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The American Dream

The American Dream is not something that has already happened, it is what is to come. It is up to us to define the American Dream. We have to visualize it, together. It isn’t going to happen in a vacuum, and it won’t happen without action.

What is the American Dream? And more importantly does it really exist? That is the question that I pondered as I woke up this morning at my normal time, 6:27 a.m.

I’m a creature of habit and with my normal routine, I begin the day trying to think of things that I am grateful for. It’s hardly anything profound. Sometimes it is as simple as being grateful I didn’t have anything evil come to mind first thing in the morning, ha.

Honestly, most of the time, I’m thinking of things I SHOULD be grateful for. You see, I have to tell myself what to think. It doesn’t come naturally, at least not for me anyway.

In the month since George Floyd was killed, things have literally been crazy – so much emotion and so many feelings are running at their highest levels and being expressed in various forms. One thing about emotion and feelings is that they can bring out both the best AND the worst in us.

I will always do my best to spend my time on the former rather than the later.

One thing about me is that I am solution oriented. One of my biggest peeves is talking about a problem and not bringing a solution. I have also learned that listening is sometimes a much bigger deal than the solution. My wonderful wife, Lisa, can take credit for that.

It took us years to have deep, meaningful conversations. The “years” are a result of me simply wanting to solve “her” problem the minute it came out of her mouth – I am an engineer, after all. The day I started to keep my mouth shut and begin listening was the day she began to feel more comfortable about sharing deeper, more intimate things. (Men, you got that advice for free, no charge!)

Because of that lesson, I have (both publicly and privately) listened as this last month has unfolded in our nation. To everything I saw, I heard, I read and I felt – I listened. Side bar: outside of my mom’s thinking I am not a saint, so it wasn’t easy.

So, what did I learn? I am so glad you ask.

Before I begin, a couple of disclaimers. This is not an all-inclusive list. Writing is not my strong suit so this will probably take hours. Anything above and beyond than this list would take me days to get down and organize. Please do not think “So yeah, this is important, but what about this or that.”

Chill out homey, this is just what came to mind this morning. It’s just a start – not the end all, be all. It is already 7:47 a.m. At some point my family will be up and I will not have this quiet time to collect my thoughts and write them down. These are in no certain order. Number one isn’t the most important or the most profound. I prefer order so I have to start with a number one. Forgive me.

Lesson Number One

It is harder for a black man to achieve success than it is for this white man. The data is clear. It does not matter what I think, hear or feel – numbers do not lie. I realize this is not absolute and there are always outliers and exceptions to the rule. However, this must change. If it were easy to fix, it would have already been done I’m sure. But it not being easy cannot be an excuse. What can we do? See solution number one in a bit.

Lesson Number Two

My black brother and I are not going to always agree. What is crazy is that as I type this a thought comes to mind that says, “That almost sounds racist.” That is ridiculous and a lie that I have sold myself. News flash, we are not supposed to agree on everything. That would be counterintuitive. Nothing would get accomplished. There would be no individuality, unique perspective, innovation or personality in our world if everyone agreed on everything. What would be the point?

My wife and I do not always agree on everything. That is one of the reasons we have the amazing relationship we have. So, how do we handle the fact that we do not always agree? See solution number two.

Lesson Number Three

We are all racist. Ouch, now that will hit a nerve. This came to me about a week into this ordeal. The thought was yeah, we can argue on what percent we have racist tendencies. Maybe it’s a small percent, or even a fraction of a percent, but it is something. It’s there in all of us, and it’s real. It’s also taught and developed through life experiences. Nobody is born that way.

How do I know this? I love my wife more than life itself. I would literally do anything to make her life better. However, I am not perfect. I screw up. I have judged her and made assumptions and reacted to her from a place that she has absolutely no control over – in terms of traits and situations that she did not choose for herself. Maybe not the color of her skin, although she is a different race than me, but probably over something just as shallow.

The point is that, we all “$#@&” (enter your own expletive here) up. The bigger issue is the condition of the heart – what is done to make it right and how to work together so it doesn’t happen again. How do we solve this problem? See solution number three.

Lesson Number Four

My actions must speak louder than my words. There is a time to listen, a time to speak, and a time to act. The only way to work towards a solution is to take action. As with any major event, the feelings and emotions will start to subside. The hashtags and celebrity tweets will fade. Some new outrage or distraction will come our way, and many will move on to something else. To really make a difference, we have to maximize the momentum and be part of the solution. How do we do this? See solution number four.

Solutions One through Four

The American Dream. That’s it. That’s the solution–in my view–for all of it. I know, you are thinking, WTH? That is right, The American Dream. Even as I literally type these exact words, I have a lump in my throat. My heart rate is increasing as my heart seeks to beat all the way out of my chest, my breathing is becoming more rapid. These aren’t just words for me. I could type a novel about this.

As young as I can remember, my family talked about the American Dream. It is something I am passionate about. And quite honestly, it bothers me when people downplay it or even say it does not exist. It’s not that one of us is right or wrong, it is that our definitions of the American Dream differ. It was not until this last month that this began to make sense to me.

My title in my company is Visionary – the root word being vision. I have had vision all my life. I could camp out for hours on this. With vision comes visualization. I visualize everything. I visualized having the most amazing wife and kids on the planet, even as a little kid. I visualized being a successful entrepreneur before I even knew what the word meant. And yes, I did this even while being broke as a joke and my parents having to help pay our light bill.

You have no idea what you can accomplish just by visualizing.

The American Dream is not something that has already happened, it is what is to come. It is up to us to define the American Dream. We have to visualize it, together. It isn’t going to happen in a vacuum, and it won’t happen without action.

This great American experiment has always been about achieving something far better and far greater than the way things are today. It is about progress. It is about working together, listening to one another, presenting solutions and visualizing the result – all with people who are different than us.

I have privately reached out and will continue to reach out to Black people in my life that inspire me and who can educate me so that we can come together and make a difference. I will not stop. Forty years from now I will be 84, sitting on my porch (yes, I’m visualizing) and Lisa and I will be discussing how we were able to be a small part of this solution. We’ll talk about how we worked to influence the definition of the American Dream so that it included everyone – not just people who look or think like we do.

I am not naïve enough to think I can change the entire world, or even nation, let alone country or state. But I can certainly make a difference with the people I touch and interact with. Those people can do the same, and the people they touch can go and do the same, and the same and the same. And what do you know – my state, country, nation, and world are made up of me, my family, and some of the same, and the same, and the same. 

Together, we will form a vision of the American Dream that roots out inequities and inequalities, that provides a fair shake for anyone who calls this soil their home, that overcomes our own inherit biases and misconceptions, and that gives us agency, allowing our actions to do more than our words ever could.

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