The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    The American Dream

The Gospel of the American Dream

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Tony Tian-Ren Lin

© Richard Vogel/AP/Corbis.

Glimpses of the Dream  

Paulina, a single mother from Colombia, so abused by her then-husband that she attempts suicide twice. In a dramatic nighttime escape, she leaves her abusive husband and boards a plane for America with her 10-year-old daughter. She arrives unable to speak any English and no vocational skills. She is shy by nature and depressed because of her condition. Her first few months in America are spent in her sister’s small apartment, too scared to go out. Two years later she is confident, independent, a charismatic community leader, and running a cleaning company in Virginia.  

Diego, an immigrant day-laborer, so addicted to drugs and alcohol that he abandons his infant daughter and her mother in order to pursue his addictions. During a time of hopelessness, he jumps into a river in order to kill himself but claims to have been miraculously saved. Within a year of his suicide attempt, he has married his girlfriend and is living as a faithful husband and responsible father, completely drug- and alcohol-free, and working long days to support his family.  

Roberto, a young man from a small village in Mexico with little education and a very troubled past, grows up with an alcoholic, largely absent father and a mother who works to support the family. With little parental supervision, Roberto spends most of his childhood on the streets. By the time he turns fourteen, he is a well-known troublemaker in his village. One day, after waking up on the sidewalk from a drunken black-out, he sees a group of people from his village leaving to come to America. On the spur of the moment, Roberto decides to join them, and with only the clothes on his back, he goes to California. Today he owns and runs a profitable painting company that employs over thirty people. He is a devoted husband to his wife, a good son who supports his parents back in Mexico, a leader of his community, and most importantly to him, a homeowner. 

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