The American Dream
Definition Dream: ambition;a cherished desire
- In the mid 19th century many immigrants came to America to escape their persecutions at home and in the hope to get a new chance and to find new opportunities for them in a new world
- Between 1820 and 1975 it was mostly European immigrants emigrating to America; In the last 25 years there has been a drastic change to mostly Latin American and Asian immigrants
- At the End of the 19th century there where many immigrants especially from China, who where brought to America to work at the transcontinental railroad, once the road was finished in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which denied all foreign born Chinese immigrants the right of an American citizenship; the Act was a response to harsh anti-Chinese feelings at the time
- The theory of the melting pot coined by Crevecoer where all immigrated and existing races and cultures melt into one single race has become an unrealizable myth
- The American Dream was inspired by many stories especially those written by Horatio Alger Jr. who became famous with his Ragged Dick tales that told the story of a very poor boy, who through determination and hard work came wealth and success
- In the beginning of the 20th century the American Dream was challenged, because after the Great Depression people lost their beliefs of the Dream that’s when James T. Adams renewed the definition of the American Dream and linked new values with it
- After World War II people pursued the American Dream of the “perfect family”, these conservative values where denied and abolished by the hippie generations of the sixties
Criticism of the American Dream
- The main point many critics pick up is the fact that it is impossible for everyone to become wealthy and successful
- There are many other factors that play a role like language, luck, IQ or family
- The American Dream is misleading, because the people who don’t have success and wealth might quickly think that it is their own fault
- And the wealthier also make less effort to help the poor, because they think the poverty just comes from the laziness of the people
- Manifest Destiny was an American doctrine first coined by the journalist John O’Sullivan.
- The meaning of the phrase was the inevitable destination of the American nation to expand on the continent
- 2 centuries before the governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop already said that that his colony is “the City upon a Hill” and that they would show the rest of the world how to live a “good, pious, god-worthy” life.
- Manifest Destiny also had consequences for the Native Americans as their land was occupied by the new settlers
- The U.S. government legitimized their west expansion through Indian Treaties.
- The whites wanted the Natives to become “civilized” and live, act and work like the whites. (farmers)
- He new settlers regarded the Natives as nothing more than “savages”, who stood in the way of American expansion
- Between the 19th and 20th century America began to annex many islands like the Philippines or Puerto Rico
- Here territories where not acquired to become new U.S. states like it was the actual intention of manifest destiny, now colonies were made and constitutional rights were not established on the islands
- That was a violation of the traditional manifest destiny and so the actual meaning of the phrase was thrown aboard by American imperialism in 1899
- Americans at the time where of the opinion that they had to “educate” and “christianize” those “uncivilized” Filipinos.
- But the Filipinos resisted and out broke the Phillipine-American war
- In the 20th century the phrase manifest destiny became a new definition. Roosevelt’s and especially Wilson’s version of manifest destiny rejected expansionism and saw the new “mission” of America to be the leader of the free world in the name of democracy
- Today manifest destiny only describes a past era in American history and is often criticized as being the cause of American imperialism
1) James T. Adams
- He was more or less the founder of the Definition „The American Dream“
- He wrote his text in the Time of the Great Depression, where the people and the country were demoralised, his text gave them new hope.
- The country had the best conditions to become the American Dream (Line 4/5)
- Everybody should have equal chances.
- Dream of a Land with new Opportunities and equal chances for everyone.
- No racial discrimination
- Chance to come from rags to riches
- Self- fulfilment
- Materialistic Aspect (Prosperity)
- Foundation of the American Dream is the will to share
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➙ All people should work together ➙ Don’t let it stay a Dream
2) John Winthrop- A City upon a Hill
- Because of personal reasons the church of England was founded
- The Protestants wanted to lean up against the catholic church
- Northern and Western European Immigrants came to America because of religious freedom.
- Some of these Protestants didn’t just want to go against the Catholics, they wanted a stronger reformation and they wanted a purified life.
- 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers came to America in the hope to build their puritan society on this new land.
- Puritan religion: God is the absolute and arbitrary ruler
- Since Adam every man is depraved (verderbt)
- Man cannot escape God’s will, they believed in the predestination of everyone’s destiny.
- Saw themselves as role models, the chosen people
- God gave them the land, and in return he wants them to live a good, purified life
- Role model for living a true Christian life ➙ God is their centre, if they obey god, they will get blessing, if they make him mad, he’ll break out in wrath and they’ll go to hell.
- Their values: Community, brother love, everyone is a member of a body = Gemeinde
- Puritan Ethics: ➙ Stiff, conceited No Individuality, act conform
- Puritans were very religious, pious, had strong morals.
- Puritans brought some kind of structure and guidance into the new land.
3) Emma Lazarus
- No exploitation (Ausbeutung)
- Uncle Sam welcomes all nations from around the world
- The woman as a symbol for warmth and affection
- The new world has something to offer for the tired and the displaced (vertriebenen)
- I Lift my Lamp beside the golden door
- The door represents a division between the
Old World (Europe) and the New World (America).
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4) Turner Thesis (Frederick J. Turner)
- coined by Frederick J. Turner, he saw the frontier as a region that created freedom, breaking with old rituals and offering new experiences
- The first settlers from Europe still thought European but had to adapt to the new environment
- This constant adaptation over the years made them more and more American
- The next generations moved further inland and through that process many European traits weren’t needed anymore and were replaced by new characteristics, American characteristics
- The more west they went, the more it shaped the character, and it changed
- Every generation became more American, more democratic and more individualistic
- In Europe there is no possibility to expand, in America there is.
