There’s no greater dream than the American Dream


I’ve been reflecting on how loosely we throw around the phrase “American Dream,” making some believe this prosperous outcome is supposed to be inevitable instead of possible. When it isn’t fulfilled, they reflexively blame America instead of their lack of actions because they don’t understand nor respect the path toward this dream.

For a final project for one of my son’s sophomore classes, he decided to interview me about my thoughts on the subject. His first question: How can someone achieve the American Dream?

To achieve the American Dream, you must make yourself as valuable as possible by building your skill sets and learning from people who are more intelligent and successful than yourself while gaining experience along the way. The pathway toward success is highly competitive, and it’s crucial to find every advantage to compete against other competent people.

I explained to my son that the American Dream isn’t given ⁠— it’s earned. To make the dream reality, you must work hard and persevere through the trials of life along the way; sometimes to find this dream, you must deal with unforeseen nightmares.

He then asked if I believed the American Dream is accessible to everyone regardless of identity; in short, yes, if they want it bad enough.

Lady Liberty rides on a rocket along the red carpet start to Justin Rudd's Great American 4th of July Kids Bike Parade in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, July 4, 2022.
The American Dream is possible, not inevitable.
Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP

We constantly talk about fairness to the point of believing utopian ideals of absolute fairness are possible. I assure you: They aren’t. Successful people focus on what they can do rather than what they’re unable to do. Waiting around for fairness to catch up to you is not the mentality of someone successful.

What exactly does success look like? For some people, it’s becoming a millionaire or someone of huge prominence in their desired industry, but not for me. I’ve always interpreted success as being able to carry my own weight without relying on friends, family or the government.

His next question: What shaped my viewpoints on the American Dream? I have been fortunate to meet amazing people from all over the world here in America and had deep conversations with others while traveling abroad. I’ve found that too many Americans take what we have for granted and don’t realize how some aspects of typical American life are absolutely abnormal in many countries.

I’ve talked to people who’ve had to leave their homeland due to threats of ethnic persecution, who fled the hell of communism, who had to leave everything behind or else face their families’ murder by powerful gangs.

I completely understand that the world is a dangerous place and safety is never guaranteed ⁠— yet some here take for granted the consistent safety they’re able to lavish in.

People aren’t flowing through our southern border and sitting on waiting lists for years to come to America because it’s terrible here. They understand we have something special, and I wish more Americans realized how fortunate they are to win the birth lottery. We’re flawed, but there are far worse places to live.

For the final question, my son asked if I have found the American Dream. Yes, absolutely I have. As an adult, I’ve experienced homelessness, unemployment and having my car repossessed. Yet I was able to hyper-focus on building skill sets and gaining experience to live comfortably today.

A migrant family from Venezuela who illegally crossed the Rio Grande River walk beside concertina wire in Eagle Pass, Texas, near the border with Mexico on June 30, 2022.
A migrant family from Venezuela who illegally crossed the Rio Grande River walk beside concertina wire in Eagle Pass, Texas, near the border with Mexico.
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

I quit waiting for other people and started trusting myself. I had a habit of pitying myself during failures rather than appreciating the journey toward success. Once I began to trust myself and believed in the possibility of living this highly sought-after dream, the pathway toward success became more visible.

The American Dream is a beautiful aspirational concept, but it is not a given. As we’ve celebrated the birth of our great nation, I am reminded of how grateful I am to live in a country where I can find ways to succeed after such great failures of my own doing. I am also reminded of all the wonderful people I’ve met who came here with nearly nothing and were able to build a prosperous life for themselves.

There is no dream greater than the American one, and I don’t want to wake up from it.

Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim To Black Victor” and founder of Wrong Speak Publishing.



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