.: American Dream Reference Page :.

James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931)


If the things already Iisted were all we had had to contribute, America would have made no distinctive and unique gift to mankind. But there has been also THE AMERICAN DREAM, the dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. […] lt is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. [...]


[…] THE AMERICAN DREAM that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtless counted heavily. lt has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class. [...]


The point is that if we are to have a rich and full life in which all are to share and play their parts, if THE AMERICAN DREAM is to be a reality, our communal spiritual and intellectual life must be distinctly higher than elsewhere, where classes and groups have their separate interests, habits, markets, arts and lives. lf the dream is not to prove possible of fulfillment, we might as well become stark realists, become once more class-conscious, and struggle as individuals or classes against one another. lf it is to come true, those on top, financially, intellectually, or otherwise, have got to devote themselves to the “Great Society”, and those who are below in the scale have got to strive to rise, not merely economically, but culturally. We cannot become a great democracy by giving ourselves up as individuals to selfishness, physical comfort and cheap amusement. The very foundation of THE AMERICAN DREAM of a better and richer life for all is that all, in varying degrees, shall be capable of wanting to share in it. lt can never be wrought into a reality by cheap people [...].


If we are to make the dream come true we must all work together, no longer to build bigger, but to build better. In a country as big as America it is as impossible to prophesy as it is to generalize, without being tripped up, but it seems to me that there is room for hope as well as mistrust. [...]


We have a long and arduous road to travel if we are to realize our AMERICAN DREAM in the life of our nation, but if we fail, there is nothing left but the old eternal round. The alternative is the failure of self-government, the failure of the common man to rise to full stature, the failure of all that THE AMERICAN DREAM has held of hope and promise for mankind.




1.      Read the text and underline all words you find essential for the understanding of the concept “American Dream”.

2.      What differentiates the “American Dream” as a concept of society from other – in this case – European societies?

3.      Adams says that “we have a long and arduous road to travel” in order to make the dream come true. According to you what is needed to form a society such as the one wished for by the author?