The American Dream has been deeply rooted in American history and embedded in the very U.S. Declaration of Independence. That historic document, created by America’s founding fathers sets the fundamental contours of American Dream as it says that “all men are created equal” and that each man/woman has the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The “American Dream” embodies in itself a set of ethos, ideals and beliefs that drive majority of U.S. citizens as they strive towards creating a decent life for themselves. This set of ideals includes notions of individual rights, freedom, democracy, and equality and is arguably centered around the belief that each individual has an inherent right and freedom to seek prosperity and happiness, regardless of caste, color, creed or origin of birthplace. One of the key components of the American Dream is the belief that through hard work and perseverance, anyone can rise “from rags to riches”, and thus attain financial success and social upward mobility. American writer and historian, James Truslow Adams, has so far, given the most elaborate definition of the American Dream, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with an opportunity for each according to ability or achievement,” with social class or the circumstances surrounding their birth becoming no barrier to the aspired success. Throughout the history of the US, the American Dream has constantly evolved and changed, going through a variety of forms, meanings and manifestations while maintaining its core values. In its earliest years, the dream was centered around the lure of westward expansion and frontier life within the US. In 1774, Virginia’s Governor, John Murray, said that most Americans were constantly imagining that “the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled.” He also noted the constant dissatisfaction and desire for ever more and ever better when he said that, “If they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.” In the 19th century, the beginnings of mass emigration were affected by and influenced the American Dream. A perfect example of this is the emigration of many highly-educated Germans, who ran to the U.S. after the failing of the 1848 German revolution and the attempt to break down hierarchical standards. The American Dream was also significantly shaped and perpetuated by the discovery of gold in the 19th century. The 1849 discovery in California drew in hundreds of thousands of men believing that they, too, could reap a fortune overnight. Imagine the life you want to have – one with a great job, a beautiful home and a perfect family,” Donald Trump Jr. thundered on the opening night of the Republican convention. “You can have it.” In 20th century, the success of the New Deal and the economic expansion after World War II led the American Dream to became associated with buying things including a big house in the suburbs, a new car and the latest kitchen gadgets. Then, in the 1960s, this rosy dream of milk and honey steadily changed as a younger generation of baby-boomers questioned the superficial emphasis on prosperity. The New Left began crafting a movement dedicated to participatory democracy and personal authenticity. “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit,” the Students for a Democratic Society declared in their 1962 Port Huron Statement. Even more than the New Left, the African American freedom struggle levelled the ground for the redefinition of the American Dream. As the sound and fury of the US Presidential Elections picks up momentum, it comes as no surprise that the Democratic and Republican conventions highlighted the stark gulf separating the two parties. Their differences stem not just from how to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic or differing views about race and racism; they are rooted in fundamentally divergent visions of the American Dream. But as each generation has endeavored hard to make this vision a reality, it has defined and redefined the American Dream and the election this November will decide not only who occupies the White House but also how the dream will be defined and re-shaped for future generations. Republicans while sensing political opportunity, clung to a narrower definition focusing on the cultural and economic grievances of the White working class, thanks to deindustrialization, globalization and automation. They have been laid off or downsized, and many face financial hardship and fear that their children will suffer from even fewer opportunities. For many of these people, the old version of the American Dream is unattainable and the new one uninviting. The same empowerment movements that have energized the Democrats have left working-class Whites feeling alienated, marginalized and ignored. They felt abandoned by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which focused much of its attention on helping racial minorities and the poor, and they were offended by images of students burning flags and draft cards in protest of the Vietnam War. From Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” the GOP has successfully mobilized these voters by promising a restoration of the 1950s political and social order. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, wholeheartedly embraced the rights revolution and its new definition of the American Dream. Demography has also played an important role. Its support of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s and championing of the Immigration Act of 1965 brought minority voters into the party including new immigrants hailing largely from Asia, Mexico and Latin America. In 1964, following passage of the Civil Rights Act, Johnson earned 80 percent of the non-White vote. By 2008, that number had soared to 95 percent, and racial minorities made up 40 percent of the Democratic Party. In the 21st century, this diversity has translated into nominating an African American man and a White woman for president and now a woman of color for vice president. In his bid for re-election in November 2020, for President Trump, however, the American Dream has become a code phrase, another wedge issue to exploit. Republicans have based their appeal to White working-class voters on vague promises of a brighter future if Trump wins reelection coupled with ominous predictions of a dark future if he loses. “Imagine the life you want to have – one with a great job, a beautiful home and a perfect family,” Donald Trump Jr. thundered on the opening night of the Republican convention. “You can have it.” His father, however, warned workers at a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Ohio that his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, would “abolish the American Dream” and informed “Suburban Housewives” that the Democrats “will destroy your neighborhoods and your American Dream.” This divisive rhetoric dovetails with a final significant fact: Voters are divided by their level of confidence in the future. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty, yet they are far more optimistic about achieving the American Dream than many Whites. In a nutshell, like almost all Presidential Elections before, American Dream is likely to be one of the most decisive and defining factors in the ongoing campaign for the covetous office in White House. The Democrats led by Joe Biden emphasize on an inclusive and pluralistic politics for which they refer to the sacrifices rendered by the African Americans and other immigrants, thus vow to make America the land of opportunity for all. Republicans under Donald Trump seem to be more interested in building walls and not bridges. Both camps are defining American Dream in their own unique jargons and clichés, leaving US voters in huge dilemma of choosing between the competing versions of the larger than life vision. Biden or Trump? A little more than two weeks to go! The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!