Whatever Happened to the American Dream?

Retired CEO Says Lack of Character to Blame–NOT The Recession


A broad survey of Americans has revealed the American Dream is starting to fade, with fewer people than ever buying homes, obtaining healthcare coverage and getting married. More people are out of work and those who aren’t are earning less.

The data, provided by the Annual Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed a sweeping look at life from the viewpoint of more than 3 million American homes, with many of the maladies striking Americans being blamed on the recession.

However, one retired CEO believes that it is the changing values of executives, entrepreneurs and employees – not the recession – that is to blame for most of our woes.

G. Web Ross, author of Rescuing the American Dream: The Entrepreneur’s Way (www.rescuingthedream.com), said Americans today have a greater sense of entitlement and a lesser sense of values, and that combination is dragging the country, and the dream, downward. For him, it’s all about character.

“For more than 500 years, people have risked it all to come here for one simple reason: to make our most precious dream come true; a life that realizes its fullest potential, and the chance to carve out one’s own destiny,” Ross said. “Chance. Not a guarantee. This is the definition of freedom. It is not the stuff of Democrats or Republicans, or any party or movement. Freedom is the American character. Right, left, or center, the American Dream is our national treasure. But it is not in programs, or cash infusions, or sweeping political reforms. The ultimate answer to the current American economic crisis lies in one timeless value: Character.”

Ross believes that going back to our fundamental values, as a country and as a world economic power, is the key to gaining back the lost ground of the last decade.

“Our economy, our business and corporate cultures, and yes, even our government have all turned their backs on the fundamental truths and realities that every small business must live out in the marketplace every day,” Ross said. “The building blocks and fundamentals of success are no different for GM and Citibank than they are for a one-woman shop. And they’re as fundamental in the 21st century as they were in Solomon’s day. Follow them, you will succeed. Ignore them, you may prosper for a while, but your temple will eventually come crashing down.”

Having spent 40 years in the newsprint business – 30 of them as a company executive – provided Ross first-hand experience at running a business through two recessions and a wide variety of speed bumps along the way. He said what helped him navigate the rough spots was a strong sense of values and integrity.

“We keep reading about scandal after scandal in the business section,” he said. “If I had to point to one primary crisis in business today, it wouldn’t be the lack of stable economic footing – it would be the lack of honesty,” he added. “Whether it’s the middle managers who lie to their bosses to save their jobs, or the CEOs who lie to the board of directors and the press, it seems that we are discovering that the foundation of many large corporations has been built on lies. In all my years, I have never seen it this bad. But if we can find our character again, we can make it better.”