Poverty and the American Dream Essay

4622 Words Apr 28th, 2012 19 Pages
“The American Dream” as defined by James Truslow Adams in 1931 is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. Truslow states "life should be worse and poorer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The American Dream is viewed by many Americans as not …show more content…
This term shares the characteristics of other embedded theologies in that the meaning is rarely questioned and the unquestioned meaning is widely shared by everyone to be understood. When people say the American Dream it is understood to be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or does it? Presently, it is widely understood that the American Dream is a pursuit of riches; the upward matriculation from rich to poor through a system of meritocracy that is egalitarian system that truly allows this upward mobility to occur. The belief is so entrenched in the fabric of what it means to be American, that people who are impoverished will vote against policies that are for the poor simply because believe these policies will have a profound affect on them in the future.
Shockingly, the term “American Dream” is a relatively new term. In fact, James Truslow Adams the author accredited with coining the phrase initially didn’t think that the term would merit the three dollar payment for the cost of his book. Jim Cullen in his book “The American Dream a short history of an Idea that Shaped a Nation” writes:
“Adams, author of a series of popular books on American history was seeking to broaden his literary horizons. A man with elite blood lines dating back to the seventeenth century when one of his ancestors came to Virginia as indentured servant and ended up in the landowning class, Adams,

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