Kumar: The American Dream is not dead yet

In the past year we have been quick to lose faith in this country, but at its core, the American dream is still alive.

A+person+stands+in+front+of+an+American+flag+during+the+Solidarity+Against+the+Ban+march+downtown+on+Feb.+5.+Event+organizers+said+the+event+drew+a+larger+crowd+than+the+women%E2%80%99s+march+on+Jan.+21+in+Iowa+City%2C+with+between+2%2C500+and+3%2C000+participants.+%28Joseph+Cress%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29

Joseph Cress

A person stands in front of an American flag during the Solidarity Against the Ban march downtown on Feb. 5. Event organizers said the event drew a larger crowd than the women’s march on Jan. 21 in Iowa City, with between 2,500 and 3,000 participants. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Michelle Kumar, [email protected]

I think it’s fair to say that for many of us, this was one of the most tumultuous years we’ve experienced politically and socially. Then again, it feels like we say that with every passing year. Or, for those of who experienced the whirlwind of the 20th century, this isn’t anything yet, but it’s getting there.

Many of us are scared, angry or just fed up. It seems nothing has changed and that things no longer will. Everything seems out of our control. It’s easy to start thinking of only ourselves, lash out at others, or just give up. Losing faith in the United States, or denouncing it altogether, seems to be a trend no matter which way you lean.

Placing blame for the state of the nation seems as simple as picking a president (current or past) and blaming his policies. However, it’s easy to forget that history builds on itself. While there are significant moments that play a larger role, the little moments matter, too. So instead of fighting each other over which president makes the better, or best, scapegoat, we should contribute to fixing our problems. After all, we are a democracy, and that means the people make a country, not the president.

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When most people think of the American Dream, they think of the classic “rags to riches” story. To say that all this country values is how successful you can be, how much money you can make, and where you come from seems a bit disrespectful. To me, that undermines the integrity and work of the people who inhabit this place.

As someone who came to this country for a version of the dream, I believe it goes beyond that. While the things I mentioned before are a part of the American Dream, I don’t think that’s all there is. Those things are not what makes this country desirable or, dare I say, great. To me, the American Dream is simply equal opportunity and treatment for all.

It means that we are constantly providing an environment that allows all the opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they start from. Despite people’s gender, sex, race, or sexual orientation, they will be treated just the same. And I know that dream has been in jeopardy for many years, and that policy and politics have diluted it a bit, but that doesn’t mean we lose faith in this country. The great thing, despite all that, is that the dream is still there. The dream is in trouble, but we are still relentlessly fighting for and rallying behind it. That is what is important.

I see the dream alive every day in small acts of kindness, in citizens tirelessly phoning their legislators, volunteering at local organizations, and participating in civic actions. And in neighbors being neighborly. When we come together and find empathy, in that support we keep the American Dream alive. The people of this country engage in unsung acts every day, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Equal opportunity and treatment is affected by numerous laws and attitudes, but these small-scale acts can have such a large-scale impact. They are why I believe there is still and always will be hope for this country.

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