Reclaiming the American Dream Through Community Service

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In his essay, “Economy,” Henry David Thoreau argues that luxuries do not provide happiness. More specifically, Thoreau argues that luxuries hinder the development of humans; he says, “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor” (13). In this passage, Thoreau is suggesting that it is wise not to live a luxurious life. In conclusion, Thoreau believes the number of luxuries a person has should not determine if a person has led a good life.
In my view, Thoreau’s insight into luxuries and life proves useful in discussing the transformation of the modern American Dream. Americans today tend to believe that luxuries and comforts determine if they have achieved the American Dream. Common aspects of the American Dream include buying a house and a car, but as Thoreau would argue, these materials serve no real purpose besides a false sense of prestige. Actually, commercialism has transformed the American Dream into a materialistic ideal, where, as for example, the more Apple products you have, the more successful you are. That is, you are not truly following the American Dream, but you are contributing to a much larger problem—slavery. Much like in Thoreau’s time, we use slavery, or at least a form of slavery, in the process of making luxuries. These luxuries, in turn, falsely measure your happiness, at the expense of others. Not many people will argue that slavery in any form is good, but why do we passively support such slavery in many of our luxuries? Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” directly responds that we should not supp...

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The amount of things an American has should not determine if she has achieved the American Dream. No, the virtues this country was founded should be the detriment of whether or not a person has achieved the American Dream. If an American joins with others to stop the injustices of the world through not only passive approval, but also active petitioning, community service, and advocating, we can definitely say she and others have achieved the American Dream because she upheld the virtues of life and liberty. Finally, we should not view the American Dream as a singular dream, but a national dream, that is the goal for a better and brighter future for all Americans.

Works Cited

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden, Civil Disobedience, and Other Writings: Authoritative Texts,
Journal, Reviews and Posthumous Assessments, Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton,
2008. Print.

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