- What is the American Dream?
For some people, the American Dream may be a comfortable house with a white picket fence, a couple kids, a pet dog, and a barbecue with friends in the back yard on a warm summer evening. For others, fulfillment of the dream could mean creating a successful business and making a million dollars.
And, for many people throughout our history, especially those who have lived under drastically different forms of government, the American Dream has simply been the ability to live in a country where they are free to talk about whatever they wish without being afraid that government thugs are going to burst through the door at any moment and haul them away to a concentration camp or threaten their family.
In its highest expression, the American Dream is an ideal wherein each and every individual human being is offered the opportunity to reach his or her greatest potential. And its basis is embodied in what has become the most famous line of the founding document of the United States of America in the words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.Thomas Jefferson
Declaration of Independence
The American Ideal is based upon certain principles regarding the nature of humanity in what we often call the Human Spirit, and how those principles relate to the building of an ideal society: The universal brotherhood of mankind is at the heart of the American Ideal. The concept that “all men are created equal” is the fount from which our entire claim to individual human rights flows. It is the foundation of the very concept of Natural Law that is so clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence and which is the basis upon which our Constitution is founded, with its recognition that the powers of government are derived from “we the people,” and that all powers not specifically delegated by the people to the government reside with the people themselves. In recognizing this foundational principle, it is important to recognize all among mankind as brothers and sisters universally, without regard to race, creed, sex, and other tribalistic identifiers because, at a fundamental level, this principle is based upon what it means to be human and not merely upon the happenstance of one’s birth.
The principle of the search for truth and exchange of ideas among people derives directly from the principle of our universal brotherhood. Our most fundamental and sacred protected right as stated in our Constitution is the right to Free Speech. This is vitally so because , as members of humanity, our basic nature is as individual thinking, feeling human beings with our own individual ideas, sensibilities, and capacities, and freedom of communication among individuals is essential not only to our own individual self-expression, but to our collective ability to structure our civilization.
In a truly free and open society, all manner of science, philosophy, literature, and religion as well as the study of economics and social structures, are open to study, analysis, and criticism. Blind adherence to authority for authority’s sake should be shunned in favor of critical thinking on the part of each individual human being. And, while we must recognize that not all ideas have equal merit and some ideas are certainly better and more valid than others, it is through the open exchange of those ideas among rational minds that they can best be sorted out,
And so, with these principles in mind, the American Ideal has a fundamental purpose:
To promote the growth, development and expression of the vast potential latent within each and every individual Human Spirit as well as among all of us collectively in our society.
Humanity, meaning both each of us individually and also all of us together collectively in the societies that we build, is a work in progress. Learning, development, and evolution is part of our nature and our long history. And, while we obviously have vestigial and primal brutal, animalistic attributes in our souls, as major events of the twentieth century made abundantly clear, humanity also has a huge capacity for love and compassion, wisdom and understanding, courage and strength. And, throughout our history, we have occasionally made huge constructive leaps in our technology, our understanding of the universe in which we live, and in our civilizations. It is the purpose of what we call here the American Ideal to maximize the development and expression of this constructive potential among members of mankind.
And so, there is, in this context, a proper use and application of the motto Novus Ordo Seclorum (New Order of the Ages) on the Great Seal of the United States of America, and that is to contrast the American experiment with the Old Order of authoritarianism of previous ages. We must remember, and continue to remind ourselves if necessary, that the general order of society in the past has often been that power has often flowed from the top down in an authoritarian hierarchy from those in charge, from king or emperor to his subjects, and that to challenge this old authoritarian order is the main stated purpose of the founding of our country.
There have been republics in past ages. There have been democracies in past ages. There have been times of great learning and accomplishment. But seldom, if ever before in the history of the world, have the founding documents of a nation so clearly provided specifically for the development of the potential latent within the individual Human Spirit and attempted so distinctly to provide safeguards against the old authoritarian order.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”Martin Luther King
August 28, 1963
So, is the United States of America an “ideal” country?
Has the “American Dream” been fulfilled?
The answer is obvious: People are imperfect and the ideals that America claims as its foundation are far from being completely fulfilled. Our society has serious problems. Many of the freedoms that we would like to take for granted are too often overrun by excessively authoritarian and insensitive members of our government; all kinds of bigotry still exist in many corners of our society; and there are vast inequities in power in a society that is supposed to have a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
But does this mean that the ideal is not really part of our foundation? … that the vision is not real? … that the American Dream is dead or, perhaps, as some people claim, that it never really existed?
No, it does not.
