Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The American Dream

The Ivy League Connection is an incredible opportunity. An opportunity that I would go as far to say is the epitome of the “American Dream.” A program that helps people who help themselves by selecting the top students of our District, and encouraging them to expand their horizons and help them meet their full potential. Sounds like some good old-fashioned bootstrap pulling to me. Some might wonder, “Who could ask for anything more?”

However, what I have come to believe is that the American Dream is no longer good enough. The era in which we can afford to let the best and the brightest of us, especially WCCUSD, simply slip away and join the ranks of the upper class is gone. Communities such as ours are continually being harvested by elite universities for the cream of our crop while the rest of our student population is left to curdle. We should be proud of our own who come from humble beginnings to achieve great things, but a rags-to-riches story for a select few of us should not, and cannot be the only thing we as a community should hope for. It is a crime for us to let our District become intellectually, as well as economically, poor by letting our most brilliant students achieve that “American Dream” of going to a good school, making a ton of money in the financial sector, and leaving their community in the dust. How does this serve us?
I have gone through this school district, and I know how hard it is to succeed, and more to the point, how easy it is to fail. Which is why I am inspired to go to a top school, be successful, come back with a phenomenal education, and use it improve the lot of all the students in districts such as ours. I refuse to waste the Ivy League Connection’s investment in me by using it to pursue a more selfish “American Dream.” Instead I hope to use the skills I learn, and combine it with my own perspective to contribute to the goal of raising the baseline of success for students in WCCUSD and similar districts, not widening the gap between them and the Ivy League by using this opportunity to disconnect myself with my community.

This is what I have come up with in response to the question of what I hope to do with my scholarship and the opportunity it affords me. This thesis of mine, that we need a paradigm shift away from the unsustainable “American Dream,” is an aspiration. It is preachy, and a little naive, but it is also an ideal, and I would like to think that any ideal worth having must be thought of as such.

1 comment:

  1. Tom,

    I think that part of the problem we face is that some people don't know how to dream. They dream about the truly unobtainable or they dream and think that they're either entitled to the fulfillment of that dream without having to put out any effort or they expect it to be handed to them on a silver platter.

    You KNOW what it means to have to work for what you've gotten but too many people in our community--and especially our youth--know nothing about working to improve their lot. Too many think that if they sit in front of the x-boxes all day or hang out in front of the liquor store that good things will be left on their doorsteps.

    Others dream about things they can never achieve because they're unwilling to do what's necessary to make things happen for them. Getting an education, working for a living, giving back to their community--these are all virtues that too few of our young people understand they need to do to get a step ahead.

    We have many in our community that feel that we should reward everyone--even those who make no effort to help themselves. We in the ILC don't turn our backs on those people but we've chosen to put our resources behind those of our youth who have taken those first steps to make things better for themselves and for their community.

    Do we invest in our future or do we throw good money after bad? I think you already know the answer to that one.