Whose American Dream Is It Anyway?
What's the point of designating a so-called American Dream if we're not willing to extend it to anyone and everyone who works hard to make this country a better place?
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dan-el Padilla Peralta came to the United States with his family at the age of four and remained in the country when his visa expired, thus making him an undocumented immigrant.. He received his BA summa cum laude from Princeton University, where he was chosen salutatorian of the class of 2006. He received his MPhil from the University of Oxford and his PhD in classics from Stanford University. He is currently a Mellon Research Fellow at Columbia University. His memoir Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League was published in July 2015.
Dan-el Padilla Peralta: We need to think very carefully about what we mean when we use the term "American Dream." And this has been the subject of several recent books that have come out, including Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, in which Coates really pushes back against the dream as a concept. I'm interested in work that asks us to consider what is at stake when we imagine someone who has met or checked off the boxes that we associate with the American Dream. So on the one hand, I went to all of these institutions that are viewed as markers of a certain kind of success. At the same time, though, it's imperative that we think about ways of succeeding in American society that go beyond some of the traditional attributes of the American Dream.
And this now brings me back to undocumented migrants. So on the one hand many undocumented migrants are not in my position. They, for many reasons, are hindered or have been hindered in obtaining their dreams. But one of the reasons that we think of dreamers and one of the reasons why the undocumented youth movement has taken up that label enthusiastically is because we believe that it is even at the margins of American society, these margins that are created by U.S. immigration policy, that so much amazing work is being done by families, by communities to commit wholeheartedly to the pursuit of this thing we call the American Dream. These are migrants who have contributed to their communities, who have worked hard and with persistence to ensure the very best for their children. In a word, they exemplify everything that we conventionally associate with the American Dream. And for those migrants to be labeled as un-American almost beggars the mind. It calls into question why in fact we have this designation "the American Dream" in the first place if we're not willing to extend it to anyone and everyone who works hard to make this country a better place.
What's the point of designating a so-called American Dream "if we're not willing to extend it to anyone and everyone who works hard to make this country a better place?"
Such is the query posed in this video by Dan-el Padilla Peralta, author of Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey From a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League. Dan-el has a wonderful story: He went from being an undocumented immigrant child in a NYC homeless shelter to an Ivy League success story and in turn became one of the faces of immigration reform when he was featured in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. To Dan-el, there are few people in the U.S. who best embody the traditional idea of what the American Dream is... and they're the exact people most often labeled "un-American."
We've seen plenty of pushback against the Dream as a concept in recent work by authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates. Padilla builds on that line of questioning with regard to undocumented immigrants. What's the point of the concept if it can't be applied to everyone?
Striving for diversity is honorable — but the focus should settle on something much deeper than phenotypic traits.
- In efforts to achieve diversity, whether within workplace teams or elsewhere, leaders often focus on variation of identities regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, and physicality.
- Evolutionary biologist Heather Heying urges that these efforts be taken a step further to focus on diversity of viewpoints and socioeconomic status — two forms of identity that are less apparent without thoughtful conversation.
- Achieving diversity in these ways adds varying life experiences and opinions that enrich office or team culture and provide more innovative solutions.
A cave in France contains man’s earliest-known structures that had to be built by Neanderthals who were believed to be incapable of such things.
In a French cave deep underground, scientists have discovered what appear to be 176,000-year-old man-made structures. That's 150,000 years earlier than any that have been discovered anywhere before. And they could only have been built by Neanderthals, people who were never before considered capable of such a thing.
Why a 400-mile enclosure around the North Sea is not as crazy as it sounds
- The Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED) would cut off the North and Baltic Seas from the Atlantic Ocean.
- It would save 15 countries, and up to 55 million people, from sea level rise—but at a cost.
- The idea is a warning more than a plan: NEED will be necessary if we don't stop global warming now.