Wise Voices: Is there too much American … dreaming?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0127_Writer_Anchee_Min.jpgAnchee Min. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.Prosperity and success are part of the American Dream. The dream is particularly poignant for immigrants, like Anchee Min. She is one of the wise voices we heard from this week as part of a small-group dialog on Civil Discourse. (See Monday’s column for more on this in-person group I’m leading.)

Here’s a key part of Min’s message: “People take the American Dream the wrong way.”

Min was born in Shanghai and grew up during the Maoist era. As a teenager, she was sent to a labor camp. Min came to the United States in 1984. She describes herself as a “new American.” She is a musician, painter, photographer and a very popular author. (Her latest is Red Azalea, a memoir about growing up during the horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.)

Min’s immigrant experience gives her a unique perspective on the American Dream: “I don’t have an American sense of entitlement. This is what I see. That’s the root of the things. You just think, you know, in America, you think you’re beautiful. You can do anything as long as you dream hard. Dream hard and work hard to get it—it’s a very different concept. You tell your kids that you can be anything you want, but you don’t emphasize your responsibility to make it happen.”

What do you think about this? Is dreaming hard—or is working hard—the key to success and prosperity? The value of hard work is actually on the decline in America, as we’ve discussed before on OurValues.org. Today, only 58% of Americans say that hard work is one of the top five values children should learn.

Do Min’s remarks ring true for you?

Do we think about the American Dream the wrong way?

Does hard work still pay off?

Care to read more of Anchee Min’s remarks? A more complete text of her remarks on NPR appears toward the end of this Wise Voices transcript page.

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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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