The American dream has the potential of becoming an American nightmare.The American dream has long been the ultimate goal and ambition of many. This is not only applicable to Americans; as capitalism expands globally, so does the American dream. Benjamin Franklin showed us hard work promises success, no matter how low of a social class one is born into.
Thus, we find ourselves in college – investing in as valuable of degrees as we can afford so we can climb up society’s ladder and become recognized and respected surgeons, theologians, journalists, politicians and so on. We dream of lives where someday we will start families, and most importantly, provide all the luxuries and privileges we can buy for those families.
These goals are all valid dreams and ambitions. We grow up learning that without money, one cannot live a comfortable life, and without a degree and a job, one cannot earn money. But what of the larger things in life? Are there more important things in life?
The American dream is not the dream of one American. It is the collective American dream – the improvement of society as a whole. And when we strive for our own power, esteem and money, we are deviating from the virtue of the American dream.
People often covet the dream by indirectly embracing and praising greed. What would society look like if all of its members were merely fueled by greed? That, of course, would be a nightmare.
However, we must remember we, as college students, possess the power to strive for a bigger cause than to be able to afford “stuff.” We have the privilege to better society and solve some of its biggest problems, and that should be today’s American dream.
Let’s face it. If we all did not have some American dream-like goals in mind, we would not be here.
College is a time of enlightenment, adventures and freedom. We have the chance to meet friends from a slew of different backgrounds and encounter an infinite number of experiences that we may never be able to come across outside of college. The classroom is only half of what we pay for. There are so many other opportunities we need to take advantage of – opportunities that would reward us with a lesson much more valuable than a 4.0 GPA.
I see so many students who have simply forgotten how to take a break from their books and spend quality time with friends and family. Lunch with friends is cut into a strict one-hour time frame, and students are constantly on the run. We are becoming less tolerant of idle time, and like robots, we live by a strict schedule which lacks room for spontaneity and flexibility.
We do too much out of obligation and too little out of desire. Starting with small extracurricular activities, such as joining Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at the Tarrant Area Food Bank with some friends, would greatly enrich our college experiences. It is with these experiences outside of the classroom that the American dream becomes whole.
We tend to forget the world outside of college will be a human one – with human employers and human colleagues. They want to know we are still the social creatures we were made to be and not just genius robots with outstanding GPAs. We must not lose ourselves in the quest of striving for 4.0s.
People matter more than our diplomas and GPAs.
It is through people that we discover our passions and what we truly care for. It is through people that we learn life’s most important lessons. Finally, it is people that we need to dedicate our time to and channel our attention toward – not our personal greed for fame and goods. For without people to serve and a society to improve, the American dream is of no use and ultimately nonexistent.
Saerom Yoo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Pusan, South Korea. Her column appears every Thursday.