The phrase "the American Dream" came into the American vocabulary starting in 1867 when writer, Horatio Alger came out with his book "Ragged Dick." It was a rags-to-riches tale of a poor orphan boy in New York City who saves his pennies, works hard and eventually becomes rich. It became the model that through honesty, hard work and strong determination, the American Dream was available to anyone willing to make the journey.
Many early Americans prospectors headed west of the Rocky Mountains to buy acres of cheap land in hopes of finding deposits of gold. The American dream was a driving factor not only in the Gold Rush of the mid to late 1800s, but also in the waves of immigration throughout that century and the following. Impoverished western Europeans came to America to escape a poor quality of life at home. They wanted to embrace the promise of financial security and constitutional freedom they had heard existed so widely in the United States.
Nearing the twentieth century, major industrialist personalities became the new model of the American dream, many beginning lives in the humblest of conditions but later controlling enormous corporations and fortunes. Perhaps most notables here were the great American capitalists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
Martin Luther King invoked the American Dream in what is perhaps his most famous speech.In the 20th century, the American dream had its challenges. The Depression caused widespread hardship during the Twenties and Thirties. Racial instability did not disappear, and in some parts of the country racial violence was almost commonplace. Since the end of World War II, young American families have sought to live in relative bourgeois comfort in the suburbs that they built up. The possibility of great wealth has remained more of a distant dream in the recent century, while the widely held goal of home ownership, financial security, and civil and international stability have come to take the place of the common American dream in modern times.
It is true that for most people the American Dream is a pursuit of material prosperity. But actually, to find out what your American Dream is you should find what you love. When you find what you love and fit it into your life (or better yet, fit your life around it), then you have found your personal dream, your own piece of the American Dream.
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