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The American Dream: Can It Really Be Achieved?

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The American Dream: Can It Really Be Achieved?

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As they poured into Ellis Island from the overflowing ships, hundreds of immigrants believed that this journey would completely transform their lives. Included in this crowd were my grandparents, entering an unknown world that was hugely different from where they were born in Italy. Both of them were small children at the time, too young to understand the difficulties that their families were about to overcome. They were traveling from Naples and Sicily with no understanding of English and they owned the bare minimum that they needed in order to survive. Still, they were confident that America was full of opportunities and a new, fulfilling lifestyle. After talking to them about 5 years ago, I wondered whether or not their lives played out how they expected them to- whether or not they really lived the American Dream in the way they imagined they would on that day they took their first steps on the “streets paved with gold” that they were promised to encounter. My grandpa became a butcher and they owned a tiny house in Brentwood, New York, a low-class neighborhood full of crime and violence. They couldn’t even afford to go on a vacation. Although some people might see this as an undesirable lifestyle, they were probably the happiest people I’ve ever known. They cherished all the love they were surrounded by and tried not to take anything for granted. This is a perfect example of how much the “American Dream” varies from person to person, family to family. For most, it involves a combination of love, money, relationships, freedom, and security. However, it is the balance of all of these things plus a few unique aspects that makes each person’s idea of it so different. Whether it is Jay Gatsby’s green light and his desire for Daisy Buchanan, Chris Gardner’s struggle to sell a Bone Density Scanner, or John Howard Griffin’s search for a successful life as a black man, everyone has a different struggle they have to overcome that makes their American Dream seem...