The American Dream

Last week, my department hosted living legend, Julian Bond, to give a lecture to our campus community. Mr. Bond was a student of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, he was also the first African American male to be nominated for the position of Vice President of the United States, but was too young to qualify and accept the nomination. His lecture was quite enlightening as he discussed his reflections on “the American Dream”. It’s a topic of discussion happening university-wide this year, and it got me thinking about what my American Dream is and how that compares to the dream of my parents.

My parents migrated to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when they were in their teens during the late 1940s. They met in New York when they served as factory workers. Frank Sinatra was right when he sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. Moving to New York was a step up in life for my parents. They both left family behind. They both had little money. They both worked hard to achieve a goal. And so, as they built a family together, they also provided a foundation for their kids so they could achieve their dreams.

My father dropped out of school as a junior in high school. He then received an opportunity to attend drafting class (for architectural design), but had little encouragement from his mother. My mother dropped out of school in the 4th grade. She was the eldest of 12 siblings and had to help her mother to raise the other ones. Ever since I was a child, my parents told me how education was going to be my key to success in life. They understood the struggle of not having an education and the impact it would have on your work experiences. Despite this factor, I regard my parents as some of the smartest people I know. Their life experiences have taught me so much.

Going to college was a collective achievement for my entire family. Here I was…the first Cruz to go to college and graduate. Not to mention, I was the first Cruz to obtain a Master’s degree. I would not be here today had it not been for my parents’ encouragement. They not taught me to be persistent and determined. Maybe this is a reason why I work in higher education, and that it gives me joy to be able to provide access and opportunities to others. It also gives me joy to help students find their passions, help build their dreams, and help them find a way to reach them.

For my parents, their American Dream has been fulfilled because they found opportunities to grow as people and to provide for their children. In the Cruz family’s pursuit of happiness, we have found that we are healthy, we are happy, and we are successful. And success is up to your own interpretation and how you determine whether you have reached it. Nonetheless, the American Dream, whatever it may be (education, home ownership, right to practice religion freely, citizenship, etc) is different for everyone. There will be struggles along the way, but the hope is never lost. And once you achieve your goals, don’t forget to give back and say thank you to those who helped you get where you are.

What is your American Dream? 

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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