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Chris-Armand Ahounou

College Test Prep


Period: 4
WHAT DOES THE AMERICAN DREAM MEAN TO YOU AND IS IT STILL THRIVING IN
GREATER WASHINGTON?
Thesis:

As the national ethos of the United States, the connotations behind the phrase, The
American Dream are generally supposed to allude to an image of multiple successes and
achievements. To me, the American Dream incorporates living in a safe and comfortable
neighborhood, being financially able, and having the opportunity to acquire degrees in higher
education. I believe that the American dream is still flourishing in the Greater Washington area
with an asterisk. Yes, we are fortunate to live in an environment where there are opportunities
and resources that permit us to be educated and refined but we're limited or better yet predestined
to fulfill our dreams. Historian James Truslow Adams who coined the phrase, The American
Dream defined it as, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity
for each according to ability or achievement"; despite their social class or foundations. However
in the most recent decade or so, the phrase has become associated with satirical remarks in light
of the fact that it has turned into a banality and a great many people would concur that the
thought of the American dream has in fact turned into a deceptive nightmare.
A vast majority of people have a direct perspective when considering the American
dream however its much more complex than buckling down in school or winning the lottery. In
the Greater Washington Area the American dream is perceived as an attainable feat due to the

fact that the nations capital is in the surrounding area. Despite this fact, the neighborhoods in
DC range from the extremities of wealth to poverty. As a firm believer that through tenacity and
vision everything is possible I think that its necessary to keep the idea of the dream lucid. The
White House, a symbol of wealth, power, and the American people; encompasses the ideal of
success most American's strive for. Our President, Barack Obama encompasses this ideal even
further, as a black male, coming from a single parent home; growing up in the absence of his
father to becoming the man he is today. However, it is unimaginable that just a few miles from
this monument of success, the youth in those areas are surrounded by sporadic violence, rampant
drug use, and diseases such as HIV/AIDS. When you add those factors together it isn't unusual
that teenagers from those areas of the Greater Washington don't see much hope in their future.
How can we tell these kids to pursue a dream when they are living in a nightmare? How can
they be successful in school when they don't feel safe on their way to school? This is indeed a
problematic paradox that must be addressed. We must shelter our kids to live in an environment
where success is encouraged, we must work together to reduce the crime rate in those areas, and
we must propel the youth to dream beyond the boundaries of the American Dream.
I recently viewed a TEDx Talks with my classmates that changed my perspective on the
American Dream. The speaker, Kevin Maggiacomo stated that the United States was once
ranked #1 as a country with abundant opportunities in 1988 however it is currently ranked #16.
Its unbelievable that the land of opportunity, liberty, and freedom has become inferior to
countries like Canada and Denmark opportunity wise. Social mobility has decreased significantly
in the U.S which impedes the success of young Americans. With these dramatic decreases in
opportunity its highly likely that our once booming economy will go down as well in the next 20

to 35 years. This will not only have a direct impact on our future but on the future of the
American youth as a whole.
In 1996 a survey was conducted where seniors were asked to give some insight on the
splendor of their future. One high-school senior in an anonymous Midwestern state said,
Theres been extraordinary examples of people that have been poor and stuff that have risen to
the top just from their personal hard work not everybody can do that, I realize, but I think a lot
of people could if they just tried. In 2010 this same survey was conducted in the same state with
students of the same age groups and their responses greatly diverged from those in 1996. They
answered, You can always work hard, but if you arent given the opportunity or you dont have
the funds to be able to continue working hard then you never get the chance to get out of where
you are. The attitude of these two generations regarding their futures are completely opposite.
There is a noticeable trend that indicates that as the years go by there is a pessimistic outlook on
the future in America. Again, this negative outlook on the future is not a random occurrence. It is
the combination of multiple factors working against the average teenager who comes from an
average household with parents who are a part of the middle class. With the growing income
disparity between the upper and middle class, our economy is at risk and in turn, people are
losing hope. According to an article in CNN Money, individuals who live in zones with higher
financial development and better schools have a more prominent opportunity to climb the
monetary stepping stool. Their study likewise found that regions with extensive AfricanAmerican populaces, for example, the South, have lower rates of versatility for all occupants.
These inequalities in opportunity hinders the dreams of our youth and as a result we become a
generation shrouded in uncertainty. We live in a competitive society that demands us to push
ourselves and go beyond our limits but what happens when our efforts exceeds our rewards? Do

we branch out to other countries to seek better opportunities or do we patriotically settle for less?
With the costs of college rising stupendously and increased student loan debts, these are
questions that will be on the minds of Americans sometime in the near future if we keep treading
along this path.
To the immigrant the American dream is sold as an illusion. They don't see the difficulties
constraining them. Some abandon their families and depart on a perilous journey to reach our
shores only to find themselves swamped in debt and frantically working odd jobs to make ends
meet. Statistics show that in 2015 more Mexican immigrants are leaving the United States by
their own volition due to the decreases in opportunity. "Slightly more than a million Mexicans
and their families including about 100,000 children younger than 5 who were American
citizens born in the United States returned to live in Mexico." This is the greatest decrease of
immigrants the US has experienced by a single immigrant population.
When I think about the American dream, its difficult for me not to mention my father.
His journey from being an ambitious and driven young man in the Western African country of
the Ivory Coast to becoming a decorated and exemplary ambassador to the United States is a
constant reminder that everything is achievable through diligent work and devotion. I feel
privileged to have experienced a lifestyle much different from the average kid in the US. As a
result of my past experiences travelling abroad to Africa and seeing many unfortunate children
living in a world with odds against them; My American Dream is one in which every youngster
perceive their potential and relentlessly work to comprehend they can be the best in whatever
they choose to do with their lives. I wish for them to be delicate however genuine with
themselves, to cherish themselves and see the exceptional persons they are getting to be and that
they work to live in congruity with all mankind.

Works Cited
"Watch "Awakening the American Dream: Kevin Maggiacomo at
TEDxOrangeCoast" Video at TEDxTalks." TEDxTalks. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
So Say Nearly 6 in 10 People Who Responded to CNNMoney's American
Dream Poll. "The American Dream Is out of Reach." CNNMoney. Cable News
Network, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Preston, Julia. "More Mexican Immigrants Leaving U.S. Than Entering, Report
Finds." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Pinsker, Joe. "Teenagers Are Losing Confidence in the American Dream." The
Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 15 June 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.