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Dream of Democracy: American Dream {format} {format} 2:59 Barrett Golding & Jonathan Menjivar

What is the American Dream?.

Broadcast: Jul 2 2004 on NPR Day to DaySeries: Dream of Democracy Subjects: Public Affairs, Youth, Politics

Profile: College students give their view on the American Dream

July 2, 2004 from Day to Day

MADELEINE BRAND, host: And finally today, it's the beginning of the July 4th weekend. And as we eat hot dogs and watch fireworks, perhaps it's also a good opportunity to consider the American Dream. That dream, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, is that we are all created equal and that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But how's the American Dream interpreted today in the 21st century? Independent radio producer Barrett Golding asked college students in Chicago for their thoughts, and he sent us this piece.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: The American Dream is...

Unidentified Woman #1: What do you mean, like, white picket fences and...

Unidentified Man #1: ...white picket fence and a two-story house in the suburbs.

Unidentified Woman #2: A house with a white picket fence.

Unidentified Man #2: ...two kids...

Unidentified Woman #2: The American Dream means to own a house in the suburbs and having three kids and a dog.

Unidentified Woman #3: To live in a good neighborhood with a dog.

Unidentified Woman #2: Like that kind of American Dream?

Unidentified Woman #4: Well, I mean, for me it's different. It's getting to do what I want and what I love.

Unidentified Man #3: You know, I don't want to become just a commodity.

Unidentified Man #4: To have a nice car.

Unidentified Man #5: A beautiful wife.

Unidentified Woman #5: How big does your house have to be? How many cars do you have to have?

Unidentified Man #6: It's like a Pagan god.

Unidentified Man #7: Forty acres and a mule.

Unidentified Man #6: You rip God out of society and you fill it with these material items and, you know, I don't want to live that dream.

Unidentified Man #8: That's the American Dream to me. Now you tell me what's the American Dream to you?

Unidentified Woman #6: It's not just one American Dream. It's gonna be many, and it's gonna take a while to get to some part of the American Dream, if there is one. Well, I mean, it's not really there.

Unidentified Man #9: I would say that I very much believe in it because I grew up in a poor family in West Virginia and, you know, I've had the mobility to do things in my life that, in a lot of other countries, I would never have the opportunity to do.

Unidentified Woman #7: Well, I think it's cool that it's not really just American but it's pretty worldwide.

Unidentified Woman #8: Yeah, but that's so not true 'cause then they come to this country and they realize, `Oh, I'm stuck with a bad job that I make little money at.' The American Dream doesn't come true for most people.

Unidentified Man #10: My dream would--one day maybe to be a member of Congress, maybe in the House of Representatives or maybe even one day the Senate.

Unidentified Man #11: My dream: Grow up, become a priest, follow God.

Unidentified Woman #9: And I think the American Dream doesn't lie in what you have or what you own. It's in who you are.

Unidentified Man #12: My dream? I just hope there's better days ahead.

Unidentified Woman #10: My American Dream? My American Dream is like Martin Luther King's American Dream, one day America will be created equal, no violence, no killing, no drugs. But you know what? That's just a dream. It ain't reality.

BRAND: That piece was produced by Barrett Golding of

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News and I'm Madeleine Brand.