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american dream 2.0
what we have in common makes all the difference
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

I recently attended a presentation of a consumer research company about the proverbial state of the union. The company surveyed thousands of people and analyzed their opinions regarding the status of the economic environment and whether we, the people, still believe in the American dream.

The answers? Dismal and, um, no, not so much.

The majority of this information was presented for the sake of advertising and marketing, but there’s an undercurrent of the basic human condition that offers far greater insight. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., what your skin color is, how you vote, or what your income might be, it’s apparent we have more in common than pundits and politicos let on. More importantly, we want to believe in the dream.

The following are just a few touchstones people expressed.

We all want education.
It’s blatant ignorance to preach that having an education is an elitist privilege. You don’t have to be a parent to want the best education for yourself and for the kids who will eventually form our communities, work for us, and care for us. Popular attitude needs to celebrate learning and encourage greater opportunities for all children to explore the multiple intelligences they possess. A proper education should be a non-political measure of America’s success, and we shouldn’t tolerate any more reductions or rhetoric.

We all want to feel safe.
I guarantee if you stop 10 people on the street, right now, and ask them if they think more about being safe in their neighborhood or Osama Bin Laden goons bombing a federal building, all 10 will answer their neighborhoods. Why? Because a neighborhood is our immediate circle of influence. The people over the back hedge, in the apartment above you, across the street--these individuals have direct impact on your daily safe haven. So instead of listening to radical media hype about terrorists lurking around every corner and our desperate need for national security, we the people should make it a point to support our neighbors, neighborhood associations, and public service workers to ensure safe environments start small and radiate wide.

We all want to love and be loved.
There’s not one definition of this. For some, it could be a storybook heterosexual marriage, complete with two kids, a fluffy dog named Fido, and a white picket fence surrounding a Colonial two-story. Others might desire only to not feel ostracized for being single. Still others might simply want the opportunity to hold a partner’s hand in public without fear of retribution. Humans seek connection, and we should all want to live in a country with leaders who foster more possibilities for real, loving relationships, regardless of political affiliation or sexual orientation. Because if you love more, there’s little room for hate.

We all want higher consciousness.
One of the reasons our American ancestors supposedly left England was to avoid religious persecution. According to the research findings, people desire a greater consciousness, whether it's achieved through spiritual pursuits or an acceptance of the natural world. Thinking of ourselves as individuals striving to understand something beyond the material gives everyone hope. If you aren't harming anyone with your beliefs, you should have the freedom to worship--or not--without judgement.

We all want to make our way.
The majority of us are willing to put our backs into something if we believe the results will be successful. And if hard work secures our basic requirements, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we will eventually be more optimistic, self-actualized individuals. The original fabric of the American dream was created with many of these needs in mind, promising a Utopian society. Currently, society’s estimation of the ability to make our way toward success is low, the thought being that many opportunities available to previous generations simply don’t exist now. It’s up to all of us to reassign value to the advantages of hard work and create authentic opportunities to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

We all want to be considered equal.
Those few moments when you feel superior to another are quickly snuffed out by someone else who feels superior to you. This is a tenet that shouldn't even need to be discussed in the 21st century. No human being is less than another. Period. If we truly want to expand opportunities as citizens of the United States, we need to embrace equality on all levels.

We all want corporate responsibility.
Whether it's less than equal pay for more than equal work; company executives who rob from employees’ pension funds; subsidies for profit-mongering corporations shipping jobs to other countries; or food manufacturing plant managers who hire coyotes to truck in illegal immigrants to work for less than minimum wage; these and other examples of malfeasance continue to erode the strength of the American workforce. Since we value our right to choose, we need to vote with our hard-earned dollars for companies with practices of which we approve and forget the rest.

We all want to be united.
Fear mongers rage against socialism, but there’s a new term bandied about now: social nationals. These individuals believe the common good can only be achieved through partnership and collective effort. Social nationals encourage open-mindedness, environmental and social responsibility, tolerance, and shared knowledge. This is not a governmental agenda, but a humanitarian initiative, driven by the people and designed to benefit the needs of the many. Yes, there has to be a leader of every effort, and that requires a level of autonomy. But the progressive attitude is shifting from “me” to “we”.

If America is to truly rise as a great nation once again, its citizens need to cast aside old definitions and embrace what the United States really is now: a country populated with millions of diverse individuals, each with the potential to create lives of purpose and dignity and who, at the center, desire to exist harmoniously with one another. Focusing on common goals instead of constantly marking a line in the sand is the first step.

If we’re going to dream at all, we might as well make it a big one.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


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pay attention - this is about you
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topic: news
published: 12.28.07

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and it seems we're not talking about it enough
by tracey l. kelley
topic: news
published: 8.26.02


sloan bayles
4.29.11 @ 11:16a

Wonderful article. Wish I could comment more, but I'm sitting in a mediation in Wilmington.

matt kelley
4.29.11 @ 1:08p

Corporate responsibility is becoming oxymoronic. As gasoline prices rise above $4 a gallon, again, Exxon posted quarterly profits this week of $10.65 billion. Ridiculous and aggravating.

tracey kelley
5.2.11 @ 10:08a

The recent issue of Vanity Fair has an interesting article titled "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% that provides a SparkNotes view of the economy that is spot on.

I also read over the weekend that of the top 10 wealthiest people in the U.S., four are Waltons, reaping the bennies of Walmart profits.

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