Can hard work and dedication still deliver success and prosperity, or is there more to it? While hard work is a part of achieving the American dream, the head of Southern University’s business school, Donald R. Andrews, said other areas including education, race, sex, household environment, ability, luck, inherited wealth and adapting to change, factor heavily into the formula for achieving financial success and prosperity in America.
“…To be successful, you have to be able to adapt and change at a much more accelerated pace than we have historically,” said Andrews.
Today’s workforce must be prepared for jobs created in an age where knowledge and creativity have replaced the agricultural and industrial ages. “The information technology revolution has provided opportunities for the creation of entirely new industries but it also destroys old industries,” he said. Andrew’s considerations explain some of the data and research published in 2010 by Met Life, which showed that Americans still believe in the American dream though their faith in achieving it has become undermined by economic downturns, job losses and personal financial difficulties. The survey also found that Americans are more likely to define the American dream as financial security. Those numbers rose from 59 percent in 2006 to 65 percent in 2010. There were 2,201 participants in the online survey.
Economic and educational disparities between black people and white people were also cited as deterrents toward achieving the American dream, according to a May survey released by the Applied Research Center for Colorlines.com. There were 2,400 adult respondents drawn from a national sample of volunteers.
The majority of all races pointed to multiple causes, and most included class as an explanation regarding different levels of success or failure between races. White people were more likely to blame individual initiative alone and black Americans were more likely to point to race as at least part of the problem regarding levels of success or failure between white and black races.
Andrews said America faces a challenge in the way wealth is distributed and its investment in education.
“The dream is attainable but we are seeing a more unequal distribution of income in the society today. We must invest in early childhood education to equip the future workforce with the skills necessary to be successful in the highly technological, entrepreneurial and global society. Given continued educational investments in society, there is a high probability for success but it is not guaranteed,” he said.
Joshua Green, 20, an LSU Student Government board member, is optimistic about his chances to achieve the American dream, he said.
“I believe a large part is attributed to your upbringing. I believe that parents who teach their children a great work ethic, perseverance, values and determination will almost always have successful children. This is not always the case, but it often comes down to the will to want to be successful whether you have the best circumstances or not,” he said.
Andrews cited several scholars’ ideas on other ways to achieve the dream including discipline and putting in the time to develop skills required for earning a higher income. “You have to be opportunity driven and have the leadership ability to put a team together and find the resources to make the opportunity a reality,” he said.
Chante Dionne Warren, a former Advocate reporter, is now a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.