The Dream is Alive

Below is Whisper #35 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. 

I have read and heard that the American Dream is dead.

With this pronouncement comes the suggestion that it was easier to achieve success in past generations than it is today. I find this premise both doubtful and disappointing.

The notion of a uniquely “American” dream dates back to our nation’s founding, and was often linked to the expanding frontier, including the northern plains. Was this dream really easier for pioneer families moving west by wagon and on foot, into an ungoverned land? Was it somehow easier for immigrant families arriving at Ellis Island in New York, carrying everything they owned in a suitcase? Was the dr\eam easier for Native Americans growing up on reservations in the early decades of the twentieth century? Was the American Dream more achievable in the past than it is today? I doubt it. 

The American Dream has always been about the possibility of tomorrow, a manifestation of the heart and mind. Additionally, that dream is more than just an economic exercise. To suggest that the dream can only be measured in inflation- adjusted dollars is to miss a giant swath of possibilities. What if I want to teach, or be a missionary, or write poetry, or become an organic farmer? It’s neither fair nor accurate to say that only those who advance the most financially are living the dream.

The dream is about aligning your life with your own unique voice and aspirations. So dream on, America—the future is yours to create.