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Painting: Sierra Nevadas by Alexander Bierdstadt

"That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement."

The first use of the phrase "American Dream" was in James Truslow Adams's 1931 book THE EPIC OF AMERICA. Of course, Adams was merely naming a thread in American history that stretched from the City on a Hill to Gold Mountain. But today some critics have charged the dream has become purely materialistic — while others see its reach limited to a lucky few.

Several years ago The Fetzer Institute, a funder of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, set out on a quest to reassess the definition of The American Dream asking: Is the American Dream a vision or an illusion? Does social change depend on personal change? What values should the U.S. demonstrate in today's world? Are there ways to think beyond geographic boundaries toward a common dream for our world? BILL MOYERS JOURNAL joins with The Fetzer Institute in continuing this inquiry in a special online feature. We're asking our guests and our viewers what is their vision for the future of the American Dream — and how we can achieve those visions.

> Read the dreams from JOURNAL guests.
> Contribute on our Deepening the American Dream blog.
> Upload your video version of the American Dream.

PLEASE NOTE: THE COLLECTION OF AMERICAN DREAMS WILL LOAD IN THE BLACK WINDOW BELOW — IT MAY TAKE SOME TIME BUT ONCE IT IS LOADED YOU'LL BE ABLE TO VIEW ALL CONTRIBUTORS. For a faster load try the Text page.

> Find out more about The Fetzer Institute and its programs.

Picture: "Among the Sierra Nevada, California" by Albert Bierstadt, 1868. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Helen Huntington Hull, granddaughter of William Brown Dinsmore, who acquired the painting in 1873 for "The Locusts," the family estate in Dutchess County, New York

As part of the Deepening the American Dream Project the Fetzer Institute commissioned a series of essays on the inner dimensions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Bill Moyers had talked with several of these thinkers: Elaine Pagels, Howard Zinn, Jacob Needleman and Robert Bellah and now for the first time you can view those interviews from the MOYERS DIGITAL ARCHIVE plus read their Deepening the American Dream essays. Explore and respond our our Deepening the American Dream blog.

Also, take a look at the results of the public forum on Deepening the American Dream: Reflections on the Inner Life and Spirit of Democracy. (PDF)

Elaine Pagels
Elaine Pagels: We need to know — and take responsibility for — the ways we interpret the dream expressed in our Declaration. More than ever we need to ask, Whom do we include in the "American dream"?
Jacob Needleman
Jacob Needleman: A dream is a vision of truth, of what can be and ought to be...and a dream is a deception...Then, what is the American dream? Is it a vision or an illusion? Do we need to deepen this dream or awaken from it? In order to remember the vision of America, we need to free ourselves from the illusion of America.
Howard Zinn
Howard Zinn: Common has come to have a pejorative tone. And of course, it should be exalted — the idea of all of us having something in common, having interests in common, having a common sense of what is right and wrong, having, really, common desires....This makes us different from corporations and governments.
Robert Bellah
Robert Bellah: Income polarization and educational polarization lead toward a replication of a world divided between wealth and poverty right here at home....Why do Americans accept what has been happening to us over the last three or four decades so tamely? I'm afraid it's because we have come to believe the stories we have been told: that in American because some people have become very rich, we can all become very rich.
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