What is the American dream?
The American dream is the notion that the American social, economic, and political system makes success possible for every individual. Someone who manages to achieve their version of the American dream is said to be « living the dream ».
Many people criticize the idea of the American dream because they say that it is impossible for everyone to be able to fulfill their dreams – there are still inequalities in class, race, religion and ethnicity preventing people from « living the dream ».
The idea of the American dream is older than the USA itself – it dates back to the 1600s, when people began to have hopes for what was a new and largely unexplored continent to European immigrants. People dreamt of owning land and establishing a prosperous business and hoped that this would make them happier.
Today’s the definition of the American dream is much different. Most people nowadays hope that they will get married, have two children and live in a three-bedroom traditional home. Rather than looking for great wealth or success, people hope to avoid poverty or loneliness.
Improve your listening comprehension!
You can listen to people talking about what the American dream is here
You can watch a political ad talking about the American dream here
You can watch a BBC report about the American dream here
You can listen to different people talking about the American dream on the Academie de Paris website
The Voyage to Freedom
Coming to America appealed to many immigrants from the southern and northern parts of Europe as they found a way out of situations of persecution and oppression as well as political and economic difficulties. Once they arrived in America, some passengers were allowed to go on shore without making their way through inspection. This privilege was given to those considered to be first and second class citizens. All the other « lower class » citizens were shipped off to Ellis Island to go through inspection.
To travel to America immigrants had to pay from twelve dollars to sixty dollars per person, which meant that families had to save their money for years before they could travel to America. Even when the money was available, families still had to go through the process of being screened before they could get on board a ship to sail to America. Once they made it to their destination, passengers had to go through a physical inspection by doctors before they were set free into their new life or were detained because of issues that the doctors found. Sometimes, what was supposed to be a happy ending to coming to America ended in disappointment. This happened when a family member was not allowed into America and was sent back to where he came from.
Ellis Island and the Immigrant- Annie Moore
On January 1, 1892, a ship coming in from Ireland, landed at Ellis Island with a load of Irish Immigrants. The first person to step foot on the island was Annie Moore, a 15 year old girl. The teenager was presented with a gold coin; its monetary value was worth ten dollars for being the first person to step foot on the newly constructed Ellis Island. Annie and her brothers had spent 12 days on the ship as they set out to join their parents who were already living comfortably in New York. This girl and her brothers are recognized as the first people to arrive on the renovated island. A statue with the image of Annie and her younger brothers now stands at the Ellis Island Museum.
Learn about Ellis Island in this History Channel report.