Texts about the American Dream

Speeches

I Have a Dream

“I Have a Dream” refers to the American Dream with the purpose of ending segregation and promoting racial equality. The speech was delivered at a high point in the civil rights movement. Even today, it is one of the most known speeches in history.

Reclaiming the American Dream

The speech was delivered in 2007 during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. The main topic of Obama’s speech is the importance of reclaiming the American Dream. He talks about the significance of the American Dream and presents some of the measures he is prepared to take to see it revived if he is elected President of the United States.

The American Promise

The speech was held in 2008, during Barack Obama’s nomination for the presidency of the United States. In his speech, Obama mostly focuses on the concept of the American promise. Obama links the concept of the American promise with that of the American Dream and focuses on unity among all Americans.

The Gettysburg Address

Michelle Obama mainly focuses on the theme of the American Dream in her 2008 Democratic Convention speech. She does this by looking at both her husband’s and her individual experiences and the common experiences of American citizens. Obama believes that working hard assures great opportunities, no matter the circumstances in which one was born.

Novels, poems, and interviews

The Great Gatsby

Set in 1922, The Great Gatsby is full of descriptions of the lifestyle of the wealthy during that era. It was a time of huge social change; society was shifting after the chaos of World War I, and the traditional hierarchy of the aristocracy, the middle classes and the working class were changing. Some members of the middle classes had become very rich, causing a shift in economic power.

The New Colossus

"The New Colossus" explores the classic perception of the American Dream in a lyrical way. The main theme of the poem is the immigrant experience (in the US). The poet attributes to the Statue of liberty– and implicitly to the US – the role of a nursing mother for the immigrants. The statue brings them hope and symbolizes the better life they are searching for.

Call Me Arnold

“Call me Arnold” is an interview Studs Terkel conducted with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here, Schwarzenegger comments on his own version of the American Dream. Throughout the interview, he lists his achievements and emphasizes the importance of self-determination to show that achieving the American Dream is possible through hard work.

Adam

The text recounts an interview with Adam, a 25-year-old investment banker on Wall Street. The main topic of the text is how the American Dream is interpreted by representatives of Generation X.

Other texts

Below are further suggestions for texts or movies that may be relevant when working with the American Dream. We do not currently have study guides for these texts, but maybe you can be inspired to look for some of these titles yourself.

  • Capra, Frank - Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939 movie)
  • Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man (1952 novel)
  • Hansberry, Lorraine - A Raisin in the Sun (1959 play)
  • Luhrmann, Baz - The Great Gatsby (2013 movie)
  • Miller, Arthur - Death of a Salesman (1949 play)
  • Muccino, Gabriele - The Pursuit of Happyness (2006 movie)
  • Obama, Barack - The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006 biography)
  • Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath (1939 novel)
  • Zemeckis, Robert - Forrest Gump (1994 movie)