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Is the American Dream Dead?

January 15, 2010

American history is full of ideas about America's distinctiveness, about America's Exceptionalism.

The roots of a belief in Exceptionalism are deep in geography, religion, political structure, economic opportunity, and marketing.

Phrases ring through the centuries like: a light on a hill, a beacon unto the world, avoid the corrupt politics of decadent Europe, Manifest Destiny, self-determination of peoples, the first new nation, "I have a dream," or the American century.

America is not perfect, far from it, and individual Americans often do not live up to ideals, but, Exceptionalism has meant high expectations.

Today, are the heights gone, must America become a "normal nation," is the American Dream dead?

Economically, high paying manufacturing jobs disappear and high-tech jobs migrate overseas. Open markets seem to give way to state capitalism and country corporate champions, as Google departs China. Around the world, the shine is off of nation building and democracy.

America's global future also seems in doubt with a frozen political process, mountains of debt, stagnant exports, global military commitments, and less secure friendships. In short America and Americans feel in decline.

Nevertheless, there are reasons for hope. People come to the U.S. from everywhere, for religious freedom, to escape political persecution, to better themselves or their children. America is ranked as the most innovative country. Americans reinvent themselves more often that the rest of world.

What do you think? Is the American Dream dead or will we witness another rebirth of the dream for the global 21st century?

By William Vocke

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