American’s understanding of freedom is that all people are equal and that the role of government is to protect each person’s basic rights. Yet this ideal has not always corresponded to reality. Reality demonstrates that some social groups and individuals are not as others. Because of religious, racial, sex, or age discrimination some Americans have not enjoyed the same rights and opportunities as others.
Directly associated with the value of freedom is the ideal of progress. The desire to progress by making use of opportunities is important to Americans. In this immigrant society, progress is personally measured as family progress over generations. Many Americans can boast that with each succeeding generation the family’s status has improved. The classic American family saga is all about progress. The great-grandparents, arriving from the Old World with nothing, suffer poverty and work hard so that they can provide a good education for their children.
The second generation, motivated by the same vision of the future and willingness to work hard and make sacrifices, pass these values to their children.
The term American Dream is used in different contexts from political speeches to Broadway musicals. J.T. Adams expressed “the dream of a land in which life should be better, richer, and fuller foe every man with opportunities for each according to his abilities and achievement”. The American dream is popularizes in countless rags-to-riches stories and in the pictures of good life in advertising and on TV shows. It teaches American to believe that contentment can be reached through hard work, family loyalty, and faith in the free enterprise system.
However, throughout America’s history, reality has also taught her citizens, particularly minorities, that the American Dream is not open to all. Segregation and discrimination are effective tools which have barred minorities from equal opportunities in all spheres.