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For many immigrants, the Statue of Liberty was their first view of the United States, signifying new opportunities in life. The statue is an iconic symbol of the American Dream. The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States; a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which proclaims that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." History
Since its founding in 1776, the United States has regarded and promoted itself as an Empire of Liberty and prosperity. The meaning of the "American Dream" has changed over the course of history. Historically the Dream originated in the New World mystique regarding frontier life. As the Royal governor of Virginia noted in 1774, the Americans "for ever imagine the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled." He added that if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west. The ethos today simply indicates the ability, through participation in the society and economy, for everyone to achieve prosperity. According to the dream, this includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and receive a good education and career without artificial barriers. It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the prior restrictions that limited people according to their class, caste, religion, race, or ethnicity. Immigrants to the United States sponsored ethnic newspapers in their own language; the editors typically promoted the American Dream. 19th century
In the 19th century, many well-educated Jews fled the failed revolution in Germany in 1848. They encountered political freedoms in the New World, and the lack of a hierarchical or aristocratic society that determined the ceiling for individual aspirations. One of them explained: ”The German emigrant comes into a country free from the despotism, privileged orders and monopolies, intolerable taxes, and constraints in matters of belief and conscience. Everyone can travel and settle wherever he pleases. No passport is demanded, no police mingles in his affairs or hinders his movements....Fidelity and merit are the only sources of honor here. The rich stand on the same footing as the poor; the scholar is not a mug above the most humble mechanics; no German ought to be ashamed to pursue any occupation....[In America] wealth and possession of real estate confer not the least political right on its owner above what the poorest citizen has. Nor are there nobility, privileged orders, or standing armies to weaken the physical and moral power of the people, nor are there swarms of public functionaries to devour in idleness credit for. Above all, there are no princes and corrupt courts representing the so-called divine 'right of birth.' In such a country the talents, energy and perseverance of a person...have far greater opportunity to display than in monarchies." 20th century
Historian James Truslow Adams popularized the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America: But there has been also the...