The “American Dream’ – Is it such a mystery? “First-world problems,’ and holiday message


The “American Dream’ – Is it such a mystery? “First-world problems,’ and holiday message

In an article posted on, the author reports on a Pittsburgh conference where speakers posited that “Smart Cities” might make the “American Dream” possible again. Furthermore, they said, collecting data from various city sources might enable planners to assist the population in moving upward on the income ladder.

Staff Writer Giuseppe Macri also notes that one presenter said the American Dream is … moving from the lowest fifth of the income level to the highest fifth. Today, only about 7.5% in the U.S. make the move, while in Canada, nearly 14% move that distance. However, as I read it, with proper data input and planning, we can catch those wily Canucks and get back in the lead.

Somehow, I think this misses the point. First of all, what is the American Dream? I suggest that setting a dollar value on it is absurd. The American Dream is reaching for your personal goal. It’s deciding what you want in life and then going out and doing it.

It may be that you want a home and family. So working in a relatively mundane job but spending time with your family may be your dream. You move to an area where the cost of living is not so high, become involved in your family life, and live your dream.

However, your dream may be to be an artist, or weave baskets, or work with animals. None of these require huge incomes.

On the other hand, if you want the house on the hill, you need to be willing to work for it. Very few gazillionares got so without a good education. Virtually none did so without very long hours perfecting their craft, and probably eating a lot of ramen during that time.

Lawyers that get paid big bucks also work 80-hour weeks. Doctors nearly kill themselves during their internship. So-called captains of industry (not counting those who inherited the CEO’s job) usually started in lowly positions and worked their way up.

Not one of the successful people who live their version of the American Dream got there without a lot of perseverance and hard work. Not a single one. No one relied on a government program, and a planning committee, a subset of data so they could get on the road to success. They most likely didn’t start on a path directly to their goal.

This is not a complex problem. Study hard. Do the best you can. Work hard. Don’t have kids until you are married. And there you are.

Everyone can work toward their dream. All may not make it, but sometimes the journey is more important than the goal.


I’ll get off my high horse and talk about something more important: the holidays. It’s hard to think of Christmas when you haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet, but that’s what you have to do when you have deadlines.

Whether you worship in a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or shopping center, the holiday season is special. It is about family, friends, parties, and giving. But I’m afraid that as we make the season more secular, to avoid offending someone, we lose sight of just what it is all about.

Melissa Bean Sterzick, PT’s Amateur Parker, writes this in her column this month:

There’s an expression I hear often these days, sometimes coming from the voice forever blabbering in my own head: “first-world problems.” It’s kind of a shame-invoking statement about people of privilege complaining about things that a truly destitute individual would welcome. …

Gratitude is a habit, not an instinct. Every year during the holiday season, I have a moment where I look around and wonder how I ended up with 50 presents under my tree; a kitchen full of food; and a safe and comfortable home, and I feel deeply embarrassed of the way I take this abundance for granted.

As the Christmas season plays out, I know there will be days when the stress of buying gifts, decorating, hosting relatives, and all the other preparations feel overwhelming. But I know that things such as clean streets, good health care, celebrations with family, and 14-pound honey-baked hams are all blessings, even though they require effort and sacrifice.

I’m going to resist the urge to complain, whine, imagine myself overworked, or attribute any of my challenges to conspiracy, misfortune or masochism, and instead think about how fortunate I am that so many of my problems are the first-world kind.


This is a time to show gratitude, to give thanks, and to celebrate the magic of the season. It’s a time that turns Scrooge into Santa, puts a smile on the curmudgeon down the street, and dresses our stores and homes in tinsel and light.

Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, it’s a time of Santa, flying reindeer, visiting kings, gift-giving, and family. For a short time each year, we all become one. My Jewish friends wish me a merry Christmas; I wish them happy Chanukah.

What we are really doing is wishing for wonder, peace, and the magic of the holidays for all.


Take a peek at Parking Today this month. We have refreshed our “look,” borrowing from our Technology Issue in October. Hope you like it.

Our cover celebrates the holidays with the Dean of Parking Consultants (retired), Larry Donoghue. He told me that he was very busy and would have to fit a photo shoot around his volunteer work.

He particularly likes to visit older shut-ins. “They are lonely and like to talk.”

His favorite is a gentleman who lives in his apartment building. “He is a recent widower and likes the company. He’s an older man (85) and loves to reminisce about his family.” Larry is 97 in body, but middle-aged in spirit.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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