Many Americans still believe they have the opportunity to lead better lives than their parents if they are willing to work hard. Do you?
In a recent poll conducted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, “nearly two-thirds of respondents said [the American Dream] remained achievable for those who work hard.” Even considering the pessimistic results of other portions of the poll, this result is surprising. Despite the ceaseless media and political focus on income inequality, many of us are still optimists.
That said, the number could and should be much higher. In a country where citizens are bound together by their shared belief in opportunity, more than two-thirds of us should believe that opportunity exists. We need a stronger glue to hold together our civil society. Although there may never be a day where everyone believes the American Dream is achievable with hard work, we can do better than we are doing today.
So how do we get there? The presidential candidates are ratcheting up their rhetoric on this issue, but much of it is divisive, and their policy proposals leave much to be desired. When the fields narrow and the policy proposals become more substantive, I’ll have more to say.
Until then, I have a better idea for advancing the American Dream: I’d like to hear from those of you who believe you’ve achieved it (or are on your way to doing so). I’d like to collect and publish your stories to inspire others, identify the core ingredients in the recipe for leading richer and more economically mobile lives than our parents, and distill a set of policy recommendations that the 2040 Matters community can adopt and advocate for as we head into the 2016 elections.
So, if you believe you are living the American Dream, then please write with your story. Tell us how you made it, who helped you succeed, who inspired you, where you found the drive to succeed, which government policies made it easier and which ones made it harder, the role luck played, and what you would do differently knowing what you know now.
I may write about my experience, but I would rather hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going. Let’s make a difference in the lives of our fellow Americans.