The American Dream. A bright and promising imagination that has long been the pillar holding up American values. Interwoven into the very foundations of our country, it is as imperative to America’s identity as red, white, and blue are to its flag. And for long, it has promised hard workers the best of economic rewards.
Although some American literature has depicted it as unattainable, sort of like a mirage in one of Gatsby’s stories, there was a time when the American Dream actually played out in reality. During our most recent golden economic age—between 1945 and 1973— working life was secure for most Americans. It was a time where hard work was the guaranteed gateway to success.
But it seems that those rules have changed.
In recent years, economic logic has fundamentally shifted with transformative advances in technology. Technological innovations have had great impact on the average American worker, who can now be replaced by a machine. Word processing, voicemail, and Excel have given many departments an easy route to increased efficiency. But what have they done to people who were once hired to do those jobs? They have freed them up to do more valuable things.
Instead of punching numbers into an adding machine for hours on end, an accountant can now spend more time thinking of new ways to improve his company’s profit margins. His basic skill of data entry is no longer important on his resume, because a computer can do that part of his job for free. What’s important, is that he can use his basic knowledge to push his thinking as an intellectual—a priceless skill that a computer can never master.
So as technological innovations move society forward, they leave the working salesman and secretary behind. All the people who were in high demand not too long ago, are now finding themselves uprooted. Some see this as a kind of technological oppression, and others use it as a means to advance further, flowing with the current of a quickly spinning world.
But many fall behind. Young students study vigorously to earn college degrees only to find that it will not suffice when they graduate. Bachelor’s degrees, although they are definite prerequisites to a decent job, no longer guarantee middle-class stability, or really any stability at that. Why not? Because they do not convey intelligence, they merely convey some degree of knowledge. And knowledge doesn’t quite cut it anymore.
Students need some other strength that separates them from the average American. Their hard work in school is rewarded to an extent, but never at the expense of their hard work beyond the textbooks. And that capacity, the one that lies outside the classroom, is the one that facilitates excellence and gets an applicant hired. It’s still hard work, just a more creative kind.
Old habits die hard. Practice makes perfect. And hard work still pays off. That is a rule that the American Dream will follow, independent of changes in time and economics. It’s a rule that cannot be defied, because it’s a rule of life, whose borders extend beyond any obstacle to success.