Disillusioned Dreamers?

A sense of pessimism about the course of the country is reflected in a significant percentage of the American people in recent years, polls show.

Of course, this can be explained by the severe economic downturn that spread out after the banking system nearly collapsed in 2008.

But this sentiment runs contrary to the spirit that has traditionally prevailed among the American people, who by nature are optimistic. They never let anything stand in their way.

This is the essence of the American Dream: “the poor can become rich if they work hard, obey the law, and a have a bit of luck.”

It is an extension of the logic of Pericles’ famous Funeral Oration (as presented by Thucydides): “Being poor is not a bad thing – not trying to get out of poverty is.” That is the basis of the diversity and exceptionalism on which America was built.

But now, what seems to be contributing to the impression of the weakening of the American Dream is that the gap between the rich and the poor has reached unprecedented levels. You have to go back to the 1920s to find such great economic differences.

What the study also discovered is the importance of the family into which a child is born, which they call the “lottery of birth.” The more affluent the family, the greater the chances of the child’s future economic success.

How do these findings relate to our situation as immigrants or children of immigrants?

It seems to me that we are a special case, because while immigrant families possessed below-average wealth in the countries they came from and did not have the qualifications demanded by advanced economies, like that of the United States, they possessed qualities that made those shortcomings secondary, and which gave their children the impetus to succeed financially in life. For example, immigrant families are typically close-knit, hard-working, forward-looking, principled, ambitious, and not involved in criminal activities. They instilled these values into their children.

These values more than compensated for any weaknesses.

It is not a coincidence, then, that the bankrupt city of Detroit is inviting 50,000 immigrants to help rebuild it.

So, the American dream is alive and well, for those who can and want to pay the price of economic success.