Disclaimer: This story uses pseudonyms.
Maria is a native Romanian, and, having spent 25 years of her life in Romania and the other 18 in America, her experience of the American Dream is one of great authenticity. Growing up, she faced the world through the lens of communism. Restricted in what she said, what she wrote, and what she read, her perspective of most outside countries was limited. In ninth grade, she recalled, Romania's communist administration was taken down, and she was free to form her first informed opinion on America.
However, with her goals focused on getting into a good college, she didn't stop to consider what life would be like elsewhere. But, as she started to surround herself with educated, experienced people in college, she started to learn the appeal of the American Dream and how it was something she wanted to pursue. After finishing graduate school, she married, and her husband got a post-doctoral degree visa to conduct research and study at the University of Minnesota. For them, this opportunity was incredible. They were given two years in America for her husband to study; this meant two years in America to understand what the country stands for, an opportunity for them to taste the freedom of the American Dream.
While for others it was the space or the people, for Maria it was the experience of her first job in America that made her want to come back. At her new job working for Wells Fargo, she went through an incredible progression in responsibilities and opportunities; her work was highly appreciated by her employer, and, as a result, she was hired with a full time contract promoting her to a director position.
"It was out of this world," she said, emotional as she reminisced about that time.
In Romania, she'd never felt truly rewarded for her achievements. She'd worked ambitiously in an effort to prove herself without appreciation in return. Coming to America and indulging in the American Dream, she found that if she works hard and is good at what she does, she has a high chance at getting ahead. Because of her success in the workplace, people didn't care about where she came from, instead giving her equal opportunities on the basis of her hard work.
After the two years were up, they were required to spend another two years in Romania to share the research with the country before returning permanently. More than one year into their move back to Romania, Maria had her first and only child, and, as if by fate, they won the green card lottery for America. 6 months later, they permanently returned to America and started indulging in all of the familial aspects of the American Dream; a family-friendly neighborhood, good schools, and a big house and backyard.
"It's been our home for almost 15 years now, and I couldn't think of a better way to raise a family. I guess that's the beauty of the American Dream," she said, smiling.
Interviewing Maria, I listened as she told me the reasons why she felt so intrigued by the American Dream, what she valued the most about it, and how she feels that it is ripping apart at the seams. Near the end of the interview, I asked her if she feels that the American Dream, once so famously sought after, is now tarnished, with the eradication of the green card lottery, the border wall, family separations, and Middle Eastern travelers facing suspended entry. Her answer largely reflected her story; she said that what made America so welcoming when she moved and what made the idea of the American Dream so appealing is that everyone here is intrinsically diverse and comes from different countries, whether their family had emigrated 20 years ago, 70 years ago, or 400 years ago.
Regardless of where one was from, at the time she came to America, those new to the country were welcomed into society and treated equally, acting as tokens of pride for the country and symbols of America's hospitable nature. I then asked her if she would move to America today if she was in the same scenario and promised the same opportunities.
"If things were like this 20 years ago, I wouldn't have come. The America I came to used to stand for something different," she answered.
The idea that the American Dream, such a large part of America's culture, is starting to lose its appeal even to those already here was something that we should take away as a red flag. This interview further expanded the notion that many immigrate into America for the opportunities it provides, the rights it denotes. The political arena today has somewhat stained the beauty behind the pursuit for America's equal rights and freedom for all, and having an authentic, favorable perspective on what it took to achieve the American Dream was refreshing.