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January 28, 2013

CUMMINS: The American Dream is alive and well

The American Dream is not a myth. It happens all the time, and that’s why so many people want to come here. My ancestors did and so did yours. I vaguely remember someone saying, “You can grow up to be whatever you want to be, maybe president someday.” The presidency didn’t interest me, so I dreamed about becoming a ball star, throwing, shooting or kicking one. I never dreamed about becoming a rock star, because there weren’t any back then, but we had loose rocks all over our place. While hauling them off the hills, I dreamed there must be something better than this, and there was.   

 I never dreamed life would be so good to me, particularly during my old, but “new” days. It is because my folks and America were good to me. I lived with the notion that I’m free to be and do whatever I want to, but it’s up to me. We need to tell every child that. Although talents, abilities and the luck of the draw are unequal, the opportunity to be what you want to be must remain a realizable dream. If we ever lose that, then it won’t be America. 

Perhaps the greatest example of the realization of the American Dream had its roots in the birth of a bi-racial child in 1961 in Hawaii, not Kenya. His dad, whom he saw only briefly twice in his life, ran away. His mother bounced around, married and divorced again, struggled and survived at one point on food stamps. When things became too tough, the young man, called Barry, went to live with his white maternal grandparents from Kansas.

In reflecting upon his childhood, Barry wrote, “That my father looked nothing like the people around me, that he was pitch black and my mother milk white, barely registered in my mind.” He also admitted smoking dope to “push questions of who I was out of my mind.” Encouraged by his family, he was a good student, and holds degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude.

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