American Dream

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DEFINITION of 'American Dream'

The belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking and hard work, not by chance. Both native-born Americans and American immigrants pursue and can achieve the American dream. In contrast to other political and economic systems, such as communist dictatorships, America’s free-enterprise system makes possible the circumstances that allow individuals to go beyond meeting their basic needs to achieve self-actualization and personal fulfillment.

BREAKING DOWN 'American Dream'

The tenets of the American dream can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which states, “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.” In a society based on these principles, an individual can live life to its fullest as he or she defines it.
 
The American dream requires political and economic freedom as well as rules of law and private property rights. Without them, individuals cannot make the choices that will permit them to attain success, nor can they have confidence that their achievements will not be taken away from them through arbitrary force.
 
The American dream offers the freedom to make both the large and small decisions that affect one’s life; the freedom to aspire to bigger and better things and the possibility of achieving them; the freedom to accumulate wealth; the opportunity to lead a dignified life; and the freedom to live in accordance with one’s values, even if those values are not widely held or accepted.
 
Home ownership is frequently cited as an example of attaining the American dream. It is a symbol of financial success and independence, and it means having the ability to control one’s own piece of property instead of being subjected to the whims of a landlord. Owning one’s own business and being one’s own boss also represent American dream fulfillment.

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