Optimism vs. Pessimism for America



While reading the WSJ I came across an interesting statistic- 76% of Republicans believe that most people can make it in America if they work hard and play their cards right while only 49% of Democrats believe the same to be true. 

As I have mentioned before, I don’t like to have any illusions about how the world works. I know that children of rich people have lots of advantages to succeed over children of poor parents. Some of this disparity comes from income issues such as paying for private schools while factors such as good parenting are extremely important too. Any elementary school teacher will tell you that kids whose parents read with them at night have a huge advantage over kids with parents that don’t. The point is that of course some people, by chance, end up with advantages in life over those that are less fortunate, in terms of income and other factors. 

But I for one am still proud to say that I am part of the “76%”. I believe that the American dream is as alive as ever, and I don’t just believe this because economic research says I am right (even though that is a very good reason). If you work hard, play your cards right and manage to avoid unlucky tragedies you can make it in America. Of course this is easier said than done, but when has it not been?

All of my relatives came to America as dirt poor, uneducated peasants from Southern Italy. Yet them and their descendants lived/are now living middle class lives that would have been completely unimaginable had they stayed in Italy. Did they really have the cards stacked against them more than people do today?

Lets take my one grandfather as an example. After World War Two he immigrated to America. He had a few friends that had come before him but he did not know english, had only a few grades of education and his writing and reading skills were very poor. Yet through hard work and sacrifice he was able to provide a good life for his children and now his grandchildren are getting college educations. Is the American dream really dead?

My family is only one example of this story among literally millions. If America is not the land of opportunity, why do thousands of Mexicans still risk it all to sneak into America illegally? They are not doing it for the welfare benefits, they are doing it because they know that unlike other countries, at least America will give you a chance prove you can make it. The next time someone complains that the American Dream is dead or that our country is plagued by poverty more severe than Turkey or Greece (some actually make these claims) remind them that America has helped more people rise out of poverty than any other nation or welfare program in the history of the human race.

We are the richest nation in the world despite the fact that for the past 150 we have literally been a magnet that the poor people in the world have been attracted to. European nations don’t allow poor people to move to their countries. They despise the fact that poor muslims want to “invade” their precious Paris looking for a better life. Americans on the other hand open our arms and proclaim our famous creed: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” We welcome to our shores the poor of the world and give them a chance to prove they can make it. Does this drag down our “stats” and make us appear to be poorer? Probably. I’ve often wondered how many poor we would have if we only ever let into the country the best of the best. But the point is that as Americans though we welcome them to our shores our heart is not truly with the rich, educated immigrant. Instead our inherent American spirit tells us to cheer for the tired and the poor with hope and optimism that anyone can make it in America, despite what the pessimists say.  It is our duty as Americans to keep this optimism alive so that it burns like a torch in the darkest of nights, a beacon of hope for a weary world.


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