The American Dream and its role in the Declaration of Independence

Term Paper 2013 8 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Culture and Applied Geography



1. Introduction

2. Meaning of the American Dream

3. The nation and its relation to the American Dream.

4. The Declaration of Independence

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The American Dream is one of the most famous ethos in the world. Many people believed and still believe in this ethos which is a set of ideals in which the meaning of freedom is connected to the opportunity for prosperity and succes. An upward social mobility is accieved by hard work and dedication. The idea of the American Dream has is origin in the United States Declaration of Independence which was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Terms like “The Pursuit of Happiness“, “all men are created equal“ are considered as important human rights. The pursuit of happines is closely related to the idea of the American Dream. It belongs to the inalienable rights which cannot be denied. Every American has the right to realize his individuel dreams without beeing stopped.

But what is actually meant by the this term? What is the American Dream and how important is it fort the American society? In the following I will deal with different aspects of the American Dream and take a closer look at this idea in order determine its signifi-cance for the American society.

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Caricature of the American Dream[1]

2. Meaning of the American Dream

A clear definition of the American Dream does not exist. Every American citizen has his own idea of the American Dream in mind. For some people the American Dream is related to properity and high living standards and for other people it is related to the pursuing of happiness like it is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Still we dont know exactly what Jefferson wanted to express by using this term: “No one knows precisely what Jefferson had in mind when he asserted “the pursuit of happiness“ as one of mankind’s unalienable rights. The phrase is in some measure a substitution for Locke’s “property“, but most historians agree that Jefferson intended something more inclusive and dynmaic both.“ [2] As we can see there is indeed something revolutionary what Jefferson had in mind. The “Pursuit of Happiness“ is a new social idea that breaks all old-fashioned social conventions and creates new opportunities: “According to the most recent student of the Declaration of Independence, “When Jefferson spoke of pursuing happiness, he had nothing vague or private in mind. He meant a public happiness which is measurable....““ [3] The American Dream is basicly a dream of a good life. By following this idea the American citizen tries to improve his life and to fulfill his dreams. By mentioning it in the Declaration of Idependence Jefferson wanted to gurantee this right to all American citizens no matter from where they come from so that the USA can be considered as a nation of endless posibilities.

At the end of the 18th century with the foundation of the US millions of people immigrated to the US in order to escape from political problems and to build up a new life: “Principles, hope, and liberty were powerful attractions, and would remain so for subsequent generations who came here from all over the world.“[4] The US was seen as a new chance to live in freedom and to realize the own ideas which was not posible at that time in Europe. Because of the great variety of people we cannot see the idea of the American Dream as one single idea but more as a set of different individual ideas which belong to different persons.


[1] http://chabelyvalera.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/20081123_barack_obama_comic_01.gif (31/10/2013) 12:01

[2] Lewis, Jan (1983):The pursuit of happiness, New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. P. 8

[3] Ebd.

[4] Cullen, Jim (2003):The American Dream, Oxfod: Oxford University Press. P.17


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University of Wuppertal
american dream declaration independence



Title: The American Dream and its role in the Declaration of Independence