The Evolving American Dream

Betsy Taylor, president of the Center for a New American Dream, discusses the changes in American aspirations over the last century.

| January/February 2005

What happened to the American Dream?

For our parents and grandparents, the American Dream meant hope-—an unshakeable belief that happiness and security were truly possible. They knew they had a unique opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families. That dream still exists, but these days, it has some competition.

The original focus on security and personal wellbeing is giving way to an obsession with “more.” More work. More material goods. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger everything.

What does this “more is better” version of the American Dream leave in its wake? Less contentment and less free time. Disconnection from nature and community. An environment straining to supply the natural resources and absorb the waste generated by our expanding collection of stuff.

What is the New American Dream?

It’s a growing trend. Some Americans are creating a “new” American Dream by changing the way they consume to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice. They’re reconnecting to the land and their communities. They’re also building a consumer movement for a whole new dream by pushing businesses, institutions, and governments to provide products that make sense for the planet and the bottom line.



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