The “American Dream” is an ideal that has changed as the United States has evolved, however, the essence of it has remained consistent. When Thomas Jefferson, the architect of the Declaration of Independence wrote: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (July 4, 1776), the “American Dream” was taking shape. The order of these rights is also highly important because without life, then there can be no liberty, and evident from Jefferson’s words; happiness is not possible without liberty. Happiness is not a guarantee, no, but what is important is the ability to pursue a dream. That dream is not the same for everyone and therein lays the essence of the American ideals of being an individual and having personal choice. Although it is true that as the population has evolved so has what the “American Dream” consists of for individuals, it is nonetheless, still grounded in the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
If the “American Dream” is indeed grounded in the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” then the “American Dream” is contingent on these “unalienable Rights” being both granted and protected equally. If these rights are not granted and protected equally, then not all Americans are privy to those rights. If not all Americans are privy to these rights, then that would disqualify it from being an “American Dream” because the term American applies to all citizens of United States. Therefore, for it to be an “American Dream” all citizens of the United States must have the rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” both, granted and protected equally.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence women were fighting for suffrage and equality, the institution of slavery was legal, and the Native American population and culture were being systematically exterminated; thus “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was not granted and protected equally to all people who lived in what was to become the United States. However, while it is true that the people of the United States have historically marginalized the rights of groups that were considered to be less than human, it is precisely the rhetoric in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” which has allowed U.S. citizens to pursue one of the “American Dreams;” equality.
I am both the product and the embodiment of the “American Dream” because I am of Irish, Native American and African descent; I am alive, and I am freely and actively pursuing my dream to become a leading politician in the United States government. I am a student at the University of Washington studying history and I intend to commence onto their School of Law. Without the 13th Amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery, I would not be free. Without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would not be able to attend the University of Washington because public institutions would still be segregated. And without the 14th Amendment in 1868, I would not be able to hold political office. Furthermore, because of the laws of miscegenation my parents quite possibly would not have been able to marry because their offspring would have been a mix of the races, thus I would not be alive; the antecedent of “Life, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
My “American Dream” is to ensure that the notions of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” will continue to be granted and protected for all the citizens of the United States of America, and hopefully extended to our entire global population. This is precisely why I am in school and what I am learning how to accomplish. It is by no means an easy task or a small dream, but it is nonetheless, my dream and because of the rights that I have been granted I am free to pursue this dream.