There is nothing more American than The American Dream, and it’s somewhat ironic that this dream was born within a nation of immigrants. After all, the majority of us come from German, Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Polish, and Irish decent. Our ancestors heard of this new land during a time when freedom and personal opportunity were seen as a dream, not a reality. Our great-great-great grandparents left their homelands, perhaps with nothing more than their children in their arms, for this rumor of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In some ways it was a grand experiment. New forms of social and economic structures were being tested all over the world. America was to be a society based on individual rights and equal opportunity for all. Success was based on an individual’s ability and personal desire to achieve it. This dream was so appealing that it travelled across oceans and into the hearts of common men and women throughout the world. People flocked to be part of it.
But today we live in interesting times. There is deep cynicism toward the idea that individual dreams can still be achieved. The countries our ancestors left are financial and political messes. New governments with semi-capitalistic structures and governmental central power are trying to dominate. And at home, we have been hit hard as the fog of recession remains and political maneuvering has American businesses and financial sectors being seen as over-indulgent bad guys. People are gathering all over the world in the streets, protesting corporations and blaming this all on Wall Street and capitalism. All the while, people are looking to the government to find them a job.
I can’t help but think this is far from what our ancestors’ dream was about. In fact, I imagine this was the type of environment they planned on leaving behind when they came to America. They were looking for a chance at their own opportunities. Religious, financial, and political. It wasn’t about bailouts, new taxes, or big government, but the chance for an enterprising individual to seek opportunity of their own by earning their way. We need to find that spirit again in America. We need to dream the real American dream.
So in the midst of horrible economics times, and despite all kinds of corporations and competition, can people like you and I build something and grow it?
I started an apparel business about two years ago. While I had seen better days, at the time I was broke, and had a mortgage I could barely afford to pay. I was painting houses and shipping boxes at night. At one point, all I had was a few hundred bucks to my name. Soon after, I came to learn a few of my bigger competitors had started with a couple hundred thousand and another with a few million. How in the world could I ever compete? That is why all this American dream stuff really hits home with me. I deeply believe that for us to get out of this mess, The American Dream needs to be re-discovered and people need to believe that it isn’t just for the bourgeoisie and ruling classes (that is what socialism wants you to believe), but it is there for those who are willing to work to earn it. The American Dream is for all of us. For the rich and the poor. For those with $300 or $20 million. The market and people will determine if one fails or succeeds. We need to celebrate this and we also need to show that even the little guy can make it.
One thing I know about the fraternity culture is that we are mass achievers. We compete and fight at every level possible, all in our type A wanting to be the best. This American dream is in our DNA, those immigrants are our ancestors. So here is my challenge to you. Live out that story our ancestors dreamt about and share it and become it. Inspire others and help them achieve the same, so capitalism can continue to bring forth its good fruits. There is a lot at stake now.
By guest columnist Xan Hood, CEO/Founder Buffalo & Company