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Story Last modified at 5:33 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What is the American Dream?
Guest Editorial


With high school graduations coming up, students will surely begin thinking about their respective futures. When she was a senior at Chugiak High School several years ago, my daughter wrote the following essay about "The American Dream" as part of a scholarship competition with Campbell's Soup Co. The assignment was to compare her "American dream" with that of her parents. I think her essay still resonates with young people about to embark upon a new chapter in their lives.

– Frank E. Baker, Mountain Echoes columnist



'The American Dream'

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Reflecting on these words spoken by the wise and eloquent Eleanor Roosevelt, I realize that dreams are essential to our human existence. Dreams define who we are, what we want to achieve and who we want to become. As Henry David Thoreau stated: "Dreams are the touchstones of our character."

Having grown up in the United States of America, I am aware that citizens are blessed with the freedom to pursue their own unique American dreams. But as America grows and changes, perspectives change. When I asked my parents about their American dream, they both replied, "pretty much what we have." As young adults looking forward, they hoped to secure a comfortable lifestyle with a place to call home, cars and healthy children.

But their aspirations ran deeper. My mom, who became a school teacher, wanted to improve the world by giving quality education to the community's children. My father wanted his voice to be heard as he worked as a writer and editor for one of the world's largest energy companies.

My parents tried to exert an influence on the world, but both agree it was a much smaller and more insular world than the one I inherited. My parent's generation grew up without Internet, cell phones, cable television; in general, all of the connectivity that has radically transformed this generation's perspective.

I face a future with a rapidly emerging global economy. It's estimated the world's population will double to 10 billion by 2020. My generation must consider our place in the world on an international scale. We are much more aware of the global problems of today's world, such as hunger, disease, terrorism, ethnic and racial struggles.

My American dream is to serve my country in ways that will bring the global community together.

My American dream is that our nation will be respected internationally.

I dream of a world in which no one feels trapped within their social, racial or economic class.

My American dream is a dream for the entire world – because as we progress into this age of technology, for better or for worse – we are all connected.

One nation cannot rid the world of all its manifold problems, but given our country's strength, resources and ideals based in individual liberty, we can work with other nations to plant seeds of hope and freedom across the world.

One of my parent's dreams was world peace, and I share that dream. But their quest didn't take them much beyond our home in Alaska and the western United States. I believe I will become a teacher and a writer and that my dream will take me to more distant shores. I am only one person, but hopes and dreams begin with only one. Sharing those dreams with others and putting them into action is to me the most essential part in fulfilling my destiny.

American poet William Stafford wrote, "It is important for awake people to be awake." While we nurture our dreams, we must remain wide awake and alert to an ever-changing, more complex world.

In 2011, Emily K. Baker graduated from University of Alaska Anchorage with a masters degree in education, and plans to teach Spanish at the high school level.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.