Still living the American dream

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A growing number of Americans think the American Dream is out of reach, but I think they are wrong.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, only 36% of voters said the American Dream still exists, way fewer than the 53% who believed so in 2012.

Half of the poll’s respondents believed that America’s economic and political systems are “stacked against people like me.”

These are troubling findings, but I think more of our native-born non-believers need to start dreaming — and acting — like American immigrants.

Many immigrants still believe hard work will help them get ahead in America and ensure that their kids will have the opportunity to really flourish in the land of the free.

I met many such wonderful people while living in Washington, D.C.

I knew one fellow, who came to America from a small Irish village to work as a butler. He married and started a family.

To improve his income, he began selling insurance. By his 40th birthday, he had raised enough capital to start his own highly successful Irish pub — one that afforded him a fantastic living.

I knew two brothers from India who owned a convenience store and sandwich shop. The older brother had been a professor at a technical school in his homeland.

But because his English was not yet strong, he had trouble finding similar academic work in America.

He didn’t complain. He took whatever job he could — busboy, cook, janitor — and saved every penny. He used his savings to bring his wife here, and then, one at a time, his five siblings.

He and his brother eventually saved enough to buy a convenience store, then a motel. He was in his late 50s when I met him. Last time I saw him a decade ago, he’d been offered $6 million for the land upon which his convenience store sat.

But here’s how he really achieved his American dream: Both of his American-born sons became doctors.

I rented an apartment from another fellow who had been born in Beirut, Lebanon, where his father had two businesses and his family was well off. Then civil war tore their country apart. His family lived in a bombed-out building for three years before they were able to make their way to America.

We were the same age, and our childhoods could not have been more different. When we were both 14, I was enjoying long bike hikes in the quiet suburbs — and he was dragging dead bodies into a pile to burn them, because the stench was unbearable.

When his family was finally able to escape to America, they were broke. He took a job as a janitor. His siblings took on menial work. The family saved $20,000 and used the money to open a bakery. He is now the president of a bakery that, last I checked, employs more than 150 people.

Look, despite inflation, high interest rates and anti-entrepreneurial regulations, the American Dream is still alive and well for anyone willing to work for it.

In fact, the Washington Post says more Americans than ever are starting their own businesses.

I’m one of those dreamers, who, at 61, just started another business creating humorous cybersecurity learning content. This is on top of another thriving business in the short-term apartment business and, of course, the column- and book-writing business.

Business is good. And my American Dream is alive and well.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected].

Find Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos of his dog, Thurber, at TomPurcell.com. Email him at [email protected].