Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement - American Dreams

Theme 1: American Dreams

"Without dreams, what’s anything worth? Dreams become reality." — Evo Morales
We hear a lot about the American Dream. In its standard form, it involves ascension from humble beginnings to glorious heightsfrom poverty to wealth, anonymity to fame, oppression to freedom. But a deeper look reveals that American dreams do not always follow this trajectory, that our dreams are neither so simple nor simply American. And if we each have our own dreams, we also have shared dreamsabout ourselves as a nation, about where we have come from and where we are headed. This group of images helps us consider all kinds of American dreams. What gives rise to these dreams? What would it take to realize them? And what, in any case, makes them so dreamy?

Sample Icebreakers and Opening Exercises

  • As a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why? If you changed your mind, why? And what do you want to be now?
  • Think of someone who embodies what you think of as the American Dream. Who is it, how does he or she embody it, how did you come to know about this person, and what is the dream?


(NOTE: The following images are copyrighted. Obtaining image permission is the responsibility of the library.)

For discussion tools and activities for the above images, as well as others in the Engage! series, download the Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement Guide.