What the American Dream Means for Millennials

Source: AP
Source: AP

America has always been a frontier, a place where the masses are reared to live boldly. Here, we can take the risks to move ourselves beyond a pre-destined caste, because that's what advances our civilization. That's the attitude that breeds freedom and jobs and the rebellious culture of innovation that makes America great.

If I was to look long and hard at how to define this country, an ideal and a dream are the best categories for it. This is a country comprised of exiles who differ from one another in every way save a common quest to live these virtues. It is a dream that sets the people of this country in motion. America so often falls flat in pursuit of these ideals. The context may have changed, but the rising generation, as every generation before, wants to find its place bridging this gap.

The millennial American Dream is to live in a land that still rewards its pioneers. We want an America where the local business owner can make a living, and the artisan seeking to perfect one's craft can work in peace and afford a family. We want to live in a country where the small can still stand on their own. Instead of hiding behind the identity and red tape of some distant corporation to get benefits and get by, it is our dream that the individual can be recognized for the trade they provide to a community — those closest to him or her.

The millennial American Dream is to be applauded as we experiment with jobs and big ideas like pioneers with the land. We want to switch vocations when we decide our morals don't match with the reality of an industry, and we want to switch again when our maturing priorities replace romantic notions about the bliss that comes with living on the edge. We want to be affirmed that there is no behind or ahead on this quest to live one's values while seeking security — that it is the right of everyone to be valued and respected for the place in which we currently stand.

It is our dream that laws, like Thomas Jefferson said, will "… go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind," and that institutions will also "advance also to keep pace with the times." We dream that our evolving intelligence as young Americans will be met receptively by the wisdom of our elders. It is our dream for our collective agency as citizens to be actualized.

We believe markets should have moral limits. We want to exist in an environment where we are not bombarded with messages on TVs and billboards designed to profit off lust, the fear of death, and greed. We want to sell and be sold products that appeal to what's noble in human nature. We want to buy goods without enslaving someone halfway across the world. We want to be able to travel easily from work to the store and back to our homes to keep the economy alive without causing our ecosystem to go extinct.

It is the American dream of millennials to protest peacefully without incarceration. It is our dream that inaction is what makes one an enemy to this state. Pushing one's voice down in the presence of injustice only perpetuates our shared cultural troubles. 

It is the American millennial dream that the values America was founded upon will continue to be  a worthy model of democracy on our soil, on this land. It is our dream to see this model for government spread by example — rather than imperialism — so that it can thrive the world over; rather than to live in a republic where our rulers are disconnected from the people they are elected to represent due to venality and egotism. It is our dream to watch opportunity gaps and income inequality shrink, so we can finally live in a culture free from the fear of scarcity.

We want to live in an America that we can help shape — that's always new. It is our dream for this ideal to succeed, rather than go down as the generation made subject to history.

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Alison Sher

I'm a young journo creating a novel on coming-of-age as a Millennial. beyoubesure.org.

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