The American Dream. That is the topic of NPR’s newest series. All summer reporters will be talking to people from various professions, backgrounds and locations to ask for their thoughts on the American Dream and if it is still attainable. At one-point I was certain that when people said “American Dream,” they were referring to the husband, wife, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence imagery. As I got older I associated it more with finances. Then I just went with “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” because I wasn’t sure what the dream was. Despite my lack of a definition, I was still excited to learn about the series and to learn how other people defined it.
NPR Correspondent Ari Shapiro is one of the reports on the project and contributed this info on the series’ working definition:
Well, there are obviously many different definitions and we’ll try to explore the breadth of them over the course of the summer. But as a good starting point, pollsters ask two basic definitions. On the individual, they ask: Do you believe that success is within you own power or due to factors beyond your control? And then, on a collective level, they ask: Do you believe that the next generation will have a better life than the previous generation.
Those two measures sort of get at this theme that is deeply, deeply rooted in American ideology. And what’s interesting is that today some polls show that while majorities of Americans still believe in these two things, the majorities are much smaller than they once were.
How do you define the American Dream? What does it mean to your life?