The American Dream that I am talking about is being able to pull oneself up by their boot straps. I know there are a lot of opinions and books out there that seem to claim this dream is dead. However, recently in a John Stossel program on ABC, showed many counter claims to this opinion. While interviewing young college graduate, Adam Shepard, and recent writer of Scratch Beginnings, Stossel finds support that this dream is still quite alive. Shepard’s story is one with purpose; he decided to see if he could start out with $25, and the clothes on his back and make it in a strange, new city
of Charleston, South Carolina. He had goals that paved the way for his achievements of $2,500 in cash, a car, apartment and a job with prospects for advancement. Some might think this was possible because he was young, or had the college background and these were the reasons for his success… Which might be true, but upon receiving a college degree is not a ticket for your first job, a house or a car. It may help, but it really comes down to your qualifications and ingenuity.
In reading another article, in World Magazine, interviewing Shepard about his book, helped me to further understand his situation and what helped him in achieving the American dream. Here are a few highlights from the interview:
Q: What did you learn about the difficulty of getting and keeping a job, and saving money?
A: That it wasn’t as easy as I had predicted. From the onset, I figured I would arrive in my new town, it might take me a few days to get a job, and then I would have a steady paycheck coming in. Two weeks later, I was unemployed and living in a homeless shelter, wondering if I could actually achieve my goals. In the end, though, I knew that once I had a job, saving money would be the easy part as I sought out ways to budget everyday expenses.
Q: You went into this experience with an education and with values oriented toward working and saving. How much of your experience is applicable to those without your education and values?
A: On a basic level, it’s very applicable, because regardless of our own respective talents or education, we wake up everyday to face our own unique situation. Some of the people that I met-uneducated and having come from an impoverished background-were exploiting their talents to the best of their ability. Others were squandering opportunity that was right in front of them. To me, the success of your own American Dream is answering the question, “did I fight to better my life along the way?” Some are. Some aren’t.
Q: Are values key, then? And what’s the best way to change them?
A: Values are key for sure, and it is obviously true that some people have access to those values while others don’t. I don’ know that the values need to be changed, rather we need to keep an open dialogue that engages the spread of those values across boundaries. I have friends from my small private college that missed those values just as I met people in Charleston were in the same situation. The values are there, and I speak in the epilogue of Scratch Beginnings on how we can help more people have access to the same values that helped make my journey a success.
Essentially the message of the American dream is to not lose hope and to persevere. It is a dream that involves sacrifice but ultimately this sacrifice is not in vain. Knowing the American dream is alive is a great message for all especially for those (like me) that plan on entering the workforce shortly, and begin pulling up their boot straps.
To learn about the homeless shelter where Shepard stayed click here
To read more about Scratch Beginnings click here