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Defining the American Dream  

Mr. Hayman
Last Updated: Jan 28, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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The American Dream

This I Believe

In the following This I Believe essays, writers explore what they most believe in, as Americans.

  • Life is a Spiritual Struggle
    Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Why are you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that I have never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.
  • Be Cool to the Pizza Dude
    After all, the dude is delivering pizza to young and old, families and singletons, gays and straights, blacks, whites and browns, rich and poor, vegetarians and meat lovers alike. As he journeys, I give safe passage, practice restraint, show courtesy, and contain my anger.
  • Everyone Has Talent
    I believe that every human being is born with talent for making art: visual, literary, kinesthetic, or musical. Some lucky souls are born with multiple talents. And people gravitate toward subjects they have a gift for.
  • Discomfort
    This is something I never could have internalized had I been at home, had I been reading in my easy chair, had I been comfortable. And though it is too much to expect I could always live in the present, I can still plug into the notion that whatever is happening now is soon going to end, by putting on a necktie and heading to work.
  • The American Dream Lives On
    Every day I am reminded of this possibility. I am an immigrant. To discern me from the crowd of purebred, made-in-Americans is impossible. I speak with no accent and dress no differently. I am American, through and through. The true distinction is found in my perspective.


In Serial, an American mystery story is told, week by week. 

  • Season One
    It's Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he's innocent - though he can't exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.
  • Season Two
    In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home

Interviews with American Authors

American authors are interviewed on NPR, telling their stories, their philosophies, and their dreams.


What Americans Think of the American Dream

What do Americans think about the American Dream?
Click on the infographic to read the newest poll from The Center for a New American Dream.

Story Corps

In Story Corps, family members, friends, co-workers, and Americans who have simply found their paths intersecting at some point interview one another, reminding us that at the root of all dreams is the power of story.

  • Noah McQueen and Barack Obama
    Just a few years ago, 18-year-old Noah McQueen was struggling in school, had been arrested multiple times, and spent time in juvenile detention. But today he is a mentee at the White House and part of My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative for young men of color.
  • Barbara and Aaron Handelsman
    Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of step with her family. But she has always had a special connection with her grandson Aaron.

    When she was 80 years old, she and Aaron came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship.
  • Theresa and Stephanie Nguyen
    Theresa Nguyen talks to her daughter, Stephanie, about balancing their Vietnamese heritage with raising a family in the United States.
  • George Edwardson and Doreen Simmonds
    George Edwardson tells his cousin, Doreen Simmonds, about watching his grandfather translate the New Testament into Inupiaq, their native language.

This American Life

This American Life is a wildly popular podcast that can be heartbreaking, roaringly funny, and thought-provoking, sometimes all at once.

  • Ask Not For Whom The Bell Trolls; It Trolls for Thee.
    Writer Lindy West has been harassed by hundreds of trolls online. But only one ever apologized for his remarks. Lindy began to wonder, could he explain why trolls choose to be so cruel?
  • Don't I Know You
    Contributor Starlee Kine talks to actor Tate Donovan about the day he felt he was being exactly the kind of celebrity he'd wanted to be: when suddenly, he was approached by a kid with a camera.
  • It's Commerce That Brings Us Together
    Susan Drury talks about "Swap and Shop," a local radio classifieds show that has become a low-tech, personable sort of Ebay and makes you wonder about the hidden stories of our neighbors.
  • Reaching Out With Radio
    From Blunt Youth Radio: a story of a possibly bad "food situation" at the cafeteria in juvenile detention.
  • Somewhere in the Arabian Sea
    Life aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier that was stationed in the Arabian Sea and supported bombing missions over Afghanistan. Only a few dozen people on board actually fly jets. It takes the rest of the crew — over 5,000 people — to keep them in the air.
  • Rules to Live By
    So many of the shootings in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, the neighborhood where Harper High sits, are characterized as "gang-related." Often, the implication is that gang-related means there is a reason to the shooting — huge, established gangs shooting it out over drug territory. Gang-related often implies you must've deserved it, a certain level of 'what goes around comes around.' Reporter Linda Lutton talks to dozens of Harper students who say adults don't understand that that's not the way it works. Gangs don't operate the way they used to.
  • Message in a Bottle
    The formula for Coca-Cola is one of the most jealously guarded trade secrets in the world. So we were surprised to come across a 1979 newspaper article with what looked like the original recipe for Coke. Talking to historian Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country and Coca-Cola, we were even more surprised when we found reasons to believe the recipe is real.

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace is a podcast of short, little stories that show you into the humanity behind American history.

  • Dam!
    A look at what went into the construction of the Hoover Dam...including dead bodies.
  • Dreamland
    A beautiful description of the great amusement park Dreamland on Coney Island that burned down in 1911.
  • The Brothers Booth
    There's a reason why Booth was successful at killing Lincoln: fame.
  • Lost Lobsters
    How lobsters moved from peasant food--a food served in prisons--to a delicacy today.
  • Road Trip
    Tourists come and spectate over the Battle of Bull Run.

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