- The Wilderness has been socialized
- Turner sees the effects of frontier as something positive.
- Frontier means individualism, the base of democracy.
- Turners thesis became popular fast, because it explained why the Americans where so different from the Europeans
- Critics of Frederick Turner believe that it is Thesis that legitimized the American expansionism and imperialism of the late 19th century
5) Chief Joseph
- Sees the frontier as something negative
- There is always a second perspective
- He is talking about the situation of his tribe.
- The white men have just made good words and all promises were broken.
- The people are dying and have no place to stay and to live.
- By moving westward the new settlers took away the wilderness, which was important to many of the native’s lives.
- Chief is disappointed, because people have made so many promises and never kept them.
- He wants that everyone is treated equally, that his people have the same rights as the whites
- He is humble (bescheiden), he accepts the new settlers, he just wants to live together peacefully and only asks for freedom for the natives, to be treated equally and to have a place to live peacefully and without wars.
- He says they are all living on the same earth and have the same father, so they should have equal rights.
- Speaks of the desolate situation in Europe and how much better it is in America
- Life for the people in Europe was miserable, they stood at the lowest scale of society
- Starving and being poor, they were suppressed and had no freedom
- They didn’t count as an Individual.
- In America they have been given a new chance to start a new life as individual citizens that all have freedom and equal rights.
- This means that all the people coming to America give up their individual nationalities and customs to become a part of, to “melt into” the US culture.
- ➙ His idea didn’t work
- But this theory only functioned until the middle of the 19th century. Up to then nearly all of the settlers were coming from north-western Europe.
- They didn’t have exactly the same cultural background, but they were all Christians although of different confessions and they had some other things in common.
- So it was easy for them to assimilate. After about 1950 a lot of non European settlers started flowing into the US like the Chinese and they didn’t want to adapt and become a part of the US culture.
- Second theory was the salad bowl notion the individual elements (cultures) come together and mix, but they do not melt and each element is a particular part of the whole being (country)
- In a salad bowl the single ingredients are not combined but completely separated and this is not true because some ethnic groups in the USA are combined and mixed
- The new American is a new man/woman acting on new principles, new ideas, new laws and new opinions, his labour is based on nature and self- interest.
- Turner/Joseph were texts about the Anglo-American- Expansion
- This text is about people taking Land away from others unjustified.
- The Philippine war was 1898. After the war, Americans took the Philippines’s land and built colonies on it
- Americans stick their nose in everything
- Manifest Destiny: Expansion of a country is God given
- “New Version” of Manifest Destiny: Land is God-given and America is chosen to take that land
- If a country isn’t democratic enough or in Americas eyes’ not worthy enough to stand alone they have to step in and solve the “problem”
- God has made the Americans master organizers of the world to establish a system into the chaos.
- The American people have been chosen as the nation that has the mission to take care of the world.
- When the world’s work calls America is there to be trusted, to judge the problem and to keep up peace.
- This is actually Imperialism!!
8) Ragged Dick
- Famous writer Horatio Alger Jr. published his Ragged Dick Tales that told the stories from people coming “From rags to riches”
- Dick explains that he is an orphan; his mother died when he was three and his father was lost at sea.
- Dick has had to take care of himself since the age of seven. He worked as a newsboy and sold matches, but no matter how desperate he was, he kept his honesty and never stole.
- He was confronted with hunger, cold and poverty but always believed in the concept from rags to riches
- He had a strong belief and determination
- Doesn’t have any education, is determined to change that though
- Also the concept of the American Dream
- The Ladder of fortune coined by Benjamin Franklin:
- The virtues / steps of the ladder:
- Morality, honesty, perseverance, determination, punctuality,
- The fruits of the ladder:
- Riches, success, reputation, influence, good conscience
- The dangers / persuasions in the background:
- Lottery, Stock Exchange, Betting, Putting your life in the hands of luck
9) Sum of good government
- Jefferson’s speech is held during the background conflict between federalists and republicans.
- The federalists wanted an elite
- Republicans wanted to be part of politics.
- He speaks of America being a rapidly rising, advancing nation.
- Due to that it is their [the authorities of constitution] duty to be good leaders for the people.
- In the beginning Jefferson has a conciliatory tone, because he wants to win people’s sympathy.
- Later his tone becomes stricter, more convincing
- His main ideas are freedom of speech and thought
- Everyone can have their own opinion and their own religion. No matter if they are Republicans or Federalist or catholic or protestant, the other has to be tolerated.
- A wise and good Government is able to keep men from injuring each other and give them the freedom to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.
- In the third part he has a conciliatory tone again; he uses many rhetorical stylistic devices.
10) Ronald Reagan “Let us Renew the Compact”
- He uses many imperatives “Let us...”
- Like most politicians, Reagan speaks of the religion, the dream, especially the American Dream; almost all of them speak of God
- Speaks of political ways and they will become better under his power.
- He speaks of the first settlers that came to America 1620, who then formed a compact, agreeing to build a community and live by its laws.
- And today this Compact again should be renewed.
- Based on freedom, taking care of the needy, and keeping up principles and values that have been part of our country and our society for so long.
- Trust the American spirit that knows no religious, social, racial boundaries.