When naysayers deny the reality and relevance of the American Dream, they in effect deny the vision of those people such as Dr. Martin Luther King who base their aspirations upon such ideals.
By their nature, ideals exist independently of physical reality. Ideals are important even if they are not completely fulfilled. In fact, they are especially important when they seem to be far above the norm of society. They give us something to aspire toward. They serve as a model of what we should become even if we are in the midst of struggles on an entirely different level.
And, in the long run, ideals can be fulfilled. With the right effort, bit by bit, they can be fulfilled in society at large, even though the road toward that fulfilment may seem long and arduous. But, above all, the thing that is most important for each of us to realize is that each of us individually, through our own efforts, can become, in our own way, a piece of the fulfillment of the ideals of freedom, courage, love, and personal achievement in our own lives.
With the above principles in mind, this site is intended to be a reflection of them:
We will promote successful achievement and realization of the full potential of the Human Spirit. We will tell stories about life in general, of both individuals and collective efforts in our country and throughout the world. We will highlight triumphs, and, occasionally, failures and hopefully provide some inspiration for others on their life’s journeys. Where we can, we will provide perspectives on how to be a success. We will talk about the great parts of our great nation. But we will also highlight things that need to be improved and, hopefully, discuss solutions to those problems.
We will look at the philosophy that underlies various people’s and groups’ perspective on life. Because philosophy is important. Everyone has one, whether they know it or not. The philosophy of a person or group is that underlying set of ideas that provides their perspective on how they deal with life, how they see and interact with other people, and what they do or try to accomplish in the world. To that end, we will discuss social issues, economics, politics, international relations, science, and even religion. And we will do it with an eye toward attempting to find those principles and practices that can best advance the success of each member of our society.
And, perhaps most importantly, we will endeavor as best we can to do what we do here within the context of that all-important principle of the inherent value of each and every individual Human Spirit, with his or her unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In this age of divisiveness what is needed is rational dialogue. In coming to actual solutions to our problems and in creating and maintaining an orderly society, we need to understand each other’s perspectives, even if we disagree. We need to recognize that everyone’s life story is different. Our value as human beings and the equality of rights does not come from bland sameness. Each one of us has different abilities and comes from different situations with different privileges and different struggles. And it is within the recognition of those differences that we need to work in order to build working relationships that are required in the maintenance of our society and to promote the success of each of its individual members.
In other words, we will do what we can here in our corner of the internet to promote the ideals and the realization of the aspirations of the American Dream.
- Contributors to this Site
The thoughts, principles, histories, and opinions expressed on this site are the culmination of a half-century of contemplation of and participation in the American Dream. And although, up to the present moment, the words on these pages have been the work of just the site founder, much of what you see here is the result of many long hours of discussion with a wide array of people, some of whom have college degrees ranging from finance and economics to history, psychology, and religion, and others of whom have received their well-respected and hard-won wisdom from the experience of life. Very dear friends and associates of the site founder range from almost every corner of the United States as well as such diverse places as Mexico, China, Europe, India, Vietnam, Japan and Russia.
But even so, with such a wide range of potential subjects to be included under such a large umbrella, the future vision for this site includes having the biographies of numerous well-qualified people included on this page. For now, though, here is a little background:
Site Founder: Peter Kosen
I grew up as a Southern California kid in the 1960’s in what was then the city-with-a-small-town-attitude of San Diego. After graduating from Clairemont High School in 1974 (only four years before Cameron Crowe did his under-cover research on that school which resulted in the infamous book and movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) I went to the University of San Diego, which happened to be across the street from our house. On the second day of freshman year in college, I met the girl who five years later became my wife. We both ended up graduating with degrees in Business Administration and Accounting and, due partly to the school’s Catholic affiliation, studied a decent amount of religion and philosophy. The classes we really enjoyed, though, were in the newly established Computer Science minor where one of our professors was playing around with a box of the same basic configuration that some guys that nobody had heard of at the time named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniacki that same year (1977) turned into the Apple II.
My own enjoyment of computers eventually turned into a good bit of creativity in a career in the corporate offices of a large Southern California aerospace company where I learned over the years that the greatest amount of success, as well as fun in life comes from helping other people become successful.
