholics and others are sincerely trying but still struggling, it just seems the Pharisees are back.

  • teddytherecruit

    Actually, the problem may be that the that the government has so intervened in the cycles of economics, that those who see opportunity and take risk no longer have that opportunity when the economic cycle is geared only to be stable or to grow and grow. Downturns in the economic cycle can be seen as opportunities for the insightful to step up, risk, and execute. Sure, some people will fail. But those are opportunities for growth. To suffer from our own decisions is not a bad thing at all. Being on the public dole, without the opportunity to risk, and learn from that risk, is a great disservice- brought to you by…our government. Indeed there are lazy people- not to be confused with the indigent or destitute. It is important to distinguish between the two. That certainly is a “Catholic” issue.

  • gk

    My American dream is to have a family, love those in it greatly and get to heaven. Anything else along the way is a bonus. And if anything along the way doesn’t satisfy the soul, it ainte gonna go.

    The American Dream as defined as living like a king or making a Billion dollars is personally as appealing as a root canal. That “American Dream” keeps those busy who would otherwise be royal pains-in-the-necks. Thank God for the Rat Race … aka the American Dream. It bunches the rats.

  • goral

    Interesting take gk, I know you’re serious but I found the second paragraph quite amusing.


    Of course, lazy people exist. But so do greedy people, lustful people and so on.

    The question is when jobs go overseas to people who earn less, how can we call our brothers and sisters who don’t have jobs lazy?