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. We’re gathering survey responses and talking with people on Think Out Loud to get a variety of perspectives on the “American Dream.”

Like all young kids, Portland native Jerold Howard was dragged along for the ride when his Mom ran errands.

“She did shopping and bought groceries and I remember driving past the Paul Bunyan statue on Denver in North Portland and just looking up,” remembered Howard.  “It was this magical thing of imagining him come to life and what would it be like?”

Unlike a lot of grown-ups, Howard is now in a position to bring that flight of whimsy into reality as a professional animator.

After graduating from Portland State University, Howard landed a coveted job at Will Vinton studios during the heyday of the “California Raisins.”

He honed his skills manipulating and photographing puppets to make them come alive for commercials, TV shows like “Portlandia,” as well as animated films like “James and the Giant Peach” and “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”

Howard is the first in his family to achieve his idea of the “American Dream.”

“It’s very rare to have a job that you enjoy doing,” he says. “I feel lucky and blessed.”