What do we mean when we talk about achieving the “American Dream”? Who is we? And is the Dream still relevant today? We’re exploring all those questions and more with Oregonians leading up to the November 2016 election. Over the last few months we’ve gathered survey responses and talked with people on Think Out Loud to get a variety of perspectives on the “American Dream.”
Linda Hellenthal lives on 800 acres in Roseburg. She’s a retired dental hygienist and her husband is an “independent logger.” She has two sons and several grandchildren, and they are at the center of what the American Dream means to her.
“I like them close — and being able to provide well for them. I don’t mean elaborately, but being able to provide comfortably, for those that you love, that depend on you.”
Hellenthal says her definition of the American Dream doesn’t end there but “if you’re comfortable in your everyday needs, then you’re much better able to branch out and contribute to your community.”
In answer to Think Out Loud host Dave Miller’s question about her childhood, Hellenthal said it was “idyllic.” She says she grew up in small agricultural community in central California.
“To get to friends houses, we rode our bikes. I went to a two- room, eighth grade elementary school. I had no worries. We weren’t wealthy, but we were not told that we had to worry about shoes, or go on vacation. It was a very lovely childhood. No worries.”
Hellenthal says even though her original plan for her future was to get married and have children, she became a dental hygienist — and did end up getting married and having children later. Her career spanned 30 years and five different dentists. She says she loved the interactions she had and the relationships she developed. She never regretted her choices.
But when it comes to her grandchildren, she worries. She hopes they’re safe. She worries about this world. “And they’re being brought up in safe households, and they’re being brought up with values and things the way I was, the way that my two boys were but I just worry about the future for my grandchildren.”
She points to instability in the world, from foreign influences that want to do the U.S. harm, but also from what she calls the “unrest” in this country.
“I truly think that a lot of these social programs that have been going on for 50 years have developed a faction of society that doesn’t know how to take care of themselves and expects to be taken care of. and that’s really unfortunate, because I think people are much happier when they’re taking care of themselves. When they have the wherewithal to do that.”
Miller asked Hellenthal: “Which presidential candidate do you think best reflects your conception of the American Dream?”
Hellenthal’s answer: “Not Hillary.”
She says she sees too much big government in Clinton’s platform. She says she’s voting for Donald Trump but she says not joyfully.
“I think Mr. Trump is a loose cannon. I think that he has the necessary pride in accomplishment. I think that he is entrepreneurial. I think that he believes in capitalism, which I think is a good thing for people, but I don’t that he can get out of his own way to make those things happen.”
More than anything though, she says Election Day can’t come soon enough.
“I’m involved politically as a volunteer, have been for the last 40 years. So it’s been busy. It’s been very confusing. It’s been very, very long. I’m really ready for it to be over.”