my students in my english class began a unit on the american dream. they read a poem by langston hughes, are currently watching “the pursuit of happyness” and will read a play called a raisin in the sun. before all of this though, my partner teacher assigned them to write about their american dream starting with their story. they wrote about in what country they were born, when they moved to the US, and the experience. it was interesting to note that every single person in the class (including the teacher and me) were not born in america. our background stories vary, but one main theme sews together each one: living in the US provided more opportunities for success. there was more freedom for education, for work, and for a future. most of the students do not live with their parents in america, but rather another relative that moved here first. their parents want them to have a chance to succeed.
one of my students narrated his story of the first day in a new country. he told us how in the morning his mom was frantically searching for his passport. he said that they had to sprint to the plane and almost missed it. when he arrived to the airport, he remembers all the signs and that they were in English. he recounts the first time he settled into an apartment and raced towards the television. with everything that was so unfamiliar, his heart leaped when he saw something he recognized. he turned on the TV and found Spongebob. but he quickly realized that his beloved cartoon was in a different language he could not understand. even though he is almost a young adult, i saw a hint of his innocence flicker in his eyes as he recounted that moment. it was as though he was in front of that old TV again.
his story is not the first nor will be the last. hundreds of students’ backgrounds are parallel to this one.
and all of this made me think: what is the american dream? (good job, good house, good family?) can those who are not born into this land of opportunity achieve it? opportunities are more present here in america than other countries, i’m sure, but in the grand scheme of things, are they equal?
A Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?