Americans do not form a race, in the way that the Germans or the Japanese do; they form a people, united around a set of ideas and ideals.Peter Jennings, Reader's Digest, October 2002
Behold the strength and weakness of American identity; the reason for our success on the global stage and the source of our cultural dysfunction. We may be one people, but we are rarely united. Our political battles are far more than policy disagreements; they are conflicts over who we are and who we should be.
At the heart of our national soul lies "the American Dream." A recent Time magazine cover story chronicled the history of this idea, and examined whether it has a viable future. The article framed this dream in economic terms, but is that the best definition? Does "a better, richer, and happier life" simply equate to home ownership and middle-class status for all? Is our dream really just about money?
How do you define prosperity, happiness, comfort, freedom, and all the other ideals we claim as intrinsic to the American way of life? What is your dream? What is your neighbor's dream? And how will you respond if it does not match your own?