The Olympics and the American Dream

This evening the Olympics begin in London. 17 days of global competition in sports few of us see or even care about any other time.  But for two weeks every four years we are cheering for archers and equestrians like we were lifelong fans.   I love watching the opening ceremonies most.  I’m always amazed at the sheer size of team USA as they march into the stadium; hundreds of athletes, at least 2 in every sport.  But after the United States may come Uzbakistan; a small country with one person competing in one sport who will probably not even make it to the final round.  For them being at the Olympics is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream.  They’ve sacrificed everything to be there in that moment.  In many cases, the country has sacrificed.  No one is more proud to represent their country in that moment than they are.

But what is the “American Dream” anymore?  I always thought the American dream was if you work hard in this “great land of opportunity” then you could be anything you wanted.  My great grandparents came here for freedom and the opportunity to raise their family to become anything they wanted to be.  Many immigrants still come every year with the hopes of making a better life.  But for many natural born citizens it seems like the path to getting the dream isn’t what it once was.  Now it seems like more and more people aren’t willing to  follow that path at the expense of their own personal satisfaction.  The sacrifice is gone.  The work ethic is gone.  We want what we “deserve”, not what we’ve earned.

We’re a country where the dream is now fame and fortune with as little work as possible.  Our idols are Snookie and Kim Kardashian, who are household brands without really accomplishing anything.  American’s dream of that get rich quick, 15 minutes of fame.  They want to be a Youtube sensation or an American Idol.  Pride comes from the status we achieve not the work it took to get there.  And our grandparents who talk about the the pain of “the old country” shake their head saying “you just don’t get it.

It’s probably the one reason why I like the Olympics over anything else.  There’s no gameshow “Who Wants to Be an Olympian”.  It still follows the American Dream; work hard and you can achieve anything.  No athlete from any country will say they didn’t have to earn their spot.  Whether they finish last or first, they will have achieved a dream that no one can take away from them.

For two weeks we will once again be reminded of what it is to be an American.  How dreams are made through blood, sweat, and tears not by a camcorder and a gameshow host.  We will forget about Romney and Obama for a short while in the hopes of winning gold in the men’s 4 x 100 relay.  And we will sit back and once again remember that the American dream is to find your personal dream (and dream big) then do the work and get it.

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