The American Dream: Foreigners Get It But We Don’t


by David L. Goetsch

I recently went on a hiking excursion in the mountains of western North Carolina. The hikes were day trips. At night we stayed in a rustic inn that had been built in 1876. It was wonderful in its bucolic simplicity—no television, radio, Internet, or cell phone reception. In this place an IPhone was just a worthless paperweight. The inn’s only nod to modernity was indoor plumbing with hot water. For heat you cut wood and burned it in a fireplace or wood burning stove depending on how your room was equipped. The temperature during my stay went down to 27 degrees. That was cold for this Floridian.

During my stay in this inn, I met a retired physician who was one originally from Europe. She was an 86 year old dynamo with the energy of a teenager who had immigrated to America to escape the devastation of World War II and to pursue the American dream. At night guests of the inn did the only thing there was to do—we talked. My conversations with the transplanted European physician were enlightening. What I took away from our conversations is that she—a legal immigrant who had to work her way through medical school while fighting to survive the devastation of a world war—knew more about what made America great than many of us born here. In fact, she knew more about the American dream than did the native-born Americans staying at the inn. However, she was worried about our country. She had lived in the U.S. long enough to observe with an outsider’s eye the changes that have occurred over the past several decades, changes that are dragging our country down and making it more difficult for others to live out the American dream.

I asked this amazing woman to share her wisdom with me concerning what America needs to do to get back on track. Her answer took three nights to complete. She sees a lot wrong with the current state of affairs in the U.S. and she pulled no punches in presenting her views with the precise logic of a scientist. The remainder of this column consists of paraphrased summaries of what an 86 year old legal immigrant thinks America will have to do to reclaim its moral and economic position in the world:

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