The Impossibility of Achieving the American Dream of Today

The harsh reality of today’s society is that not everyone makes it. One will surely hear a few tales of monumental successes in one’s lifetime, but the reason that they are so monumental in the first place is that they are not commonplace. One of the most well known American Dreams is Barack Obama’s. However, these rarities do not make it possible for everyone. The simple fact that there are people in America who are not able to reach their goals means that the American Dream as defined hundreds of years ago simply is not attainable in its entirety. When people do not have enough money to live comfortably, when farmers are treated worse than the equipment they are using, and when success stories are out of the ordinary, how can one believe in the accessibility American Dream?

Many people living in America cannot reach the financial success that is associated with this country’s dream. In a survey by Parade Magazine, 2,200 middle class Americans were asked questions about their financial standing. Reporter David Wallenchinsky explains that 47% of middle classes Americans in the survey “say that no matter how hard they work, they cannot get ahead. More than a third worry about job loss” (Wallenchinsky 56). This survey alone is troublesome, but what is worse is that all of these people consider themselves middle class.

Nearly half of America’s middle class is willing to admit that they are not fulfilling their American Dream. This fact clearly shows that America does not provide equal access to the American dream. The American dream as it has typically been defined, largely includes financial stability and prosperity. However many people today find themselves without either. One of the individuals surveyed by Wallenchinsky says, “It used to be that if you stayed with your job, you would be rewarded.’ says Cherie. “Now, there is no guarantee” (Wallenchinsky 57). To be able to say that the American Dream is still possible, one would have to completely redefine it. As it stands today, not everyone has access to it. Not everyone has access to The Dream as it stands today, no matter how hard they are working. Outside factors will most always affect people’s lives and how they play out.

One example of these hard workers is minimum wage workers. Even though the past several decades have brought unions and labor laws, people who make the bare minimum have not been treated well or given financial stability. Robert Acuna (a farm worker) talks a lot about his experiences and abuses in Working by Studs Terkel. “I began to see how everything was so wrong. When growers can have intricate watering systems… but they cant have running water inside the houses of workers” (75). These people do not have the same access to The Dream as those who are born into upper class families. Many of these workers will never leave the lower or middle class, and statistics show that their children may not either. However, the meager paychecks of these workers are not the worst part, the blatant disregard for their safety is.

In the same reading by Studs Terkel, Acuna briefly mentions how inhumanely many of these workers were treated. “They haven’t any regard as to what safety precautions are needed… a little girl was playing around a sprayer. She stuck her tongue on it. She died instantly” (75). The fact that farm owners treat their employees in such a way exemplifies how the American Dream got to be so uncommon. People who achieve it want more, so they push people beneath them further down, making their dreams inaccessible. This could be why these farm owners are treating their workers with so much disregard. With the way the world works today, the American Dream may never be accessible to all Americans. The people who do achieve it will prevent it from being possible for others.

Many people argue that since there are people out there who achieve the American Dream, it is still accessible. This is true; it absolutely is still attainable and available, just not for everyone. In Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Keynote Address, he tells his success story in a way that makes people want to believe in The Dream. He says, “They know they have to work hard to get ahead.” (80). However, there are statistics indicating that no matter how hard some people work they cannot get ahead. Just like his story of success, the belief in ‘work hard and be rewarded’ that Americans used to hold may not be a reality anymore.

Obama also states that the great thing about America is “that we can tuck in our children at night and know they fed and clothed and safe from harm” (79). However, this isn’t true for everyone in America. Yes most people have those comforts, but there are still people living on the streets and people who cannot afford warm clothes and enough food. It is nice to think that everyone is safe but it just is not true. Obama was trying to get his listeners to focus on the successes in America, while excluding all of the failures. There are people who simply cannot have access to The Dream.

It is absolutely true that there are people out there, maybe even many Americans, who are able to achieve the American Dream, and there are even more people who are provided access to it. However, because of various invariable factors, there are and probably always will be people in America who are not provided access to The Dream. This does not mean that this cannot change. Less Americans have access to The Dream today, but there are also many more people today who fall under the category of ‘Americans.’ Maybe in the future, more Americans will fight for their rights and make the dream accessible to all. However, that is solely up to the people of America to achieve and maintain.

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