In November, U.S. voters will have the opportunity to decide what they want for their country. We have two presidential candidates running for office who have clear differences in their view of the American Dream. When national elections come around, we tend to reflect on the past. Many of us are the result of brave ancestors who wanted more for future generations than they saw in their home countries.
My grandfather emigrated from Norway in the late 1800s. His father urged him to "Go to America, the Land of Opportunity." Grandpa stepped into the belly of a boat and worked his way across the ocean to America and his new life. He entered the Ellis Island processing center with a knot in his stomach. He was only 18 years old. Swarms of the hopeful milled about. If a disease or infection was discovered during the required health exams, immigrants were sent back across the ocean.
He was healthy and on the cusp of experiencing the "American Dream."
My dad (the oldest of the 10 children) left school in the eighth grade to help his dad on the farm that Grandpa was able to buy in the Pacific Northwest. After their marriage, my dad and mother managed to buy the farm from my grandfather. Dad farmed early in the morning and late at night. He worked days in a sawmill until the farm became profitable.
My two brothers and I attended a one-room school in that farming community. The Pledge of Allegiance and a brief prayer began each school day. Students were not required to participate but most did. World War II was clouding our days and loyalty to our country was high. Even those who didn't believe were willing to give God a chance.
After high school, our parents insisted we go to college. My brothers and I found a whole new world at a college 1,500 miles from home. Today, all three of us are successful, hardworking citizens. Our success is due to the determination, hard work and ambition of an immigrant grandfather who saw in America a way of life that appealed to his hopes and dreams for future generations. My parents carried it forward. We tried to carry it forward for our children.
Today there is a new "American Dream" emerging. The well-known remark by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 has taken a new turn. His passionate pleading at his inauguration to "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" is slowly evolving into "What can and will my country do for me?" With one-quarter of the population on food stamps, with jobs not plentiful, with taxes way too high, government spending out of control and bickering among political parties at an all-time low (high?), we certainly need a change.
Barack Obama promised hope and change in 2008. The country was energized. Obama was just as passionate in 2008 as JFK was in 1961.
What was that "hope and change" mentality based upon? A new documentary currently in theaters, "2016: Obama's America," explains the president's mindset. It is an unbiased, well-researched, fact-based view of Obama's background and a description of his hopes for America. If you have dreams for the future of your children and grandchildren and can't quite articulate them, seeing this movie may help you sort out what you want your country to look like in 2016.
Those who say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's all a bunch of lies," may change their minds after they actually see "2016." They will appreciate the biographical nature of the movie and the impressive research credentials of the writer.
I saw it at Edwards Cinemas on a Saturday afternoon, and the theater was packed. As of today it is still playing. It is a "must see" for Americans who will not give up on the American Dream and who are anxious to learn more about the current administration's plans for America the Beautiful.
Caroline O. Reid, a 28-year resident of Bakersfield, is a retired executive assistant. She is a member of Writers of Kern and the Bakersfield Art Association.