One morning this past week, I met with an older gentleman. He was a 91-year-old Navy veteran and just the salt of the earth. He told me that he doesn’t really recognize our country in many ways and that he can’t believe some of what is happening in our culture. He also said that he really hopes to make it two more years so he can vote for a different president. I told him I agreed, and I believe he’ll make it to the next election just fine.
I had a similar visit with another man just the day before who also happens to be 91. He recently lost his wife of 69 years. He is a former state senator himself. and we talked about past days with legislation that he was proud of. But he was also from a different era and said that he remembers politics being far less polarizing.
Both conversations set me thinking. Has America changed? Are we the same US of A that these two gentlemen grew up in and so capably served? I would bet that every generation that has gone before has felt that the next generation was watering things down, or missing the mark, or making too many changes. “Young whippersnappers! Get off my grass!”
But truth be told, I’m three and a half decades younger than those two men, and I agree with them. The sheer amount of change, sometimes just for the sake of change, has been amazing lately, and certainly not all for the better. Examining the current state of affairs, I think that it’s fair to say that the past several years have been one societal upheaval after another, and certainly, as a conservative, my personal view is that the level and pace of change has not resulted in a large number of positives.
We are told so often by the progressive left that the nation we love is not loveable. In light of that persistent negative messaging and in the wake of my conversations with two men of the greatest generation, I asked myself, “is the American dream still alive?” For that matter, what is the American Dream? And is it still out there?
But before I got too deep in my thoughts and started typing them out I ran across a story that tells me the “American Dream” is definitely still out there and it is evident in Uncle Maddio’s Pizza in Minot, North Dakota.
One of Uncle Maddio’s employees until recently was a young guy named Sebastian Gutierrez. Standing 6-foot-6, 295 pounds Sebastian was recruited to play ball for the Division II Minot State Beavers as an offensive lineman. With Minot State playing in the Northern Sun Conference it was not known to be a recruiting hotbed for the NFL but Sebastian apparently had a dream of working towards a career in the NFL, and in the meantime, making pizzas. The manager put him to work flipping pizza dough while he trained. So Gutierez worked, and trained, and trained, and worked. He was initially waived by the Denver Broncos; but the NFL hopeful was signed this past week by the New England Patriots.
The manager at Uncle Maddios said he and others at the restaurant are proud of Sebastian and his work ethic, and saying, “I think he’s a great young man, and I wish him the best. I think he’ll do well. I think once they let him in the door, he’ll never come out, I think he’ll have a great career in the NFL both on and off the field.”
That’s just a cool story. A cool story that thankfully flies in the face of the perpetual liberal mantra that says the American dream is gone. There is an ongoing screech that our nation is only for the privileged, or the rich, or certain racial demographics. It is a loudly shouted and oft-repeated misguided notion that the United States is systemically flawed and therefore it is unrealistic for some to rise because all power is vested in few.
We are told so often by the left that somehow the ability to rise up and achieve success, or to accumulate wealth, or to be fulfilled, has been stymied and therefore the few must “pay their fair share” so that an equitable distribution may be made to those who don’t have their own “fair share.”
The left side of politics and culture call this “equity,” but “equity” was never the root basis for the American Dream.
The actual term “American Dream” is said to have been coined by a historian named James Truslow Adams in the first half of the 20th century in his book “Epic of America”. Adams said, “the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. …. a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
Ronald Reagan once said, “the American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become.”
I have also seen the American Dream defined as “the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone.”
To be sure, there have been struggles to reach the dream. Struggles not to create “equity” as liberals would try to persuade us, but rather struggles to remove the barriers that could prevent the American dream from being attainable as a matter of “equality.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham jail” didn’t call for handouts or equitable division of assets. He made his plea to simply allow that men and women of any color could pursue life without inhibition. King said at one point, “We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands ... when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
Do we have that now? I believe the answer is “yes.”
Is there work to do? Certainly. Every good crop starts with tending the ground, and prepping the fields, and keeping the conditions right for growth, and the same is true of the American Dream.
If we are going to see the next generation have the ability to succeed, and not just strive, but actually thrive, then we have to do all we can to dispel the notions that we must spend ourselves into oblivion giving so-called equitable shares to those who have been deemed somehow oppressed. All that is necessary to prep the fertile ground of the American Dream is remove obstacles and let ‘em run. Go ask Sebastian Gutierez.