Wood on Words: Readers share thoughts about the American Dream

Barry Wood

“In the United States, because the restrictions are much fewer than in most places in the world, the opportunity to provide the basic necessities of life is much greater. If one travels outside the U.S., this fact becomes very obvious. The standard of living across most of the world is extremely shocking.”

So wrote William Beyer of Belvidere, the first to respond to my request for readers’ ideas on the American dream.

Beyer also included bits of a quote from writer Thomas Wolfe. Here it is in its entirety, from Wolfe’s 1940 novel “You Can’t Go Home Again”:

“So, then, to every man his chance — to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity — to every man the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him — this, seeker, is the promise of America.”

Some of us might cringe at the gender-specific words in the above passage. But assuming that women were not meant to be excluded, the sentiment is solid.

Betty Miller of Machesney Park wrote: “The American dream includes peace, a diplomatic end to wars, and human rights for all people around the world.”

Bob DeLacy Jr. of Marengo offered a number of ideas, leading off with being successful or owning a home and being free of bills. But he was quick to add that the American dream isn’t just about materialism.

“It’s about peace with your fellow countrymen, proud of the heritage and principles” on which the nation was founded.

Among his other points:

“Remembering always freedom came from sacrifice, not given to us in a pay-to-play manner.”

“Always respecting the Constitution and each American’s constitutional rights without abusing them in courts.”

“Learning American history that involves all races and backgrounds that made a difference in this country.”

“To dream and fulfill equality for all Americans and not just for some.”

“Go to the moon together and to know there is courage among Americans when they need to do the right thing.”

“Being always proud of our troops and our veterans no matter what the war.”

“Being president of the United States is also an idea of the American dream. Someone such as Abraham Lincoln, from humble beginnings to reaching the most powerful office in the land.”

“Being free to choose the life you lead, express your opinions, free to believe in God and free to have healthy debates, with mutual respect for one another, and at the end of the day having a beer.”

What it all boils down to for him, DeLacy wrote: “Simply being American is all the dream I’d ever want.”

Finally, I received a letter from Taylor D. Bartel, a seventh-grader at Lincoln Middle School in Rockford. For him, the American dream is being able to have the future you want.

In other words, the true appeal of the American dream is that it allows us to believe that other dreams can come true.

Next week: More of those “founding nouns.”

Contact Barry Wood at bwood@rrstar.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.