What do we mean when we talk about achieving the "American Dream"? How does the dream resonate now?
We've been exploring those questions and more in the weeks leading up to the November 2016 election. Oregonians from all walks of life have been responding to our survey and sharing their perspectives about the "American Dream" on Think Out Loud.
Anand Tawker is a naturalized citizen from India living in Vancouver, Washington. He used to work for Hewlett Packard, helping connect the corporation to emerging markets in India. Unlike the common narrative many think of, where an immigrant comes to the U.S. seeking better economic opportunities, Tawker says he was doing quite well before he moved here.
"I didn't come to this country as a refugee, a political refugee or an economic refugee of any kind. I came to this country to the extent that there was opportunity, that it was a different new adventure," says Tawker.
I came here because this was a new and different canvas for me to paint on.”
He acknowledges that the idea that anyone who works hard can achieve the "American Dream" has drawn many immigrants to this country, but he is skeptical about whether or not this notion accurately reflects the modern age. He says that the image of the middle class dream of the family home with a white picket fence sounds plausible, but this is not the reality for most people. However, he does not think we should not stop striving toward the ideals embedded in the American Dream.
"I think we need to recast it for the times," says Tawker. "I'm not talking about the semantics of it. I'm not talking about the advertising of it. I'm talking about creating an America that is always a work in progress, that lives true to the more perfect union idea."
Tawker says he's lived in India and in other countries as well, but that this "American Dream" concept isn't articulated there the way it has been in the United States. He talks about it in terms of marketing.
"I believe in terms of the brand promise of America, like all brand promises, in order for it to resonate and be credible, we need to work to make that promise a reality."
Tawker believes that making the "American Dream" a reality — as opposed to a sales pitch — comes down to education. He says that accessible education and training will help people chart their own course.
As for the future, Tawker is concerned about the presidential election. He thinks the campaigns have raised questions about how democracy works that had previously been taken for granted. Nevertheless, he says, he's confident in the democratic process.
I think that America is more resilient than recent political developments would suggest. I remain optimistic that this democracy will be sustained.”