The concept of the American dream has been an essential—perhaps the most essential—aspect of our country’s mythos since its inception. Yet the phrase itself didn’t become standard until 1931, when James Truslow Adams articulated and popularized it in the book Epic of America:
But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
This mindset—the belief that anyone, regardless of station or circumstance, can be successful here—is instilled in us from birth. If you are an American, then the dream asserts, promises and demands that you have the opportunity to be anything and anyone you want to be. Doctor, astronaut, accountant, president, Draymond Green; your options are truly limitless. As is the potential of your potential.
And while Donald Trump’s policies and his persona leave much to be desired—especially if you’re a person of color—no one embodies this idea better than he currently does. At this point, he is a virtual shoo-in to secure the Republican nomination. He has dominated the rest of the field so thoroughly that, for people like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, second- and even third-place placements in primaries are being spun as victories.
Trump has managed to do all this without a political background, a coherent policy platform or even much of a plan besides “say s—t onstage,” proving once and for all that the American dream—the idea that anyone born in America can do anything if he or she puts his or her mind to it—is a reality for everyone. And by “everyone” I mean “white men worth $4 billion.”
Boys and girls throughout this vast nation should all look to Trump as an example of how important it is to follow your dreams (regardless of how bold) and make your own path (regardless of how bothersome). And how, if you put your mind to it, anything is possible—nothing is out of your range—if your dad is a real estate tycoon who dies with an estimated worth of $300 million and gives you tens of millions to boost your own burgeoning career.
Men and women doubting themselves should race to their bathroom mirrors tomorrow morning—clear-eyed, steely and determined—gaze at themselves, clutch their chests and repeat, “I am an American. Which means I can do anything I put my mind to. No wish is too illogical and no dream is too implausible for me if my presidential campaign is centered on galvanizing the inexplicably delusional anger of the white people ultimately still sore that a black man has been president for the last seven years.”
Every American—wealthy and working-class; Northern and Southern; able-bodied and infirm; sane and R. Kelly—should take solace in the fact that if an unfathomably wealthy white man with a Fisher-Price comb-over and a Fraggle Rock spray tan puts his nose to the grindstone and works really, really, really hard at convincing people he’s worked really, really, really hard, he will be successful. The sky is the limit if you’re an American and a tireless worker and worth 10 figures.
Admittedly, there have even been some dark days in my recent past, times when I doubted myself and my abilities. Instances when I was stricken with impostor syndrome; occasions when I believed that my best just would not be good enough. But thank God for Donald Trump. Because during those lonely hours, when my self-esteem and my belief in myself reached rock bottom, I’d find a flag—those bold and beautiful stars and stripes reviving that audacity of this American dreaming within me—clutch it close to my bosom, watch this man on-screen and be reminded of my American birthright: that it “is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” Especially if they happen to be a rich white man.
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.