The American dream

Melanie - Geneva, Illinois
Entered on December 12, 2008

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream,” stated by Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “ I have a dream” speech. The American dream is an idea strongly rooted in our American way of thinking. It has been become a part of our country’s identity. The American dream can often be seen in pop culture media such as music, movies and many speeches. Above everything else, however, the American dream is the ray of hope that continues to keep Americans working hard to accomplish their dreams.

The American dream was once defined as a person’s ability to earn enough money to buy a home and provide for their family. Over the decades however the American dream is now seen as a person achieving their greatest desire through dedication and hard work. The desire can be anything from wealth to fame and anything in between.

When I was about ten I was first exposed to the idea of the American dream. That year my grandfather died from heart complications. I had never really known him. We never saw very much of each other and my grandfather was Chinese, so the language and culture barrier created an even greater distance. Though we had never spent much time together, the time I had spent with him I was always fascinated with what an interesting character he was. He had a very strong commanding presence that I had never really understood since he had the outer appearance of a small quiet Chinese man. When I would walk around Chinatown with him in Chicago, everyone knew his name and would stop and talk to us. At almost every Chinese restaurant in the city my family would get the best table and service. As a child I never really paid much attention to the respect my grandfather received from everyone around him. I had always assumed it was the tight-knit Asian community. It was not till after his death did I find out why my grandfather was so special.

My grandfather first left China in the 1960’s hoping to make some money to send back to his family in the southern China. When he arrived in Chicago he took any minimum wage job he could get. He knew little to no English, which forced him to stay in the confines of Chinatown. My grandfather soon got a job working in a restaurant kitchen. He learned quickly the way a restaurant was run and operated and after a couple months he had enough money to buy a small restaurant in Chinatown. Since my grandfather was from the Canton region of China his cooking was authentic and delicious and his small restaurant became a success. Soon he had made enough money to go back to China and bring his fiancée, my grandmother, back to the U.S. The two of them worked countless hours into making that first restaurant a success. Years later that first restaurant was just the first stage in the accomplishments my grandfather made. He went on to own two restaurants, three take-out restaurants, a fortune cookie factory and a Chinese sauce company. The

sauce packets can still be found in many take-out places throughout Chicago. My grandfather had gone from having nothing to owning his own empire.

After hearing about my grandfather’s story, I then understood why people respected him so much and why he had such a commanding personality. He had truly achieved the American dream. My grandfather’s experience had convinced me of the American dream. It became clear to me that every person living their dream had in some way achieved it through hard work and dedication. I used to think it was luck or only a few who got what they wanted but knowing my grandfather, an ordinary man, had gained so much I began to understand the possibilities of the American dream. The American dream is essentially a symbol of hard work. I have come to believe that amount of hard work you put into to your life is the amount of happiness you will gain. I do not think a person can be happy without putting effort into something in their lives. People would never be able to appreciate all the amazing things in their life if they did not have to somehow work for it.

In my own life I have started to understand how hard work enables a person to achieve their dreams and appreciate life. Having a disease like diabetes makes me work everyday to ensure I am healthy enough to live a long life. I know that my disease will probably take years off of my life but that is why I am willing to work hard to live the life I want. I never want something like a disease or any other barrier to stop me from accomplishing my goals. I have come to understand that going after what I want is the way to happiness not sitting around waiting for things to happen. Seeing my grandfathers and so many other stories of accomplishment I now see that anything can be happen through hard work and dedication. I can no longer doubt the presence or power of a good work ethic. That is why what I truly believe is that hard work and dedication can help a person achieve their greatest desire, also known as the American Dream.