America: Rebuilding the Dream

in Strategy & Trends | by David Capece

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Photo Courtesy of Navin Harish

By David Capece, Managing Partner

“We must break down barriers and challenge the status quo.”*  The American Dream of luxury and excess is fading and in its wake are new dreams rooted in the ideals of equality, independence, responsibility, community, and creativity.

Equality has been a stated goal for what seems like eternity, and remains a top priority.  Our Gen Y respondents aspire to “treat people of all ethnicities and genders, sexual preferences and races the same with the same rights.”  While we may never achieve total equality, there are fundamental traits of fairness, honesty, and respect that we can all live by.  One Gen X respondents says, “Let’s lead with respect, freedom and equality.  Treat our neighbors as you would like to be treated.”

Our nation was founded on the promise of respect for our individual rights and a spirit of independence.  We initially sought independence from Britain, and now seek independence from oil.  Our young respondents are acutely aware of our “need to change our dependence on foreign oil and start with renewable energy sources.”  It is our young respondents that seem to have the best insight into our bad habits.

A 21 year old student says “we freak out when gas goes above four dollars a gallon, but forget about the energy crisis once prices go down. By gaining objectivity, we will more readily see the big picture, and realize what we need to do.”  Perhaps the core of our dreams is on solid footing, but it is how we pursue our dreams that must change.

Responsibility, which seems absent from the past 5 years, is a key concept that has risen to the top of our lexicon.  This means both social responsibility, “I want to live in a socially responsible democracy,” and fiscal responsibility, “we need to have less credit card companies and less debt in order for our country to rebuild.”  Are we reprioritizing what’s important to us?  We had near unanimity from our panel that we need to “spend less money on war and oil and more money on education and the arts.”

Indeed, education is seen as the key to enabling success.  “It’s not uncommon for someone to be raised in a middle-class to lower-middle-class household, receive a great education, and rise to a higher class of society. To me, that is the American Dream.”  While our education system has its weakness including our poor rankings in science and math, America still has the leading higher education institutions, including 6 of the top 10 (UK has the other 4).  Our respondents “want to live in the kind of country that teachers get paid what they deserve.”  Obama has a similar vision in mind and made education a priority.

Beyond education, our panelists want to see increased creativity and innovation.  “I think museums are going to be increasingly more important. To look forward, we need to see our mistakes, and conveying the past through both historical and artistic venues we can provide a more complete picture of our changing values.”  There may be something to this idea of education and creativity, as the Wall Street Journal reported in March 2009 that college towns have proven recession resistant thus far.

*All quotes are taken from Sparxoo’s American Brand Survey in which respondents (18-39) gave their opinion on the state of the nation and where it’s heading.

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America: State of the Union 2009