Looking way back, I realize that one of my most significant memories even as a kid was the realization of a great dichotomy in our society. I understood that I and my family were very fortunate and that the fortunes of others were not necessarily as good. And it wasn’t just because of the fact that the 1960’s civil rights protests were on the nightly television news. It was more personal than that. One major source of my realization was a story that my mother used to tell of a time when she was a young girl living in a neighborhood near downtown San Diego. Up until the time that she was a teenager, most of her friends had been Japanese simply because of the community who lived at the bottom of the hill where her mother owned a modest set of apartments. She was impressed by how nice, polite, respectful, and even patriotic her friends’ families were. Then, all of a sudden, early in 1942 — three months after the Japanese navy bombed Pearl Harbor — when my mother was 16 years old, all of her best friends and their entire families were rounded up by the United States government and shipped off to live in concentration camps for no apparent reason other than their race.
More recently – in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century – my wife and I and our family went through a more personal set of experiences. Through a desire to build our own part in the story of the American Dream and contribute to the lives and success of others, we undertook a multifamily housing development project in a primarily African American neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee. The vision was to take an almost entirely run-down but structurally sound apartment complex, renovate it, and create a business based on supplying housing near an apparently successful commercial neighborhood. We met, worked with, and in some cases employed, a number of very wonderful people – mostly African American – during the several years of that project. And we also got to know on a personal level quite a few who were struggling in life, as well as some who were, shall we say, not all that well respected within their own community. Unfortunately, we initiated this project just a couple years before the crash of 2008, so we also had the opportunity of experiencing the some of the more disastrous consequences of an economic downturn on a very personal level. So, while I and my family have always been deeply patriotic toward the principles and potentials of what the United States of America can be and should be (and actually is for many millions of people) we have also been very much aware that there are serious problems and inequities in our country. And it is to both that wonderful potential and to the exposing of problems and inequities and discussing their solutions that this site is dedicated.
The genesis of this site was originally driven by my desire to share some significant personal experiences that my family and I have gone through over the past dozen or so years and what we have learned from them in our own pursuit of our particular path on the road to fulfilment of “The American Dream.” But the more I thought and the more I started to write, the more I realized how much our own experiences and desires related to the ideals and the problems and the overall situation of the country at large. And so, my writing expanded to include musings upon the principles of our way of life in the modern Western world, and various perceptions of the activities and especially the shortcomings of the political realm.
It wasn’t long before another set of realizations occurred to me. I had always really known them of course. But they came much more clearly into focus especially as I started to analyze and convey some of the most meaningful and far-reaching problems with our society, to put into words the foundation of our most noble ideals, and to express the most poignant aspects of our own experiences:
First of all, although, collectively, my family and I do have a decent knowledge of the workings of economics and the history of our country and the world, both through formal education and through years of experience, observation, and further study, I am far from being a real expert in many things.
And secondly, even though I and my family have been through some significant experiences that have provided some very meaningful insight into many things, I am certain that there are others who have just as important stories to tell, insights to share, and ideals to express as we could possibly come up with ourselves in these pages.
What is your passion?
Do you have a story to tell? A unique and interesting perspective on the history of America or the world? A particular passion for a particular view of history? Or maybe of the way things ought to be? Do you have different or even opposing views, additional facts, or an alternate perspective on items or events that are published in these pages? Is there more research to be done on some particularly important item that would bring its issues, problems, or solutions more clearly into focus? (Hint: There is always more research to be done.)
I would love to share this space with others who have an urge to tell their own stories of the past and present and/or their visions of the future.
For now, this is obviously just a new and experimental little corner of cyberspace. Eventually, if readership grows and the site actually produces an income, we may be looking for regular, paid contributors. At the moment what we can offer is a fresh space on a brand new start-up web site for a few passionate people to express what they have an urge to share with the world.
Items of particular interest would include:
- Interesting details of American or World history, especially as they may pertain to current-day problems or situations or the founding ideals of our society.
- Economics and politics. Do you have an opinion? More importantly, do you have the knowledge to back it up with facts and details? Maybe the relationship between Congress and the Banking system? The interwoven complexities of the situation in the Middle East?
- Personal accomplishments and struggles. Do you have a story of a success in business? Or maybe a disastrous failure? An interesting tale of how your family came to this country?
- Inspirations for and about the potential of the Human Spirit. What amazing things are we capable of accomplishing … with technology … or without technology?
- The natural environment. What have we accomplished since the first “Earth Day?” What do we have left to do? Where have we gone too far? What are the actual facts behind all the talk of “climate change?”
- Interesting perspectives or insights into current events or the state of our society. What should the President or Congress have done in that most recent situation? How was the latest disaster handled or what made it come about? What is going to be the outcome of the latest move by Russia? … China? … or by a major or rising power in the Middle East?
If you enjoy writing and have something interesting to say, tell me about it at: