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(Photos by Robin Holland)

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FLOYD ABRAMS: Photo by Robin Holland"I think most of all we have to continue to move in the direction of far greater upward mobility. From people who are under-educated, under-funded- in their lives in this country. We have a major problem, which I think is getting worse rather than better. Enormous differences, growing differences in income of people at the top and even at the middle of our economic ladder. Who we are less socially mobile, in many respects than we used to be.

And I think it is really critically important for the country to move in the direction of incorporating, taking account of treating people who are not 'born to the manor' — economically, educationally and the like — to make them a true part of this country. And for them to feel a true part of the country in terms of its growth, its development, its economic success and the like. We are becoming two countries. And a slice at the very top, economically is a separate part, more and more, a separate part of those two countries.

I'd only add to that that a development, an expansion of the American Dream cannot occur at a time when the level of polarization in the country. The nature of public debate is so filled with vitriol, toxicity and hatred. That's as bad now as I think as it's ever been. That it should happen under a president, who if anything some sometimes criticized for not being strong enough or working too hard to try to get some bipartisan support, is sort of odd. But the reality in any event is that we are moving apart rather than together as a country. As more and more people are wholly disaffected from the whole notion of moving together as one people. And moving together to try to expand the rights of people who simply have not had anything like the advantages that others in our society have had.

And I think if we can move in those directions — towards a single public; towards a greater equality; towards breaking down the barriers that divide us as a country — that we'll have a much better chance of fulfilling-- what we have come to call the American Dream." (Watch the video.)

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Photo by Robin Holland My vision is for an America that is not colorblind, but rather an America that cares deeply for people of all colors. And that can see people in their uniqueness, in their individuality. That can see race and racial difference, and appreciate and celebrate our differences. While at the same time sending care, compassion, and concern for all those folks of all different colors, no matter what their age, their background, their class, their nationality.

So, I hope that we as a nation move beyond this ideal of colorblindness. An ideal that has made us blind not so much to race, but to the suffering of people of different races. Made us blind to the uniqueness and the special gift that each one of us has to offer. So, I hope not for a world that is colorblind, but a world that can see each one of us, as we are, in our humanness, as individuals, in different colors. And to see each one of us with love and deserving of great opportunity. And-- but no one of us is ever relegated or marginalized to a second class status. Or deserved kind of unworthy of our collective care and concern. (Watch the video.)

ERIC ALTERMAN: Photo by Robin Holland I find that a really tough question to answer. In part, because I pride myself on being a realist and choosing between available alternatives. And I'm very critical of people who choose things that aren't there over things that are. But we are talking six days after Martin Luther King's birthday. And in the speech that he gave at the Washington Monument in 1963, he talked about his dream of a little Black boy and a little White boy walking together, holding hands.

I have an 11-year-old daughter, for whom I can give any possible advantage that money can buy just about. My dream for this country would be that all parents in this country can give their children the advantages, whether it be in health or schooling or art lessons or sports, whatever it is that these childrenfeel themselves to be drawn to. That the resources are made available so that you can be in this country anyone you want to be. Whether or not your parents are poor or a minority or gay or whatever. And I don't think that's an impossible dream. I think some countries it's actually almost true of. And I think we need to change the direction of our politics so that we begin to move in that direction. The end.(Watch the video.)

DREW ALTMAN: Photo by Robin Holland"I'd like to see, because of the work I do, a country where everybody has health insurance coverage. That's just so important to me. And I think a lot of things flow from that. But more broadly, I used to run a welfare system in a big state. I'd like to see a country where we have greater income equality. That's just a deeper issue which drives everything in our country.

People's opportunities, also their health, that's the broader issue for me. And finally, even if we don't succeed at those bigger goals, I'd like to see a country where we're — and I'm not so sure we'll get there — but a country where we're able to have a more civil discourse, especially in Washington, about these fractious and difficult political and policy issues that I work on and that so many of us care about.

How to achieve that is not so clear to anybody. But I really would like to see us get back to the ability to have a more civil and informed discussion. That's what our organization works very hard on and something I care very deeply about." (Watch the video.)

ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Photo by Robin Holland I think core of my vision would be that we find ways to preserve that which is best about the past — the American inheritance. The American inheritance is an environmental inheritance a wonderful beautiful rich country and we've not treated that country kindly and we need to try to restore it and pass it on to future generations.

We have a rich political inheritance expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I think the way the political system actually operates really does not keep faith with what those documents are about. So Somehow we need to recognizing that we live in a different era but somehow go back and capture the essence and the truths contained within those two documents. And we need to make sure that we've got an economy that for future generations will be able to provide a decent standard of living where the people are house and fed and clothed and they have access to medical care and that we can do all that without plunging into bankruptcy. (Watch the video.)

DEAN BAKER: Photo by Robin Holland I think we really have to re-democratize society and the economy, and try and have a country that lives up to its ideals. And that means internationally, being a responsible member of the international community, and not doing things like invading countries unprovoked, as we did in Iraq. And hopefully, we'll get out of there.

We have to really be serious about combating global warming. I mean, the United States is the worst contributor to global warming, and we've been the biggest obstacle to any serious efforts to deal with the problem. As far as the economy itself, we have to restructure the economy, so that it meets the need of ordinary people. For the last three decades, the economy has been structured in a way to redistribute income upward to those at the top.

And we have to turn that around so that typical working people are getting their share of the prosperity, that they could be assured access to decent health care, which means reforming our health care system. That they can get a decent education, and that they can have a decent standard of living and retirement.

We have a long, long way to go on that. Everything's been going pretty much the opposite direction for three decades. But my vision is that we find the ability to turn that around and really have a country that works for its people. (Watch the video.)

DAVID BECKMANN: Photo by Robin Holland I want an America where we don't have millions of kids going hungry and an America that's helping to reduce hunger and poverty around the world. It's no dream. It can happen. (Watch the video.)

SCOTT BITTLE: Photo by Robin Holland I think my vision for the future of the American dream would be an America where the public is really engaged in making the decisions that affect their daily lives. Right now, of course, we have elections where people make choices. But the fact is, in this country, we treat politics like it's sports. And we have fans on both sides.

I think what we need is an area where-- maybe sports is a pretty good metaphor, but if so, it should be a game people play, not just a game they watch and cheer about. And it's not just about what happens at elections. It's about being engaged in decisions between elections, in their daily lives, so people have-- so they feel they have control, they have a say, that their voice counts. These are things we're really lacking right now. And I don't think we can have the American dream without that. (Watch the video.)

EARL BLACK: Photo by Robin Holland

The American Dream I think has to be reinterpreted as American Dreams. We are in a situation where America is very is more diverse than it has ever been. And that means a proliferation of cultures and different ways to look at the United States and very different ways to access to the promise of American opportunity to all who participate with American values of fairness and equality and justice in mind. (Watch the video.)

MERLE BLACK: Photo by Robin Holland The promise of America, I think, is to provide opportunities to individuals to realize themselves as best they can. This is in terms of a plurality -- its not a single American Dream any more because the country is too diverse. But to the extent that Americans can encourage people with talent and ability to make their way in this wonderful country I think that should be encouraged. I'm very optimistic about the future of America. (Watch the video.)

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Photo by Robin Holland It's very mixed. With the election of President Obama, we've seen incredible positive changes. I can see it in our kids, you know, who are young adults. Their engagement with the country, with the world, and their hopes for it, spiked enormously. I deal with a lot of folks from other countries. And they were almost uniformly excited. And I've seen many of the things that the Administration has done, and they're very positive in building that dream. In the financial sphere, we've shown a complete lack of courage to either go back to the more authentic American Dream, in which we're all in this together.

And the goal is to have America as a nation progress. And instead go back to the bottle that helped destroy the economy. In which it's more every man or woman for themself, the bonfire, the vanities, and such. And for the life of me, I can't understand why we would try to recreate that vision of the American Dream. But that seems to be exactly what we're doing so far, in the early months of the Obama Administration. (Watch the video.)

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: The American dream? I've just written a kind of grim book about the American dream betrayed in the past for many, many Americans. But I'm not a pessimist. Photo by Robin Holland I think that in the last 30 years, we've accomplished things in America that seemed impossible 30 or 40 years ago, and in hindsight, seem impossible that we've accomplished them. And I think that we've arrived at a moment in American life when there's a willingness to talk about the past, talk about how to extend opportunity to everybody. And I think that we're on the verge of a very different kind of pursuit of the American dream, and in a way that hopefully, some of these terrible vestiges of the past finally fall away. (Watch the video.)

DAVID BOIES: Photo by Robin Holland I think the future of the American Dream is bright. I think that America has progressed enormously in the lifespan that I have enjoyed. When I was born blacks and whites couldn't go to school together. Women couldn't have equality. Most races didn't have equality in the United States. Most children didn't have an opportunity for a college education. The rates of disease were terrifying. We had not yet conquered polio. We had not yet conquered many other diseases. Cancer was something that was beyond our understanding. We hadn't even begun to attack that.

I think the progress that we have made is the beginning of a basis for a new American Dream, where we can use technology. When we can use cooperation. When we can use the diversity, the strength, the great, diverse strength of our country, all working together to make this country even greater than it is today.

And I think that the opportunities are there. And what we've got to do to realize those opportunities is to get away from our divisiveness. I think the only thing that imperils the American Dream is the divisiveness of this country. And I think we need to work together. We need to do what our forefather and foremothers have always done. Which is in time of adversity to come together and come out of it stronger. I think we can do that. I think we've done that during the time that I've been fortunate to be alive, and I think we can do it even more in the future. (Watch the video.)

CORY BOOKER: Photo by Robin Holland Well, I think that this generation of Newarkers in many ways was born out of that optimism and out of that hope. And it's a frontlines what I believe is a fight for the American dream. And the idealism within the Kerner Report-- I think has its roots in the idealism in which this country was born. A country was born in perfect ideals in my opinion. But, a savagely, viciously, imperfect reality. And I think Newark has been in the crosshairs in every generation of the fight to achieve America. And I think Newark is a city that's at that crossroads still. (Watch the video.)

HEATHER BOOTH: Photo by Robin Holland That people should have a chance to realize their dreams. And whether their dreams are about their family, the community, or about the world, they should have equal access to those resources. We should therefore treat people with decency and respect. And have a government as an agent of all the people's will, support people, as they move ahead. And help bring us together. For all our separate dreams that create one bigger unified direction. And I believe it's around some common values of believing in fairness, believing in democracy and believing in the beauty of each person. (Watch the video.)

RICHARD BROOKHISER: Photo by Robin Holland Well, the American Dream is under threat. I think we're in a 30 years war. I will not see the end of it. It's the equivalent of the Cold War or the Second World War. Only it will be longer. I hope we prevail. I expect that we will. I want us to stand for liberty in this world. And I want us to extend liberty to Americans. (Watch the video.)

CHRISTOPHER CERF: Photo by Robin Holland I'm actually more hopeful than some people might think. It's been a rough time for democracy, I think, and news has become a kind of scary place and we're not getting the kind of in-depth coverage that we used to get except on McNeil-Lehrer and a few places like that. But I actually think the Internet is a hopeful way that free speech is going to be preserved. I like to think, for example, that the power changed in Congress partly because of the Internet. That if someone hadn't been there covering Senator Allen when he talked about 'macaca' that there might be a different party controlling Congress. So I'm hoping that technology might help us go back to the original Bill of Rights and take us close to the dream that we all had before and I think that in the long run diversity is going to do that too. But we're going through a hard time at the moment, but as I said, I'm hopeful. (Watch the video.)

SARAH CHAYES:Photo by Robin Holland I think it has to repose on ethics. You know, morality is something that gets thrown around in the political dialog a lot. And often, morality is taken to refer to what we do in our bedrooms. And I actually think that morality and ethics are much broader than that. And if we don't rebuild our public action, based on an ethical foundation, it's over, the American Dream. (Watch the video.)

LINDA CHAVEZ:Photo by Robin Holland I think the American Dream has always been rooted in Americans' optimism. I think one of the reasons we have been so successful as a nation is that, as a people, we have always thought that our best days were ahead of us. And I think one of the things that's going to be very important — particularly as we go through this economic downturn as we face crises, many of them in our personal lives, as well as the challenges that we face in terms of the war on terror and what's happening internationally — is to keep that forward looking vision, that optimism.

I think that's one of the things that Ronald Reagan was able to do in 1980, was to lift Americans out of their temporary malaise of the 1970s and make them be able to look forward and to see that, even though there were great challenges in the world, that American ingenuity, American hard work, and American optimism would ultimately win the day. and I think no matter who wins this election, that that will be an important part of capturing that American dream. That for Americans to believe that they do have a future, that their children's lives will be better than their own lives. All of that I think is very fundamentally important to who we are.

I also think that there have been enormous changes in terms of the demographics of the United States. We are today a much more multi racial, multi ethnic society. And in many ways I think that makes race become less relevant. We have a history in this country, a sad history, of a legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow-ism. But we also have a history of having overcome, largely, certainly the institutional forms of racism. The racism that governed our laws, for example before the 1960s, when racial divisions were rooted in law. We have eliminated that. And I think the fact that we are now so much more multi-ethnic and there is so much intermingling of people I think will also make us a stronger people and a more forward-looking people. (Watch the video.)

JOAN CLAYBROOK:Photo by Robin Holland My vision is families and individuals who have a sense of right and understanding of their ability to influence the future of America. And I think that most people really want to have a government that inspires trust and hope for the future, for them and for their children. That requires citizens to at least exercise their right and their capacity, whatever it may be, to be participants in the future of America. Because that's how we're going to achieve it.

We've had the special interests unfortunately taking such control over the decision making in our government, whether it's state government or local government or the national government. And it's time to take back America, to make it our dream, not the dream of the financial and special interests, the powerful special interests.

So my hope is that Americans will get involved, and that they will see that relatively simple steps in doing that. Because most Americans don't have huge demands. They just want to have a environment that is safe for them and their children, and for the future, to not have global warming destroy America, to not have war, to have peace, and to have equity and fairness.

Those are the things that most people want. And I think that that kind of a dream can be achieved with ease in many ways, if we have leaders that allow the people to speak and listen to those people in what they want. (Watch the video.)

MICHAEL COPPS: Photo by Robin Holland Well, my vision for the future of our democracy involves media democracy, because that's the place where I work. And what I want to see is the means of our telecommunications and our broadcasting and our journalism acting in the behalf and for the benefit of the people of the United States of America.

We've gotten away from making sure and ensuring that they have all the news and information they need to make in decisions that are intelligent for the future of the country. We need to rectify that. And democracy, I think, compels us to do that. (Watch the video.)

DAVID CORN: Photo by Robin Holland My idea of the American Dream is that we move together as a country to a place where the global and national concerns that we have interact effectively with our local concerns. So, when we talk about or think about education for our kids — safe environments locally— good jobs, that those concerns and the way we look at those are truly connected to what's happening in Washington, and to other global capitals. So that all three levels are aiming in the same direction. And there's less distance between what we want locally and what we argue about and debate endlessly in Washington and elsewhere.(Watch the video.)

MARK DANNER: Photo by Robin Holland The American dream, I think, has to do with opportunity. And it has to do with rule of law. It has to do with the richness of the United States being open to everybody. It has to do with people being able to educate themselves — to have the education that it's possible to have in this country. To have access to that. To have access to the health care that they need for their families to be healthy. To have healthy children. It has to do with following the rule of law to returning to a state of law. Which I think we left in the period after 9/11.

It involves, at the end of the day, returning to the country that the founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution and especially the Declaration of Independence. I think we've gone far from that in the time after the Cold War. I think the United States, in a sense has been wandering in the wilderness. And I think the return has to do with helping everybody become the utmost that they can be. (Watch the video.)

ABIGAIL DISNEY: Photo by Robin Holland My wish for the American dream is that we all remember what it is and that it really becomes available to all of us in this country and not the handful of people who have more advantages and more access to recourse when the dream is not true for them. So I hope that we all pitch in on the project of making this country as fair as we want it to be, as just as we wish it for it to be, and-- and the beautiful, diverse symphony that we all love it for being. (Watch the video.)

PHIL DONAHUE: Photo by Robin Holland I am afraid the American dream is going to be out of the reach of most of us until we, the public, become brave enough to elect political leaders who will reach out rather than lash out. We're never going to feel safe or be safe as long as diplomacy is a bad word. Diplomacy saves babies.

And we have to stop rewarding public servants who get up and say how tough America is; we're the last remaining superpower. You know, if we say that more and more, we become less and less believable. It's like we have an inferiority complex. We have to stomp around the playground, biggest kid on the block, telling everybody how tough we are. That's unbecoming and not consistent with the vision of the framers. Obey the Constitution and we can save more babies. (Watch the video.)

ROSS DOUTHAT: Photo by Robin Holland I think the biggest threat to the American dream is the danger that the U.S. will go either in the direction of Europe or in the direction of Latin America, either towards a society where the struggles of the working class are eased through an enormous welfare state as in Europe. Or, on the other hand, the dangers of becoming more like Latin America where the rich are rich, the poor are poor, and there's no self-reliant, independent working class in between.

So the thing for America to do is to remain America, to remain what it's been since its founding, a nation of limited government, of strong families, of strong communities, of independence and self-reliance and equality of opportunity and social equality above all, a sense that even if someone's rich or even if someone's poor, they're all equal as citizens of a democratic republic. (Watch the video.)

KEVIN DRUM: Photo by Robin Holland I think probably the American Dream in the future is going to be a little bit — maybe a little bit less about owning a home and maybe a little bit more about competing with the rest of the world. Competing in higher education, competing in the sciences, competing in things like green technology and stuff like that. It's going to be a little bit less, maybe, I hope, about the financial sector. And a little bit more about actually making goods and services that both we and the rest of the world actually need and use. (Watch the video.)

MARIA ECHAVESTE: Photo by Robin Holland I'm actually scared. I'm scared about whether the American dream will survive the next four, eight years. That is to say we're at a crossroads. All the optimism that this country has repeatedly shown - in terms of people being able to start from nothing and, with good education, be able to make something of themselves is at risk. We're disinvesting in education. We're disinvesting in things that provide people an opportunity.

So my vision is that we have to reclaim the American dream, that Americans have to understand that they have to fight for the American dream in order to make it a reality and demand it of our leaders — demand it of our political leaders. Otherwise, this country will be a failed experiment. And that's what I'm really afraid of. (Watch the video.)

BOB EDGAR:Photo by Robin Holland My vision is that this particular presidential season is a wakeup call for Americans to stand up and speak out more clearly, and not be silenced about the inequities that we have here in this country and around the world. I believe that we are the leaders we've been waiting for. And my vision is that young people, young adults and senior adults together will join hands and recognize that this is a time for America to really distinguish itself, both domestically and internationally.

We need to be a superpower with humility. And the American dream, I think, needs to be recalibrated so that we can be partners and brothers and sisters with people all over the world. And I think this is the season to do that with a sense of urgency that Dr. Martin Luther King had when he reminded us that we're faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.

In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Dr. King ended that quote by saying, "We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or a violent co-annihilation." This may well be humankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community. My hope is that the American dream is choosing community. (Watch the video.)

MICKEY EDWARDS: Photo by Robin Holland I feel pretty good about our future. For the Aspen Institute, I run a program for young American political leaders. City council presidents, mayors, lieutenant governors, attorney generals. Sharp young people who want to go beyond the partisan warfare that has so much dominated American politics in recent years. I feel good looking at the kind of leadership that's coming up.

But in terms of the national picture, sometimes things have to get really bad before you can make them better. And there is such a public reaction that is beginning to set in to the abuses by this current presidency, the abuses of constitutional power, that people are more and more writing books, giving speeches, starting to demand that we go back to our constitutional system, with its protection of civil liberties.

You know, we had to get to this point where the American people say, "Wait a minute. What's American all about, and let's not lose that." So, you know, I feel pretty good about where we're going right now. (Watch the video.)

LOUISE ERDRICH: Photo by Robin Holland The future of the American dream was always expansion, get bigger, envelop. My future, my version of the future, would be for us to downsize, seriously decide that we can do with less, we can live in smaller, more intimate communities. That we can live with a smaller corporate presence in our political and our judicial life now. And that as individuals we be allowed to be expressive in the smallest form, the most intimate ways, that move us in our languages, in our communities, in our reservations, in our families.(Watch the video.)

LEILA FADEL: Photo by Robin Holland I think the future of the American dream is the essence of what America should be, everybody having access to healthcare — a transparent government that doesn't arrest people on secret evidence —a place that I can say truly that I know I can have an effect on my nation and my government without them hiding things from me.

BRUCE FEIN: Photo by Robin Holland The American dream is more a process than a destiny. It never is ultimately won by any generation. Each generation has to prevail again. And it resolves in the simple words of the Constitution, "We the people." The future of the American dream is we taking control of our own destiny by insisting that government be transparent.

We have had to struggle ourselves with a moral agonies of choices in a post 9/11 world. And that will be its own reward. That we struggled, we tried, and we will hand off to those yet to be born that same process of self-government that gives us dignity. We don't want to be ruled by Platonic guardians. I think that's the future of America, and will give us an immortality. (Watch the video.)

BILL FLETCHER: Photo by Robin Holland" I'm a science fiction fanatic. And I think about the end of TERMINATOR 2. Where they say "the future is not written. It depends on us." And I think that there are two possible directions that we could go. One is a horrible direction. One is towards a more barbaric, extremely competitive, and very violent future. Where the country is essentially ripped apart. And we're living in armed camps.

The other possibility, if we organize, if we fight, is for a very different United States. The changes its relationship with the rest of the world. That is not perceived as a bully, but perceived as a partner. Where there's a recognition that inequality destroys a country. Where there's a recognition that the contributions made by countless millions of people had been forgotten over the decades, over the centuries. And need to be renewed and understood by all that inhabit this country. That we have an obligation to the planet. And to fight for the survival of the planet.

I think we have those two directions. Obviously, I'm fighting for the latter. And I think that those who sit back and think that the latter is inevitable, may in fact inherit the former." (Watch the video.)

ERIC FONER:Photo by Robin Holland Well, I'm a historian, so I look to the past to help to inform us about the future. And my American dream is the dream of people like Tom Paine and Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Eugene Debs. In other words, the people who struggled to make this a better country, to make it a more equal country, to make it a country which was not divided along lines of race or gender or class but where people have mutual respect and a sense of a common good and striving for common purpose in this society and of opportunity for everybody.

And it's also of a country which perhaps exhibits a little more modesty when it talks about the American dream and its relationship to the rest of the world. I guess it's what Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." In other words, we need to realize that we have something to learn from other people as well as putting forward ourselves as an exemplar of democracy, self-government.

So my American dream is a dream where we are actually fully engaged with other people on a basis of equality, not on the basis that we know everything and we just have to tell them what to do. So if we can listen a little better and not pontificate quite as much as we have, I think our American dream will become even broader and more exciting than it has been in our history. (Watch the video.)

THOMAS FRANK: Photo by Robin Holland Look, the thing about the American dream is that for so long we just defined it as being "I wanna get rich," you know? I'm here to get rich. And we forget often the other side of the of the American dream is democracy. This country is about equality. And it's about everybody having a voice.

And I think one of these days I think the American dream is going to shift from "I wanna get rich" to "I want everybody to be able to have things like healthcare, a decent standard of living. I want democracy. I think that's the way it's going. (Watch the video.)

DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: Photo by Robin Holland My vision for the future is that we would overcome the special interest power that's been dominating our political process for so long. And that citizens would become engaged and active and create the government that we were supposed to have by and for the people, so that we're actually making a system that works, that uplifts our people so that they can be healthy, productive, take care of their families, be creative and become a nation again that we can be proud of. (Watch the video.)

STEVE FRASER: Photo by Robin Holland My vision is for all of us to set to work to build the kind of cooperative commonwealth that our late 19th century ancestors, who opposed the inequities of their own day, dreamed about building. In which we all care more about the commonwealth than we do about the acquisition and amassing of great sums of wealth. Where every person has a chance at true economic equality and material well being and social justice. (Watch the video.)

DAVID FRUM: Photo by Robin Holland"I think I have a vision for the future of America's role in the world, if I can put it that way. Over the past century, we've extended a sphere of peace and law and security to about a billion of the planet's people, about one in five. I would hope over the future that that would spread and spread and spread.

And so that the kind of world in which Americans and Canadians and Swedes and Danes, Chileans live in becomes the normal world for more and more people, where disputes between countries never rise to the level of violence, where people can live in a realm of law and where all human beings have the ability to realize whatever gifts they have and to make their own peace with their own limits without resentment against others." (Watch the video.)

JAMES GALBRAITH: Photo by Robin Holland I would like to see the country return to taking on its problems in a practical frame of mind, one by one, if you like, setting out what needs to be done, working out what the public sector should do and what the private sector should do, and getting down to the job. We're going to have to fix the financial crisis. We're going to have to fix the underlying economy. We're going to have set a new direction to deal, among other things especially, with energy and climate change.

These are big, big tasks. They're comparable to the New Deal and to what was done to win the Second World War. But they're also different. They're not the same thing. They shouldn't be con-- this period should not be confused with that one. It is the spirit of working out what works and doing it and using our government to get from where we are to where we need to be that seems to me that we need to recapture.

The idea that the government and the economy are enemies, that there is a specific ideological fix, these ideas are now dead. The ideas that came in with Ronald Reagan have gone out with Alan Greenspan. And they won't come back. They certainly won't come back in a generation. And we can take advantage of that if we're prepared, not to substitute some other ideology, but to figure out what our problems are and to take the steps in an open-minded and open-handed way that are required to address them. (Watch the video.)

LEYMAH GBOWEE: Photo by Robin Holland Well my understanding of the American dream is that this is a place this is a country of laws and not men. This is a country where- people have rights to equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. So with that background in mind and as an African moving back and forth - coming to America, my vision or hope for this beautiful dream that has been written by the forefathers of this land is that the dream will actually be a true dream where men and women who have spent time in prison will actually come out and be given a second chance in life and not to be stigmatized for the rest of their lives where issues of young girls, prostitution, will be on the table and not be hidden under the table while Americans look outside of the U.S. for problems to fix, that the military and the policies of your military will truly reflect freedom and justice for all and not impose themselves on countries that, quote/unquote, "are not their friends."

That's my hope or my vision for the American dream, that the dream will truly be the dream that the forefathers hoped when they wrote it on paper. (Watch the video.)

LEO GERARD: Photo by Robin Holland My vision is that I hope for a time when ordinary workers will be able to once again live the American Dream: have a good job; be able to raise their family; send their kids to school; have a vacation; live healthy; have healthcare and be able to retire in dignity, without fear everyday of losing their standard of living. That's my vision for the future. (Watch the video.)

NICK GILLESPIE: Photo by Robin Holland As a second or third generation American, I'm not even sure which it is — my grandparents, all four of them immigrated to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th Century. I very much feel that the American Dream is ramped up in increasing living standards and quality of life. What I really want is that for my children. And by quality of life I think what I think about the most is will my children have more power to create the world that they want to live in? Will they have more options to define themselves? And to try new things and to experiment new things? And to innovate with what John Stuart Mill called experiments in living. I certainly hope so. I know that I benefited massively compared to my parents. They were better off than their parents. And that to me is the real question about the future of the American Dream. Can we keep that level of constant innovation, striving, and change, and self-empowerment, moving forward into the future? (Watch the video.)

NIKKI GIOVANNI: Photo by Robin Holland The American dream is deeply rooted, if I may paraphrase King, "in the human dream." My vision of the American dream will not be realized until we actually put a man on-- or a woman, I would prefer, on Mars. We are going to Mars because it's our neighbor. And as we embrace our celestial neighbors we begin to embrace ourselves better. (Watch the video.)

GEORGE GOEHL: Photo by Robin Holland I think it starts on a foundation of respecting the human dignity of all people in this country and across the world. And we can do this by starting to build an economy that works for all of us. This is where the big disparities happen in American life. So, if we could address disparities in race, in gender, in sexual orientation, we could start to have a country that made everybody feel welcome and where all people have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. (Watch the video.)

DANIEL GOLEMAN: Photo by Robin Holland Well, here is my dream for America. I've been looking into the hidden impacts of the things we buy and use every day. How they affect environment, how they affect our health, how they affect the people who made them. And everything we buy has a back story. A hidden legacy that could be much better.

Now, you and I can know that legacy, and know that hidden impact, as we're about to buy it in a store. Whenever we go shopping — my dream is that we'll all use that information to make better choices. And to let everyone we know understand why we did it, what we did it, so they can repeat it. And that will ripple through industry, through commerce, through supply chains, to create a better America, a better world for the future. (Watch the video.)

GLENN GREENWALD: Photo by Robin Holland I think its really two-fold. I think initially, that what we've seen in the last decade — even before that, but really accelerated in the last decade — is a complete erosion of trust between the citizenry and the government, so that Americans percieve that government is not worthy of any trust, has no credibility, and works for the elite and not for Americans generally. And I think one of the foundations of the American dream has always been a belief that government as structured by the founders actually will work for the average American citizen. And I think restoration of that belief is vital to rejuvinating the American spirit. And the other aspect of it is, I think, international. Americans, certainly since the end of the Second World War, have had a real pride about being American, and about America's role in the world. That's not to say that its been without imperfections. But on balance, they've perceived it as being something that's a source of pride — something that people around the world look at as being a very positive force in the world. That unquestionably has changed. I think that Americans almost feel apologetic about what our nation has stood for and what it's been doing and I think reversing that and restoring the sense of pride that Americans have about being Americans is equally important for the American dream. (Watch the video.)

VARTAN GREGORIAN: Photo by Robin Holland The American Dream for me is not just economic success but to have faith in the future and faith in the system, our governmental system and the values for its times. So I value America for its citizenship, not just economic opportunity. A citizenship has obligations to know about America, to participate in its economic, cultural, scientific, and especially political life for America. Citizenship is not for free. It comes with a historical responsibility. (Watch the video.)

WILLIAM GREIDER: Photo by Robin Holland The United States as a nation, as a people, have got some really hard passages ahead. People, I think, know what some of them are. My belief is we can get through those, and if the broad ranks of American citizens will step up and take responsibility, we can emerge as a far better place, actually. I mean, a society that is both more fulfilling of its ideals, but also perfectly comfortable the good life however you wish to define it. But when I say step up, that means people have to change too. ItΉs not just about political reform and financial reform and dealing with global warming and dealing with an oversized military and etc, etc. Its about Americans kind of reconsidering what they really want in this society, and what really matters. (Watch the video.)

BOB HERBERT: Photo by Robin Holland I think the American dream is in trouble, and maybe even on life support. But I don't think it's a hopeless situation. We have to begin to get serious. We have to be more mature about things. And focus on some very important issues. One, we have to end this terrible war in Iraq. We have to figure out ways to put more Americans to work at better wages. We have to do something substantial about fixing the health care industry, about developing health coverage for, if not all Americans, as many as possible, close to all Americans. And we have to renovate our public education system so that kids who come out of high school are in fact ready for college, for the real world of work.

If we do all of that, that's an extremely heavy lifting, I think we can revitalize the American dream. If we don't do all of that, we're going to be in very, very serious trouble. (Watch the video.)

JIM HIGHTOWER: Photo by Robin Holland Well, it's really the same thing it's always been and that is the founding values of our country. That's what Americans want — economic fairness, social justice, equal opportunity for all people. And that's up to us. Always has been. The start of the country came in pursuit of that ideal. And all of the intervening agitation in the decades since has been in pursuit of it. So, it is what we will make it. I like the Patti Smith song-- "People have the power. The power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the earth from fools." (Watch the video.)

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Photo by Robin Holland That every American can get the health care they need, when they need it, what they need, without fear that it will be financially ruinous for them or their family. And without having the financial consequences of illness overwhelm them at the time when they're overwhelmed already by the problems of illness itself. We need a health care system which attends to patients not money, and which actually reclaims the humanity of doctors and nurses and patients from the corporate interests who have seized it from us.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON:Photo by Robin Holland My concept of the American dream is well capsulized by Congressman Barney Frank who said that the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats presupposes that you have a boat.

In my American dream everybody has a boat. And for me that means that there are no children who go to bed hungry. Not simply in the United States but in every place that the United States has any influence. That every child goes home to a bed and the bed is that's child's bed and there is a home. That our children go to schools that are well staffed and that create a capacity to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to many of us in America but not to all of us.

My concept of the American dream is that that child can dream it with some chance that it may actually become real. And that people around the world will dream an American dream that leads them to aspire to the things that we have and to the things that we stand for. (Watch the video.)

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Photo by Robin Holland For me, the question of the American dream is always about collective action. It's not an end place to which we arrive; it's a process. It is the process of being together in our democracy. So for me the big question of the American dream has to do with whether or not we can together improvise and create something great.

I think the most important place for this is in the City of New Orleans. Since 2005, since Hurricane Katrina, the devastation there has suggested to me that we are not living up to the promise of the dream. And so if we can try to think about how we can develop a new New Orleans, I think it actually gives us a blueprint for a new America. And that America would look much closer to sort of Martin King's idea of the promised land. (Watch the video.)

JEAN JOHNSON:Photo by Robin Holland You know, everything that I've seen suggests to me that Americans are fair-minded, that they're capable of acting like adults about-- public policy. That they care about their neighbors, they care about the future. So my vision would be for us to begin to have a type of politics that calls on those qualities in the American public. Now we have politics that relies on slogans, relies on personalities. You know, we push and pull, and we're so hard on the people that are running for office. And you know, they are less than candid with us.

And I just think if we could get past it and have a more transparent, honest discussion about where we're going and what we're willing to do together, we really could have a society that meets people's idea of the American dream. We've gotten off track now, but I think we can get back on. (Watch the video.)

MARK JOHNSON:Photo by Robin Holland My vision for the future of the American dream is that we find a way to let every voice in this country have meaning and that we all take an active role in determining and creating the future for this country. So that we can remember that through the different groups in our society, we need to unite together to create something that inspires the rest of the world. (Watch the video.)

ROBERT JOHNSON:Photo by Robin Holland My hope is that future generations can feel that there's a correspondence between their effort, their talents and their rewards. That we won't become a class ossified society. That we won't become, how would I say? Cynical about our principles, like the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence.

That those words continue to mean something to all of us. And that people are not considered silly romantics for believing in those principles. I think that we need to have a prosperous economy. But my hope is that, someday, economic concerns are relieved somewhat by, John Maynard Keynes said, about the economic possibilities for our grandchildren.

That we can turn to questions of love, questions of culture, questions of psychological nourishment, that really aren't about material things. I hope that we can get to a place where health care, food, shelter are all understood. As FDR talked about, in his second Bill of Rights, as a part of what you have when you are and American, so that we can employ our creativity, not to fight off despair, but to enlarge possibilities for others. (Watch the video.)

SIMON JOHNSON:Photo by Robin Holland I'm an immigran to the United States. I've been here about 20, 25 years. I came to the US because I thought there was great promise here. And I became a US citizen about ten years ago because I thought it was such a great place to live. And, also, I was afraid that they would take away my social security if I didn't take out my citizenship.

It seems to me that over the past 25 years, the central message of that dream - has somehow slipped away from us. Or slipped away from me, if I can say that now.

Because I think it's about being able the move up. And being able to create a better life for yourself. And a better life for your kids. Or at least a decent standard of living for future generations. And for many Americans that doesn't happen anymore.

You've heard the statistics about the median income not going up. And about the poorer 15, 20 percent of- people really having lives that don't lead anywhere. And, of course, the statics on children's healthcare are-- for poorer communities, are absolutely shocking, given the wealth of the wealth of the country.

I think that doesn't have to be like that. I think that America was built collectively. And America has many people, many of my students at MIT, for example, really want to figure out how to have fulfilling professional lives, advance their own careers, and really contribute to society and put something back. One of the most successful courses we've had at MIT recently is a course where our students are MBA students, our business students, go work in Africa trying to figure out how to deliver healthcare to poor people more effectively.

They're invited by organizations that want their technical expertise. Now, that's a course the students wanted. That's a course we're delighted to provide. That's a course that's gone very well. It's Americans and people like me, who come to America, who want to stay on in America, who are who are taking-- taking this course by-- by and large.

And I think that's a wonderful thing. I think you want a leadership of the country and you want a broad middle class that is in it, not just for themselves, they're in it for their communities, they're in it for the people they work with, they're in it for the other families who go to the same whose kids go to the same

I think we need to get back to that sense of community. Annd I would say as a economist, as a PhD in economics, as a former chief economist of the IMF, as somebody who doesn't like to go out and spend lots of money, that's how I got the job at the IMF, believe me.

They ask you about that on the interview. I'm saying there is nothing that in this more community based, working together vision, that will impeded economic growth. And , actually, to the contrary. I think the reason we are having a crisis now, and the reason our growth has got off track, and the reason so many poor people don't see good prospects for themselves and their children, is because we've got so much inequality.

And because allowed so a few very wealthy people - to accumulate a massive amount of political power. I use this word with great reluctance, because I know it has a lot of historical significance, but we basically built-- a financial economic and political oligarchy in this country.

And unless and until we break that oligarchy, or break with that oligarchy, put that oligarchy behind us-- reform the banking system, change the way finance is organized in this country, unless and until we do that, we're not going to have anything that you or I will feel comfortable calling a dream, an an American dream. And the questions about the American dream will all be retrospective. What went wrong with the American dream? When did we lose the American dream. It's not my dream and it's not your dream for five guys on Wall Street to have hundreds of millions of dollars financed-- by the taxpayer.

That is a symbol. It's not the deep underlying problem. The deep underlying problem is the power structure. But it's a symbol that we've gone massively off track now. And it's a wakeup call. We need to wake up. We need to face these realities.

They are unpleasant realities. It is not nice to talk about them. But when you write about them, and I write about them on my blog, BaslineScenario.com, every day. I it resonates with people. And a lot of people-- professional people, people from the finance industry, write to me and say, "Yes, that is what's happening, and it must change."

I think it has to change, it has to change, really change, now. An I think we all have to work at it. I think we should speak truth to all of these so called authorities. Day in day out. We have the means to do it. We have the education. We have the internet. We should all make good use of it in this direction. (Watch the video.)

BILL T. JONES: Photo by Robin Holland Well, my vision of the future of the American dream is conditional. If we can make it through our problems around the climate, around the whole global economy and all, I believe we're going to be really able to start giving people what has been promised when this country was born: security, certain prosperity, the ability to pursue happiness. That's a big "if," though. It has something to do with the way we talk to each other now. We can make it. But it's not going to be easy. (Watch the video.)

EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN:Photo by Robin Holland My vision for the future of the American Dream is that we will be a country where racial status, racial identity is less important. Where this long heritage that we have been working so hard to overcome of slavery, of racial violence, lynching and other evils of our past, are behind us. And that that we've turned to face it. We've accepted the history. We've ended the denial about the past. And we are going into a future in which these racial divisions are no longer operative. They simply won't have the traction. They won't have the effect that they've had in the past. So that's one thing. It's hat Martin Luther King dream of a time when what matters is the content of one's character not the color of one's skin.

Secondly I see a time when every American with talent will be given an opportunity to contribute to the growth and productivity of the country. Right now we're losing talent in the schools of the America — the public schools — where so many children not being given that chance to develop their native intellectual capacity. We lose in that. I look for a nation that embraces all of its children and gives every child with talent the opportunity to discover the thing that will be able to light the light of creativity within them. That, we will be able to capture as a nation and go forward and make this century another century of America.

Thirdly, I look for the time when no child will die because they do not have dental insurance coverage. The story that caught my attention was the story of a boy whose mother did not take him to get an ordinary root canal. He had an abscessed tooth and because of the lack of dental attention a 12-year-old boy died because the infection that began in his tooth spread to his whole body and he died for the lack of simple medical, dental attention. I look forward to that time when lose no one to preventable illnesses or to curable diseases or conditions. We have the wealth — 700 billion — we have the wealth to be able to achieve these things.

Finally, I look for the time when America is a peaceful nation. A nation whose leadership comes from the use of both soft power, backed up by military possibility, but that we're less on a hair trigger to use our military power to preemptively attack other nations. My vision is that we are a prosperous country at peace where everyone in this country has the opportunity to realize their full potential. And our full productivity is unleashed -- our creativity is unleased and we are at the forefront of a nation with a sustainable energy policy out of this loops or wars for oil and other unfortunate misadventures. And we are at the leadership of technology innovation for a sustainable planet. (Watch the video.)

MARCY KAPTUR: Photo by Robin Holland I think that the future of the American dream is being tested. And that many of the preconceptions that we had, that our Republic was there for all the American people-- require due diligence now. And my dream is that every neighborhood in our country would have a sense of its own empowerment. That people could get work near to where they live, that they would be able to educate their children without worry, and without huge debt.

That they would be able to own a home, or to get decent rental rates. And that we would have communities where people knew one another and where there was civility among our people. And where our mass media help build people up, not tear them down. And where our youth would feel comfortable in the natural environment, and not be afraid of it, so that we could build a more sustainable country and world. (Watch the video.)

HARVEY J. KAYE:Photo by Robin Holland The American Dream that I have has to do with extending and deepening freedom, equality, and democracy. It doesn't have to do with big government. And it doesn't have to do with dispossessing everyone to create some kind of great commune. It has to do with the idea of creating opportunity. But it means affording people the capacity to pursue those opportunities. In the most immediate sense, one has to be talking about national health care. And we don't even hear enough about single payer, for example.

But beyond that, it has to do with trying to engage people, and to talk to people about what matters in America. I think we need to create that kind of democratic conversation. And we've been heading in the direction in which we have talking heads on cable TV, taking advantage of people's emotions, rather than their intellects. So, extend and deepen freedom, equality, and democracy. (Watch the video.)

DR. JIM YONG KIM: Photo by Robin Holland"In many ways, I've had the great privilege of living the American dream. I came as an immigrant from a very poor country, grew up in Iowa, and I was recently asked to be the president of Dartmouth College.

But when I'm asked this question about the American dream, I think that we can settle for no less than America being the force of good in the world that will take on the most difficult problems. And because of our ingenuity, because of our drive, but because of also our deeply generous heart, that people like me, coming from all over the world, will come to the United States, and be able to take on the most difficult problems and solve them.

Not just for Americans, but for everybody. For example, global health is one that I've worked on for years and years and years, but there are so many problems in the world that require our attention. So for me, the American dream is to benefit from the tremendous resources in the United States, but then have an impact that's felt throughout the world." (Watch the video.)

ROBERT KUTTNER: Photo by Robin Holland We have a moment right now where a different dream has failed, the dream that everybody is on their own, that whether you make it in America-- depends-- just on your own initiative and your own hard work. That version of the dream is half true. It leaves out the fact that some people have a head start. Some people have lead weights on their shoes. They start out with a background that doesn't give them the same education, doesn't give them the same advantages that other families have. And-- they grow up with two strikes against them.

So my dream for the future is that given the great crisis that we face, that we reclaim our political democracy so that every child born in America has the same chance as every other child has to go to a good school, to go to college or a university without being saddled with student loans that they can't afford to pay, or that they have to drop out for years to find the money to stay in college.

I would like to see an America where-- everybody who works hard makes enough money to live decently and to support a family, where health insurance is a right and not a privilege. We need to change the structure of our society so that we all have the economic opportunity and the security to live our private dreams. And our private dreams are not about health insurance. They're not about college loans. They're about building families and finding our own relationship with eternity, and having connections we value with loved ones.

There's a line of the poet John Keats that I like to quote. Keats wrote, "Love in a hut with water and a crust is, love forgive us, cinders, ashes and dust." Unless we take care of people's economic needs, we rob them of their private dreams, we rob them of the possibilities that we all have as unique human beings. That's my dream for the future of America. (Watch the video.)

JAMES KWAK: Photo by Robin Holland I think that for the last decades maybe centuries, we've associated the American Dream with economic prosperity. So, we talk about people working hard, having good jobs, making money, owning a house, and so on. And seeing each generation be more prosperous than the last. And I think that I'm not sure those days have to come to an end. But I think that in a way it's the wrong thing to focus on.

I have a daughter, Willow, she's three and a half years old now. And I don't want her to grow up thinking that the American Dream means making more money than your parents did. I think we have for a long time, we have overlooked two things. I mean, we've overlooked the degree of inequality in our society. We've overlooked the degree to which people suffer, not only economically, but psychologically and in many ways.

And I think at the same time, we've overlooked the benefits that all of us can gain by helping other people. I think that-- I mean, just as a slightly nerdy point. There's been a lot of psychological research showing that if you help other people, it makes you happier. And then I think also, I think the American Dream should really be one that encompasses the idea that everyone can live a fulfilling life and be happy doing what doing something they find tolerable if not enjoyable.

And that we should not have to be embarrassed about the degree of inequality in our and suffering in our society. That's the world I would like my daughter to grow up in. And that's the version of the American Dream that I would like to look forward to. (Watch the video.)

JONATHAN LANDAY: Photo by Robin Holland I want to be an optimist about where the American dream is and where it's going but it's really hard in these circumstances. And I think maybe we're going to have to start redefining what the American Dream is. The American Dream for a long time was powered by petroleum and easy credit and values that have been severely compromised in recent years. And I think in order to restore the American dream or at least reconstitute it in a more modest way, we're going to have to reexamine all of that and come to new conclusions and ideas about how we incorporate those into the future of this country. (Watch the video.)

SARA LAWRENCE-LIGHTFOOT: Photo by Robin Holland My hopes for this vision are that we will become a country where there will be justice and equality and reconciliation. Justice in the sense that there will be fewer differences and inequalities of resources, material, emotional, spiritual among people. That there will be reconciliation across groups, where there have been difference and where there has been dissonance, and where there has been conflict. And that we will be able to sustain this great diversity among us.

Recognizing the importance of differences. Recognizing the unique aspects of culture and ethnicity and race. But also, in some ways, bridging those differences, and recognizing at the same time the universal human experiences so that we will be both recognizing the ways in which variety enriches our society. Difference enriches a society. Diversity enriches a society. But also that in order for society to cohere, in order for it to have integrity, in order for it to move together in common purpose, we have to express the universal human dimensions of it, as well. So, that's the beginning of my hope and vision for society. (Watch the video.)

JOHN LITHGOW: Photo by Robin Holland Well, the future of the American dream, I would just love to see us return to the past of the American dream. You know, this is a moment of extraordinary optimism and extraordinary fear. We've been there before, and American positivism has managed to overcome our fears. And that's my hope. And I'm pretty sure we're going to do it. (Watch the video.)

BARRY LOPEZ: Photo by Robin Holland Part of the vision, I guess, if you're an American, is the creation of circumstances that promote justice. So I guess my vision — that is, my request of the future — would be the creation of an environment in which just relations were more possible. And I think one way to achieve that is to concentrate, all of us, on establishing for our conversations an atmospher of profound courtesy towards each other and of respect for each other's way of knowing. And that's going to require that we leave behind to some extent those things that we fiercely believe to be right and true. We are not going to get out of this predicament and become what our founders hoped we would be unless we learn how to listen to other people. (Watch the video.)

GLENN LOURY: Photo by Robin Holland What I hope for with the American dream is that we as a nation would adopt the capacity for constructive self-criticism to a greater degree than we have done. And not rest on our laurels; and not be content to pat ourselves on the back — the greatest nation in the history of the world, the freest country in the world, the propagator of the values of progress — and so on.

But that we would come to be able to learn from our mistakes. Learn that we can't dictate events elsewhere in the world, that we have to work in cooperation and collaboration with people who may not share all of our ideas. Learn that our democracy, though great, is far from perfect. And that our structures of opportunity, though substantial still have great pockets of despair where people are not included. And that we would have the courage not only to criticize ourselves, but then to embrace the changes that we need to make in order for our reality to comport more closely with our ideals. (Watch the video.)

ROBERTO LOVATO: Photo by Robin Holland The American Dream needs to be borderless. I think the American Dream is borderless but we don't know it. If we maintain an idea that we have an American Dream that's just ours we're going to stay in the same economic, political and cultural rut that we're in. We're in a global world as the economy is showing us.

I think that the degree to which we teach our children to respect people in other countries and the degree to which we open our children's eyes to the relationship between what happens in this country and what happens in China. What happens in China infects us here — whether you're talking about the environment, whether you're talking about economic development. Or you're talking about the negative side of which are wars, conflict, or domestically racism.

We need to fundamentally alter the American Dream. Because the American Dream as we knew always had a foundation of imperialism, of domination of other countries of domestic racism. The degree to which we can truly overcome the downside of the dream, the invisible side of the dream is the degree to which we and the rest of the world not just survive but thrive. (Watch the video.)

JANE MAYER: Photo by Robin Holland I think about my daughter and I hope that she lives in a country that is living at peace and prosperity and has opportunity. As a reporter I have to say that I hope we live in a country where people can get great and balanced information and newspapers can still deliver it. (Watch the video.)

JOHN MCWHORTER: Photo by Robin Holland My vision of the future of the American dream is one where different degrees of access to it are not based on color to any significant extent. And I believe that while there will always be different degrees of access to it, that the amount of the difference is lessened from what it is today for people of any shade. (Watch the video.)

GREG MITCHELL: Photo by Robin Holland I feel that I should address this question from my primary area of interest and expertise which is the media, and I would say that in pursing and achieving the American dream for the many that will follow - and I have a son who is 21 years old so I certainly have worries about his future.

I certainly would want to emphasize the importance of maintaining a free press, media which does its best work and is well-funded and is respected by its practitioners and by the people that consume it. Because they really are constitutionally and in other ways the watchdog of our democracy. Every slight and every nick that hurts our media either in credibility or in their own performance is a severe blow to keeping the public informed which in turn allows people to really know what is going on in the country what is important and what they need to do and what would help them in achieving the American dream. (Watch the video.)

GREG MORTENSON: Photo by Robin HollandMy vision is that, first of all, I think the real hope for peace is with our children. But the other thing is that I think we can learn from our elders. And one thing that I've learned, — I go to about 200 schools here in the U.S. And I ask schools at every school how many of you have spent a lot of time talking to your elders or your grandparents about the Depression or World War II or the Vietnam War or the civil rights movement.

And the average in the U.S. is about ten percent. So my dream would be that that would be 100 percent. And I would like every child in this country to be able to spend time with their elders and learn from them about our folklore, our culture, our heritage, our traditions. And also to learn that despite whatever happens in history, we can have hope and we can have peace. And I think once we've learned from our elders then we can really impart that with our kids and we can have a better future for the American dream. (Watch the video.)

VICTOR NAVASKY: Photo by Robin Holland There are a lot of people who will say that the American dream has become a nightmare. The other way of thinking about it is that you have to go to sleep before you can dream and America has gone to sleep in terms of its original values. So from that perspective maybe there is some hope for this country. (Watch the video.)

JOHN NICHOLS: Photo by Robin Holland The future of the American Dream will be what Tom Paine intended. And that is that we fully realize the rights now promises of that enlightenment moment when this country was founded. The fact of the matter was the founders were wise enough to understand that America was never going to be fully formed. In 1776 or 1787 or 1986 or 1987 or 2010. America will always be in a process of improvement. In a progressive evolution, if you will.

And so, I think the future of the American Dream really is in us. The Golden Age is in us. We will decide what it is. But my sense is that ultimately we will be Tom Paine's America. John Adams said back in the late 1790s that he was afraid that this was the age of Paine. People wanted too much freedom, too much liberty, too much control over their lives and their government. Well, Adams is wrong. It wasn't the age of Paine. I'm hoping that the age of Paine is coming. And that we will realize that as Payne said in his wonderful essay, "We have it in our power always to being the world over again. To make it better than it has ever been. (Watch the video.)

MARTHA NUSSBAUM: Photo by Robin Holland In this context of thinking about religion and equality, my vision would be of an America in which we each recognize that we each have a conscience, that each of us is searching for the meaning of life - a very hard thing to do - and that we agree to respect one another as equals as we carry out that search. Than means giving each of us lots of space to pursue that search for meaning but it also means not setting up an orthodoxy or making public governmental statements creating in-groups and out-groups. So that would be my vision.

Personally, I identify with the late I.F. Stone who was always an optimist and I start out believing in our Bill of Rights and that that's the best guarantee of the future of the American dream. (Watch the video.)

THEODORE OLSON: Photo by Robin Holland I'm very much of an optimist about America and the American Dream. I think I was partially influenced not just by growing up in California and watching what the American people can do. And I grew up in Silicon Valley and I'm inspired but that. I was also inspired by Ronald Reagan, who was a client and someone who his administration I worked in. He believed in the American spirit — the power of ideas and the power of freedom, and the ability under our Constitution to give people the power to be what they could be. And working together I think that there's a great future for the American Dream. It hasn't changed. It will be better and better. (Watch the video.)

TERRY O'NEILL: Photo by Robin Holland The future of the American Dream is going to-- include women being in the Constitution of the United States, recognized as fully-equal people in this country. (Watch the video.)

NELL PAINTER: Photo by Robin Holland I would love it if every American felt a stake in society. That's a very 19th century way of talking about it. And as if each person was connected to the society, and to the people around her or him.

And I think if we all felt that we counted in our culture, in our history, in our world that we might have less mayhem, less anomie, fewer people killing themselves and others-- that we could concentrate on making more than just ourselves all that we can be. That we would be connected to each other. And then also connected to the world. One of the beauties of our time is that there-- we have so many ways of reaching beyond where we are in our little corner.

We can reach to people on the other side of the world. Sometimes they're our family. Those people could be part of how we function as individuals, as family members, as people in a neighborhood or a state and also as citizens of the world. I would like us all to feel a stake in our society and our future. (Watch the video.)

PARKER PALMER: Photo by Robin Holland Well, the very language "American dream" makes me a little nervous — because I believe in holding dreams in tension with reality. It's not that I disbelieve in dreams. But I think that holding the tension between a vision and what's actually happening is really critical. And I think there's been much in American life that has gone toward the dream without hanging onto the reality.

We constantly forget, if we ever really knew, that in the founding of this country African Americans were treated as less than full human beings in the very documents-- three fifths of a human being, as I recall. Whatever the fraction was, it was an abomination. And so I think that the dream of equality, the dream of freedom, the dream of the pursuit of happiness is a very important dream. And I'm glad that I was lucky enough to be born an American.

But I have a lover's quarrel with my own country around the difficulty that our culture has in holding together the vision and what's happening on the ground. So the future of the American dream, it seems to me, depends very heavily on our ability to bring those pieces back together, on our ability to say we are not the noblest nation in the world but we aspire to nobility.

We are not equal and free for everybody. But we aspire to that. And that doesn't mean just saying those words. That means cultivating what Robert Bella has called the habits of the heart that allow us to hold that tension, cultivating them in our schools, in our colleges and universities, in our religious communities, in our voluntary associations. All of those little platoons, as Edmund Burke (PH) called them, where democracy either lives or dies depending on the habits of the heart that citizens of developing.

If we can devote ourselves in the years ahead in this time of hard reality to looking as carefully at reality as we have looked at the dream and learning to hold that paradox in creative life-giving ways then I think the dream will have a good future. If we can't, it's going to vaporize like dreams do in real life when you wake up and can't even remember them and find yourself right back where you were before. (Watch the video.)

PHILIP PAN: Photo by Robin Holland For me, the American dream has always been tied to the notion that this is a country that welcomes people from around the world. My parents came here in the 1960s, and they became Americans. And I was born here, and I became an American. I guess my vision for the future of the American dream would be this continues to be a country that welcomes people from around the world, and people coming from different backgrounds and different situations. People, especially, I think, people who are facing hardship overseas. This country continues to bring them here and give them opportunity. (Watch the video.)

ORLANDO PATTERSON: Photo by Robin Holland My vision of the American dream is an America which is able to make available its enormous resources, the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world, to all its citizens. To remove poverty from this society, which it is quite capable of doing. And to provide the resources and the education and knowledge that every American needs.

My vision of the American dream too is one in which it finally realizes the goal of genuine intercultural and interethnic relations in which people live with each other, but also are curious about each other's cultures, and interact with each other and intermarry with each other and love each other. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

MICHAEL PERINO: I think it's a strong one, or at least I hope it is. I certainly see it in my students at Saint John's. I think, you know, they're kids who, for the most part, come from not the elite of the area. I think they're kids who hunger for something better. And I think they succeed, very many of them do, to a large degree. And I certainly hope the vision — the future for the American dream is strong.

I have two kids who are nine and 11. You know, certainly one of them's current goal is to be a professional football player. The other one wants to be an inventor. And, you know, I'm certainly hopeful and confident that they'll be able to reach those goals. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

MELODY PETERSEN: An America where healthcare is more about health than medicine.




KEVIN PHILLIPS: Photo by Robin Holland My sense of what's going to happen to the American dream is that for prosperous Americans, for kids who come from well-off families, who get the breaks needed in education and skills as well as capital, that America still has plenty of opportunities. I think the definition of the American dream as really intended when it was tossed out as an idea was that most Americans would have it. And that was a part of the American dream, the size, the magnitude of the percentage of people in this country that could enjoy those opportunities.

I do think that's shrinking. And I don't really see that. It comes back to anything resembling the opportunity patterns that we've had in previous high points in either the 20th century or in the 19th. But obviously that's a worrisome thing. And, in many ways, it taints what could be a fulfilled American dream for the smaller number of people because it wouldn't have that old majesty and-- breadth within a society. So I think that's some reason for concern. (Watch the video.)

ERICH PICA: Photo by Robin Holland I think my generation, we have a historic opportunity right now. We have health care crisis, a global warming crisis, and just a crisis of confidence. In the next 20, 30, 40 years, I want to see the United States and the world solve the major problems.

I want to see an energy revolution where we have renewable energy, energy efficiency. And we're not polluting our air and our water just to turn on a light switch. I want health care for everyone. We shouldn't be struggling in our communities to pay the bills and to make sure that we're being kept healthy, and that we can pay our medical bills.

And we need to feel empowered to talk about our communities. To talk to one another. Right now, we're being divided by special interests. We're being divided by the Internet. We're being divided by highways and roads. We need to reestablish the community that we need to actually create a better society for everybody. That's what I see for our future. (Watch the video.)

MICHAEL POLLAN:Photo by Robin Holland Well, I don't know if this vision covers all of it. But a big part of it is our identity as consumers and producers. And I can imagine a time, hopefully not too far away, where we have taken back control of our eating. Which, you know, food is the biggest part of the economy, and right now we have delegated it to very large corporations who are growing food in a way that suits their interests much more than ours. And so I look forward to a day where people once again know a couple very simple things. You know, where their food comes from, maybe even who grew it, where they are cooking it themselves, where they are reconnected through their food with the American landscape. We've all gotten very far removed from the soil that ultimately supports us, and we really think that food comes form the supermarket. And we will not solve any of our environmental problems until we take a really hard look at where our food comes from. Because its key to climate change, it is key to pollution problems, it is key to public health. It is the nexus of so many different issues. And it is something that all of us don't have to wait for the government, for a program, for a bill through Congress, to begin to change. And we have an opportunity now that we did not have ten or twenty years ago to reconnect to the source of our food, and make choices -- voting with our forks -- that will usher in a whole new way of connecting to the American earth. (Watch the video.)

WENDELL POTTER: Photo by Robin Holland My vision for America is one in which every American has access to good quality care, and has good coverage. And knowing that they will not be forced into bankruptcy if they have high medical claims. And that they won't be locked into jobs and stay there, in jobs they're not happy with, that they're staying there because they are fearful of leaving, that they will lose their benefits. Or fearing that they're just one layoff away from being in the uninsured, the ranks of the uninsured. I think that the country can benefit so much by a better health care system that we can become stronger and more competitive internationally, with a better health care system, one that's more equitable. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

ADOLPH REED: That's a good question. First of all I'd say I'm not sure of what the American Dream is. There are a lot of them. A lot of different people have all kinds of different dreams. But, we typically mean when people talk about the American Dream it's kind of a shorthand for a laundry list of assumptions: being able to own a house, being able to have a stable job and a good career, the idea that your kids to be better off or at least no worse off than you were. Frankly, that version of the American Dream, to the extent that it's not a stereotype, is a very historically specific one. It's a product of the New Deal era and of the active involvement of the federal government in a providing a system of social support that made it possible for people to dream dreams like that.

For instance the dream of home ownership wasn't on the radar screen for even the vast majority of even middle-class Americans until federal housing policy of the 1930s made it possible for individuals to own homes. The notion of a stable job with good employer-provided benefits is itself more a product of the post-war period and a strong labor movement especially in the industrial sector.

These are precisely the things that have been under attack in American life for the past 25-30 years. I can recall hearing a pundit talk in the late to mid 1980s who said that this was likely to be the first cohort of Americans who are likely not to be better off than their parents were. And we've seen how all this has played out.

Actually, what happened was powerful right-wing economic and other conservative political interests decided to take back or to gut the system of social protection to take back the social benefits that had made it possible for Americans to pursue that version of the American dream. Of course there were others as well. But in so far as the stereotypical notion of the American Dream is on the table for consideration of what the future is going to be like. Unless the American public or unless the society can alter its priorities and restore a fundamental commitment to sense of fairness and justice and programmatically not in rhetoric than we can say that that version of the American Dream is going to be reduced to dim memories or abstract pieties or cudgels to beat people who are defined a losers over the head with. (Watch the video.)

ROBERT REICH: Photo by Robin Holland I like to think we're entering a new era-- in which the "we" substitutes for the "me." You see, there has been always a competition in American culture and society between the triumphant individual, the rags-to-riches story — the personal acquisitiveness, the success, the entrepreneur, the cowboy on the one hand and the sense of social responsibility, the interconnectedness, the interdependence — the city on the hill — the understanding that we're all in this together.

We go through different eras. I think we've just ended an era in which it was all about me. Those "me" periods do tend to end with huge financial cataclysms. The last "me" period ended in 1929. And then we had a "we" period. I think we're going to start a "we" period now. I think peoplein terms of the American dream are going to think more about their communities, more about others — the drive for personal consumption, just more and more stuff, more and more acquisition — is going to be subdued in part because people won't be able to afford it anyway. But I think that —and I like to think and I like to believe that in this next period there will be much greater social consciousness and awareness that the "we" sector of the economy will grow. (Watch the video.)

SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: Photo by Robin Holland The American dream needs to be above all things, transgenerational. It needs to connect our fathers' legacy, their struggles, their hardships, their experiences, with our current generation and our children's generation. From a biblical standpoint, I would say connecting Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There has to be a transgenerational element. Will we leave this national better off than the way we received it, even this world? That's part of the American dream.

Second, it must be multi-ethnic. It must embrace the mosaic, the diversity of this nation, the strength of diversity. That's what truly makes America strong. Transgenerationalism, multi-ethnicity.

And three, there must be a prophetic element. Prophetic means speaking truth, truth telling, truth to power, justice, righteousness. Addressing the issues of those that are around us in need. Caring for every single person around us. The collectiveness of the village, the culture, of looking beyond ourselves. And making sure that at the end of the day, we leave a lot more behind than we ever take away. (Watch the video.)

ELIZABETH RUBIN:Photo by Robin Holland Well, I think I have two visions. One of them would be that the American dream becomes something that every human being on the planet can use as an idea and as a place to think about and imagine what they can do with their lives-- which would be absolutely anything, whatever their dream is. And, that the American dream becomes something that is about imagination for people all over the world, and I think to some extent that happened with this election.

But also it would be wonderful if one day the American dream, the word America started to dissipate and it became a global idea. Because somehow, wrapped up in the American dream is the notion that it can only happen if you are in America. And I would like to see that become a world dream, you know? People around the world can have the same dreams and be able to fulfill them the way people can by coming to America. You shouldn't have to come to America anymore to have the American dream. So that would be my vision of the American dream. (Watch the video.)

PHILIPPE SANDS: Photo by Robin Holland I sincerely hope that the United States reconnects to the values that it promoted domestically and internationally that ran in the 40s and the 50s and afterwards --a value which is based on equality and on justice and in particular on the rule of law both domestically and internationally. That has been violated in the last eight years and what America needs to do more than anything is reconnect with that system of values. Because if America doesn't show that type of leadership no one else is going to fill that slot. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

DAVID SIMON: I hope that everyone gets to see the game on Saturday, surrounded by family and friends.




DAVID SIROTA: Photo by Robin Holland My hope is that we have a country that begins to aspire to not live in fear. And by that I mean there are so many fears in this world that really bear down on the typical American. And I'm not just talking about fear of terrorism. I'm talking about fear of losing your job, fear of losing your healthcare, fear of losing your pension, fear of not being able to pay to put your kids through college. We are living in a culture of fear.

And we, I think, need to recalibrate our dreams from everybody and everyone for themselves and everybody wants to essentially win the lottery and everybody else be damned to --let's, as a society, come together to figure out how to reduce the number of fears that bear down on ordinary people. And if that means a universal healthcare program, better pension protection, a government that actually is serious about lifting the economy for everybody and not just for those at the top then that's the kind of American dream I think that can really lift our country to make it as the old cliché goes, the shining city on a hill. (Watch the video.)

HOLLY SKLAR: Photo by Robin Holland My vision for the future of the American dream is first of all revitalizing — stopping the reversal of the American dream - where we're kind of going backwards instead of forwards. But as we go forward it would be one a country that is sustainable, that is healthy, in which people can live up to their opportunity and in which they are not always afraid. And I think this is really a fundamental point.

There are many other countries which you go to and you don't feel that same sense of fear. I mean, obviously in Canada, Europe, in many countries you don't feel like "Oh my goodness if I lose my job I am going to lose my healthcare and my kids may not be able to get the medical attention that they need or I may not be able to get the medical attention we need. That I'm going to have keep working basically until I die. That I have to go to work when I'm sick. All this needs to go away. This is a terrible thing. It's a terrible thing for a country that certainly has enough to support all of its people in a decent living standard.

We need to act like a democracy. We have to have an American dream that reflects that fact that we're supposed to be a democracy in which the country is supposed to work for all of us and not just some of us. In which the country can and should say what's good for business is good for workers. That we can't have a health economy unless we have healthy people. We can't have healthy businesses that are based in communities that aren't healthy in which their workers aren't healthy. More of a notion that we're all in this together. That we can have a decent future. That people can get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. That people who want to start a small business can be able do it.

One important point in my vision of the American dream. We've moved to a place where college should be publicly accessible in the same way that high school is. That if you want to go to college you should be able to go to college - not go into debt for it but college should be a public responsibility to provide. That it would certainly have some form of universal healthcare where healthcare is a right and not just a privilege.

Again, where we could have a society that is a full-employment society. Today we have full prisons but not full employment. What we need instead is less people in prison and more people in employment. There are many features to it but certainly these are some of the fundamental ones. (Watch the video.)

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH: Photo by Robin Holland I would like the American dream to be more provocative about inclusion and have it be less understood as finding a way to be exclusive. To have an exclusive life. To find a way to have a more inclusive life. And by that I mean not just in terms of enriching the betterment of people around us, but how we interact with the rest of the world. So that all of our aspirations can include the overall goodness of the human race. (Watch the video.)

DONNA SMITH:Photo by Robin Holland Certainly my vision for the American Dream down the road has to include healthcare justice. I don't see how we can move together towards all the other great things that the United States has always aspired to be — a beacon of freedom for people, and of individual rights where hard work means that you achieve some things that you'd like to in your life -- unless we solve this issue of the discrepancy of health care between one person and the other in this nation. I was raised in a very conservative family, but also with pretty strong Christian values. And I look at what's happening around me to people who are struggling for health care concern and I worry so much about what's being put forward right now as families struggle. It's not okay with me. And what I'd like my grandchildren and my children to be able to experience down the road is the ability to achieve their dreams without being shackled by wondering how I'm going to get health care, staying in jobs that may not be fulfilling because they want to keep the benefits or making other life choices because they're being really restricted by the health care situation. We can fix that, we're better people than that. I was raised better than this and all of us were, to be more just and humane to one another and that's what I hope for. (Watch the video.)

GEORGE SOROS: Photo by Robin Holland If you mean an ever-increasing living standard, then I think that that dream needs to be revised -- because we have been living beyond our means. And we now have a reckoning. This financial crisis will result in lower consumption. And our ability to suck up the savings of the entire world and use it for consumption has come to an end.

Now that doesn't mean that we will be forever condemned to a lower standard, but we have to adjust. And we also have to adjust from consumption which is very wasteful — for instance, of energy — to a different way of living. And I don't think that that is necessarily such a bad thing. And I think that — looked at the right way — I think people could feel pretty good about making some sacrifices to prevent us all cooking together in global warming. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

ELLEN SPIRO: My American dream is about freedom, which is about tearing down walls, not erecting them. And it's about freedom from fear. It's about possibility and hope. (Watch the video.)

PIERRE SPREY: Photo by Robin Holland My vision or perhaps my hope is that Americans will make some of the great ideas of this country that we've only achieved very partially like tolerance, religious tolerance, ideological tolerance, intolerance for greed, ambition, and politicians — that we will make those original ideals, none of which we achieved very well stronger. And the most important place to start is probably by greatly increasing our intolerance of politicians; that is, by, independent of their ideology, never believing that they will save us, never believing that their nostrums will cure our economic ills or our military ills or our creative ills.

But to rely on ourselves, you know, to fulfill kind of the promise of, you know, the creative individualist that America supposedly was founded on. Those ideals can be approached. But, first and foremost, my have to be approached by avoiding the formulas of religion, ideology, and political pap. (Watch the video.)

BRYAN STEVENSON: Photo by Robin Holland My hope for the future of the American Dream is that we actually overcome poverty. We have 40 million people in this country in dreadful conditions of poverty. I believe that the great American Dream calls us to do better. To create true equality, true opportunity in this country than we've done.

My vision also causes me to hope that we confront more honestly the legacy of bias and discrimination — our history of race. That we be more truthful about the consequences of slavery and segregation and what it's done to our thinking. And that we reconcile ourselves to that history with a more hopeful, more honest, more committed future of racial equality. Because of the work I do, my vision of the American Dream also urges me to hope for making the language of freedom more meaningful.

We've got 2.3 million people in jails and prisons in this country. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. And I think the land of the free requires us to reduce that prison population. I'd like to see the American prison population reduced by half in the next five or ten years. And I think that would be a great achievement.

But ultimately, I want the American Dream to embrace broken people. People who are marginalized. People who are suffering. I want us to recognize that each person is more than the worst thing we've ever done. I want us to believe that if someone tells a lie, they're not just a liar. I want to accept that if someone steals something, they're not just a thief.

I want us to entertain the notion that even if someone kills someone, they're not just a killer. And because of that, there's this basic human dignity that must be respected. And I also want us to recognize that-- in this country the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice. And I believe to be a true just society we've got to confront the conditions of poverty, the challenges of racial inequality, the difficulties of mass incarceration. And move towards something better. And then finally, I guess, I want the American Dream to embrace the idea that you judge this country, you judge the society not by how you treat the rich, the privileged, the protected, the favored people, but how you treat the poor, the hated, the condemned, the incarcerated. And then and only then do I think we'll actually meet the dream with the kind of commitment that justice requires. (Watch the video.)

MARY SWEETERS: Photo by Robin Holland I would like to see an American future where people have a say in making their communities better. Where their environment is clean. Their water's safe to drink. They have great education. They have access to affordable health care. Where children don't have to worry what their future is like. Where climate change is something that we've already solved. Where they feel like they have a voice in their government. Where they don't feel like their government is being run by those who have a lot of money. Where it's more equitable and more balanced. (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

DEBORAH SZEKLEY: I have an interesting take on the American Dream. I've been working with poor people throughout Latin America and the Caribean, so I get to hear the American Dream all the time, and it's opportunity. They all dream of coming to America, where people are free, where people's own merit can be recognized, where people can work for the future — to them, opportunity. We draw the best of the best from all these countries. It takes real guts for a little gal in Guatemala to get to her aunt in Chicago. She doesn't speak the language, and the money is put together by the whole family. It's an investment, their venture capital. The whole process is that American Dream. There is opportunity, there is freedom of choice. Their freedom — the whole world awaits. In their countries, they're very limited, very restricted, and they look at us as the most marvelous country.

So for me, opportunity — I've really lived the life of opportunity. I've been extremely fortunate, I don't think where I am today could have happened in any other country but our own.

[...]

To opportunity, I think we have to add justice. We still have justice in our country. People can still believe. I think that's very important. That when you have a just cause, you can speak up and not be afraid. Thinking again about talking to the immigrants, and to inner city young kids, that is very important. So I'm going to say opportunity and justice is our dream. (Watch the video.)

MATT TAIBBI: Photo by Robin HollandThat's a really difficult question to answer. I think - my idea about the American dream is that it's not something that's going to change with time. I think Americans have always been stubbornly independent people. And the basic idea of the American dream is that everybody has an opportunity to make something of himself without interference from the government or from entrenched powers.

I would hope that that continues to be the case in the future. I think even though things are very, very difficult in this country now, especially economy, it's still a place-- where there's an enormous degree of political freedom. And people come to this country to make something of themselves. And I hope that that's always true of America. And I think it will be. (Watch the video.)

SAM TANENHAUS: Photo by Robin Holland"I think that for us to recover our best sense of ourselves. To look back at the period when historically we seem to be most vibrant, most united as a country. I'd say one period was the early 1960s, another actually would be the turn of the century, for all the strife there was. The reason we were united was the belief in the American Dream itself, of a new life, that America is the land of the future, and that the past, and the historical past — although it can never be entirely excised — would not slow us down, not slow any particular individual down is the one we need to recover. The sense of individual possibility that is boundless." (Watch the video.)

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Photo by Robin Holland I want to take what's best from every different era. So, I'd like to take the best part of the earliest 20th Century to me was the civic involvement. Five percent of all Americans were presidents of their local volunteer association. That's enough involvement to allow for real responsiveness. So, I'd like that part in the future. Five percent. You know, some active involvement.

I'd love the second half of the 20th Century, you have this extraordinary recognition of the rights of minorities. Both in terms of initially, and most importantly in terms of-- racial minorities and then second as we've moved towards recognizing the rights of gays and others.

And then I would love to bring back the best of the 19th Century, which I see as, you know, the real culture of independence. So, for all these things to happen, we need to have a much more decentralized model. So, it's-- progressive decentralized progressive federalism. Where more powers in the state governments. More powers in the in the city governments. And we have a much greater level of involvement while retaining the best parts of the legal-- victories of the second half of the 20th Century. (Watch the video.)

RICHARD TRUMKA: Photo by Robin Holland First of all, I'd like to see an America where everybody who wants to work can have a job that'll support their family. Where everybody has health care. Where everybody retires with dignity. And not have to worry about the late years where they get starved out. I think the best way to get there, for most working people, is through collective bargaining. So that you sit down with your employer as an equal, and you choose the path that's best for-- for both of you. You reward both for your efforts.

It's an America where people actually go to Washington, D.C. and actually try to solve problems, not point the finger at each other. Or a Governor and a State Legislature tries to do the same thing. An America where corporations have more loyalty to this country than they have to their bottom line. Where they think that it's important to be a good member of the community and the state and the country by creating jobs here. And creating good wealth here. And helping everybody share in that wealth. When that happens, all of us will get to smile a little more and say, "That's the America that I believe in." (Watch the video.)

Photo by Robin Holland

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: There's no one dream, but if I had to think of what I would hope for is respect, dignity, fairness, justice. Those are words that need to be fleshed in and filled in. But those to me are so much a part of what this country could be about in fulfilling its unfulfilled promise.

I also think of a country that doesn't have as downsized a politics of excluded alternatives that we live with now. And that citizens allowed -- given the space in our culture and politics and media -- to unshackle their imaginations and think boldly about what their dreams are. Because there's no one dream. But to be able to think creatively and boldly requires what I began with a sense of respect and dignity and the economic basis to think big and I think that's where the American Dream, the next American Dreams will come from. (Watch the video.)

JOHN WALCOTT: Photo by Robin Holland First of all I think it's important for us to remember our own history. The American dream has suffered some hard times before — harder probably than the ones we're living through now: The Civil War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor.

But I think looking at the future the ability of the dream to continue, for this country to remain a place of opportunity for everyone no matter where they started in life — physically, geographically, religiously, ethnically — depends on two things. One is our ability to get our energy problem under control. And with that comes our environmental problems, some of our economic problems.

The second thing is our education system. We're now competing in a global world against countries such and China and India who have worked very hard to advance technologically — to advance their economic and their educational systems. And we're losing our ability to compete with that and that's something that we need to address. But I think that if we can do those two things, and can find leadership that will help us do those things though they are difficult, we will come through this one too. (Watch the video.)

RON WALTERS: Photo by Robin Holland Well, I have devoted my career as an academic and an activist to building a truly democratic society. Free from the evils and the scourge of racism and sexism. And war. The kinds of things that can infringe upon people achieving their objectives and their own dreams.

And so I think that this will happen over a period of time. Perhaps may not happen at once. I'm thinking about a book that I recently published called THE PRICE OF RACIAL RECONCILIATION. It's a book that really looks at the question of reparation. But I think one has to conclude that reparations, if it comes in the form of fair restitution that really strikes at the long and unfinished job of dealing with the experience of African-Americans in this country will not happen at once.

Maybe it will happen in sort of the small steps and the achievements that African-Americans take. Things like having a Barack Obama become a nominee of the Democratic party for president. Or maybe even President of the United States. Or achieving the kind of economic progress that I think we want to achieve in this country in the corporate sphere. And in raising the kind of economic circumstances of the less fortunate. Tackling, finally, the problem of incarceration of African-Americans who are disproportionately languishing in those environments. And dealing with the scourge of poverty.

I think if we're able to make progress in these areas and in all the areas. It will not all come at once, but perhaps, over time. And what I think that that tells me is that we all people who want a humanistic vision of this country, a democratic vision of this country have to continue to struggle to achieve those discreet objectives for that goal to be reached. (Watch the video.)

MATT WELCH: Photo by Robin Holland I'm optimistic about the future of the American dream. I think we're living in what is rapidly becoming sort of a long tale America. That's from the book, THE LONG TALE, by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of WIRED Magazine. In which the idea of the supply and demand curve, what becomes interesting is what's happening at the end there. It's a individualized--people buying five copies of this book or this record or this CD.

Well, if you take that analogy and take it to American life, people are experimenting with all kinds of different arrangements for living, for technology, for coming up with alternative modes of communicating with one another. I'm very bullish about what's happening privately, the private pursuit of happiness and arrangements and contracts that are outside of the purview of government.

I'm most excited whenever we're talking about everything, except for the government of the United States. And I think what's best going to help facilitate further this great American dream, is the more the government stands back and let's this wonderful thing continue to happen. (Watch the video.)

PATRICIA J. WILLIAMS:Photo by Robin Holland I think that the American dream has become too closely aligned with easy clichés. So it's almost like a Coke commercial that we are the world or we can cure world hunger. And if we say it, it will become so. And I say this only two days after the 2008 presidential election in which when I went to vote there were lines around the block in which my 93-year-old mother got up with her walker and went to vote, in which my very young students went and helped push people to the polls, in which people used every bit of technology and manned phone banks.

And so I hope that the American dream becomes a new kind of civic engagement rather than simply the espousal of easy ideals and that this kind of engagement that we saw in the election of 2008 becomes a reconnection of a set of demands of government and a determination, a practical on-the-ground determination to see government respond to the requests and the needs of people in constructive ways, to make those ideals come true. (Watch the video.)

DR. SIDNEY WOLFE: Photo by Robin Holland To end the American nightmare that exists now for 45 million people with no health insurance and another 20-30 million people who are underinsured. It is a nightmare that's not only resulting in death, 20,000 people a year, but also lots of illness and injury. That is as a physician it is unacceptable. We need an American Dream that's real. That provides health insurance for everybody.

MONICA YOUN: Photo by Robin Holland My vision of the future of the American Dream is very much informed by my experience going door to door during the presidential caucuses and primaries. It's a situation where every citizen knows that his or her vote matters, and that he or she is able to inform him or herself about the issues. To know what matters, to feel like the vote counts.

And that's going to presuppose, I think, a couple of things. It's going to presuppose a government that it is not dominated by special interests. One in which the vote rather than the money matters. And it's also going to presuppose a free flow of information that doesn't currently exist in society. Information that is not dominated by pundits, but is, you know, powered by investigative journalism. In which ignorance is not something that can be exploited to political (Watch the video.)

MARILYN YOUNG: Photo by Robin Holland Well, in a funny way, I would like to eliminate the phrase. I think the phrase itself is a problem. It becomes a piece of an ideology that then is used to export wars and imperial adventures. It becomes a focus for quite impossible — and not even very attractive — consumerist goals here at home. I would like the future of this country to be a place where everyone is employed in jobs that are decent, decently paid, in which everybody without exception has medical care and everybody without exception has a possibility of going as far in terms of education as they wish to and it's possible for them to do.

I would like to see a country which feels safe inside itself and is safe inside itself in part because it deals justly outside its borders. I don't think that's a dream. I think that's entirely realizable. And in some ways, the older versions of the American dream got in the way of a much more simple approach to what's possible. (Watch the video.)

NANCY YOUSSEF: Photo by Robin Holland"I guess my vision would be a take away from the past. I come from a family of immigrants. Both of my parents came to the United States from Egypt in the '70s. They had $200 and no hope of anything except the American Dream. And today I get to go to the Pentagon every day. And get into the face of top Pentagon and defense leaders. I'm always amazed that someone of my background can be in the face of the top U.S. leaders. And I think it's a story that's only an American story. So, my vision for the future would be that that past and that story continues." (Watch the video.)

HOWARD ZINN: Photo by Robin Holland My visions for areally great American future is a country that renounces military power — a country that decides it is not going to use violence against other countries in the world in order to extend its power in the world.

I think of a country that will concentrate on using its enormous wealth to help people. That will no longer have this huge military budget, that will have free health care for all, free food. Yes, everybody is entitled to fundamental things. And I think of a country that is rich enough to give everybody all these things. Health care, and decent housing, and work, and so on. A country that will be respected by people all over the world, instead of as now, very often, feared by people all over the world. (Watch the video.)

MICHAEL ZWEIG: Photo by Robin Holland I think that the American Dream is going to be something that we are all going to have to fight for. The idea that there is a bright future ahead of us in the country is only to the degree that we can organize and fight for and make things happen against the opposition of a corporate elite and of a free-market mentality that says 'you're on your own and just do it on your own.' And that is a recipe of disaster for most American people.

I think the American Dream is going to have to be based and fulfilled as it always has been in the past, collective action for real democracy and economic justice. That's what we're going to have to do and it's going to be one hell of a fight. (Watch the video.)


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