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What is the American Dream? Students want to know.

When my grandparents on my dad’s side came to America (through Ellis Island), from Jamaica, the fact that they bought their own homes was just one testament to them that they had "arrived." Their goals for achieving the American dream was finally IN REACH.  Take a look at the video, it speaks to a different idea on what the AD is and is worth watching for 2-minutes. 

On Friday I moderated a 5-person, panel discussion and posed the following questions to the panelists: What is the American dream? Is it inclusive? Is it attainable? What factors stand in the way from obtaining it? The answers varied (though not by much), and addressed the notions that dreams come from within, dreams are sometimes a birthright, dreams are not equally accessible for everyone, and finally, the definition of the AD is currently changing, due to the economy. 

This theme came from the students who are members of the student diversity committee at my school. They wanted to hear from our guest panelists what role, race, age, ability, looks, and language plays, in achieving this dream.  

Once the panel ended, students went off to their breakout session where they led discussions on: What is beautiful?; Words that hurt; Gov. Patterson and SNL skit  (Abilism); and Stereotyping. Because of obvious reasons, I won’t go into detail about their sessions. But I will say that giving students a platform to discuss issues that affect them, is life learning at its best. It allows them to see inside themselves and others. 

How often do we let our young people explain today’s terminology when they say, "That’s so ghetto." and "That’s so gay."? These are words that hurt. And once the words are out and on the table for discussion, then we can begin to peel away the layers of discrimination and get to the core of the issues.  

Just to close, I liked the fact that Susan Boyle was referenced at this symposium. It’s a good thing because all too often we are drawn to people because of their "looks" and make snap judgments about them. I am happy to report that the next generation is exploring why WE do this.