Saturday, July 9, 2011

The American Dream -

When did our vision of the American Dream come to mean winning the lottery or getting on a reality show?

From a good piece by Nicolaus Mills on

Winthrop from his 'city on a hill' sermon, a favorite of Ronald Reagan - "For Winthrop, it was crucial for the Puritans to remember that theirs was a collective enterprise in which they would succeed or fail by virtue of being "knit together" as one people. Sharing and sacrifice were prerequisites, in Winthrop's mind, for becoming a city on a hill that would serve as an example for others.

"We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others' necessities," Winthrop insisted."

Jefferson (in a letter to Madison) - "The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on," Jefferson wrote Madison, and then with the vastness of America in mind, he observed, "It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land."

Lincoln - "On July 4, 1861, in a special message to Congress, Lincoln went even further in describing the government's obligation to its most vulnerable citizens. In an address devoted to justifying the Union cause, Lincoln defended the idea of "government whose leading object is, to elevate the conditions of men -- to lift artificial weights from all shoulders -- to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all -- to afford all, an unfettered start."

FDR - "Campaigning for the presidency in 1936, he assured voters, "Your government is still on the same side of the street with the good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side," and in his triumphant second inaugural, Roosevelt made it clear what being a good Samaritan meant in the middle of the Great Depression. "The test of our progress," he proclaimed, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

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