"I'm not taking your time this evening to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about... It's the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again."
Belief in the American Dream is at the heart of our pioneering and practical culture, but there are still some in our country who feel the 'real' America is an unfair, oppressive place, without opportunity and without hope. Because they believe that is so, they are destined to live within their self-imposed limits, hampered by the barriers of their own restricted vision. Fortunately, Americans of all races prove them wrong every day. America is still the land of opportunity, and the Republican Party is the party of individual opportunity. The party is committed to sustaining every citizen's natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that individuals unencumbered by government controls and empowered by freedoms and opportunity, can make their lawful dreams a reality, limited only by his or her determination and natural abilities.
"What is it to be uniquely an American? To an American, your values and how you behave are more important than where and from whom you come from."
"I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war on capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else."
Our sense of unlimited possibility has been one of the hallmarks of America. Our challenge is to keep it that way. Only a society that allows individuals to develop and use their unique talents will ever reap the benefits of human greatness. The greatest tragedy we face as Americans is the growing number of citizens who no longer believe that they either have those unique skills or any hope of benefiting from them. Every generation must protect and teach the dream or America will die. If the dream dies, envy and dependence are the result.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence; from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."
--"Why Democracies Fail" shared by Ronald Reagan
Many in America worry about the gap between the rich and the poor as if the success of the rich takes money from the poor. That is not how capitalism in America works. The charity of the poor might best be expressed by wishing the rich well as they invest their wealth to create jobs and new opportunities. As a result, many of their aspiring and motivated employees work hard to save, then to invest and ultimately work to become entrepreneurs or owners of capital who create their own wealth. These new "capitalists" provide the capital and the entrepreneurs and their companies provide the jobs that fuel new opportunities for new workers to earn the money to save, and to invest, and to fuel new dreams. Capital investors need labor willing to work and save; labor needs applied capital willing to take a risk on new dreams. Both need a government that will insure that they will continue to be free to makes dreams happen and to reap the benefits of making those dreams come to life. The American Dream has always worked and it is still very much alive.
"In the eighties, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, almost 15 percent of those who began the decade in the lowest quintile ended the decade in the top quintile. Only 14.2 percent of the poorest Americans in 1979 were still the poorest Americans in 1988. All of the rest of the group, thanks to the greatness of the American system, moved into the middle and upper class. That is how the country works. And, that...is why a tax on 'the rich' is a tax on your dreams."
"For 150 years, America has consistently performed in the steady 3% GNP growth area. What is the secret? America has been successful because Americans believe that in this country you earn success. Whether it is entirely true is not important. People believe in the doctrine of equal opportunity and the American Dream."
--Marvin Zonis, University of Chicago
What about minority Americans who feel left behind? A strong dose of positive gossip about heroes and achievers from all races and ethnic groups could do wonders in letting those less fortunate know that with strong effort, natural abilities sharpened by education, and a focused dream, anyone can be successful. Unfortunately, white males do not make great heroes for all our citizens; we need honor those models from different races, genders and ages who are also making the American Dream work. In this age of cynicism, the Republican Party needs to be hope merchants who are dedicated to leaving no American behind!
"All too often, minority kids never hear about anyone other than athletes. They don't know the living you can make with your mind. When I hear the same thing in black schools as white, kids talking about becoming doctors and lawyers, I know the ghetto will disappear."
"Children everywhere need the encouragement to dream big dreams. I'd like to think we could help them do just that. I love hearing the excitement in their voices when they realize they can do something new."
"It was my mother and father, who, despite the fact that I was growing up in Jim Crow Alabama, always had me convinced that I could be President or the United States. They always taught me to just look past the obstacles. Either blast through them, or assume they're not in your way.... Growing up where I did in Alabama probably gave me a healthier respect for how far we've come. I don't carry anger about that period of time. I think it made me, and people like me, stronger. I just refuse not to be optimistic. You only have one life. And if you spend your entire life seeing obstacles and seeing clouds and assuming everybody's out to get you, then I think you're just likely to waste your life, and I'm just not going to do that."
There is another fear. Every age in America worries about waves of immigrants forever changing the heart and soul of what makes America unique. But we forget that most people coming to America do so to aspire to our shared dream of bettering their lives for themselves and their families. Do not doubt that assimilation is just as certain as in ages past. One must affirm what has made us great, E pluribus Unum-"out of many one!" Out of many ethnic backgrounds we reclaim and reaffirm our commitment to one American culture.
"The longer Latino immigrants are in the United States, the more likely they are to latch on to the American Dream. There is a direct correlation between a Latino immigrant's year of arrival into the United States and his household income. The longer he's lived here, the more he earns. Just as financial security...grows in direct proportion to the number of years they have been in the United States, so does their mastery of English. Of those who arrived in the late 1980s, 24.4 percent speak English well; of those who came here in the late 1970s, it is 56.7 percent. ... Virtually all U.S.-born Latinos 16 years of age and older are completely fluent in the nation's primary language."
--Pepperdine University's Institute for Public Policy study, "The Emerging Latino Middle Class"
"Having been born and raised in Mexico, till the age of 18, I can tell you that the United States of America, the U.S. of A., is, by far, the most wonderful country in the world. It's sad and disturbing to see how many native born Americans take it for granted and do not fully appreciate what they have here. I am an American because I chose to be an American...with my mind, with my soul, and with my heart. The Republican values reflect and underscore my love for America, which is what drives me forward. Every person here should experience this feeling and it is time for all of us to stand up and give back to our country, which has given us everything. I recently came across this phrase, I don't know who wrote it, but I want to share it with you...'The opportunity to serve is a gift; the ability to serve is a blessing; and the love of serving is a success!'"
The pulse for freedom and opportunity that pounds at the heart of America is still strong. America cannot guarantee success, but all Americans ought to work to make the pursuit of that dream a birthright for all. As an individual, don't give up. Be confident. This country has not run out of opportunity. All it takes for the American Dream to work its magic is for more citizens to claim it for themselves. Do something better. Do it cheaper. Do it faster. Make choices. Fail, get up and make new choices, and succeed. How do you start? If you are not sure what to do first, start by getting up and doing something. Even a mistake will teach you something on your journey to success.
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
"Who among us would trade America's future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in our American people that they would trade our tomorrows for our yesterdays?"
Many Democratic Americans crossed over to vote for Ronald Reagan because he built a principled and optimistic vision for the future of America. He appealed to our hopes and confidence instead of our doubts and fears. In that spirit, this website is dedicated to capturing and nurturing our hopes and our dreams as Americans. We'll leave promoting helplessness and victimhood to others.
But let's get personal! What are you doing to keep hope alive and to help shape the future of America? Together, let's focus on what is right with America. Let's catch the American Dream working. Take the time to share a little positive gossip every chance you get!
Just remember one final thing-optimism is infectious! Faith in the American Dream is persuasive. Hope is compelling. The promise of America is freedom to succeed and fail, nothing more. Why am I so optimistic? Because I am an American!
Terry Paulson, PhD
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