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Historian and writer James Truslow Adams in 1931 in his book, The Epic of America, coined for the first time the term “American Dream,” defining it as follows: “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”.[1]

More than coin a phrase or create a dream, Adams realized and summarized in his work the feeling of the pilgrims, who left Europe in search of new horizons for their lives. Historian Jim Cullen finds in the Reformed convictions the fundamentals of the American Dream: “This faith in reform became the central legacy of American Protestantism and the cornerstone of what became the American Dream. Things—religious and otherwise—could be different. For the first generation of American Puritans, reform meant starting over, building a new society of believers for themselves and their children.”[2]

The Reformed convictions that the pilgrims brought with them fed this feeling of hope and a dream of a better future in the new land. The “American Dream” was not a cognizant reality in the life experience of the pilgrims, but it was a lived reality, even if unconscious. Adams became the spokesman of the “American Dream” by being able to verbalize such a feeling built into the lives of the first immigrants that arrived inNorth American soil. The victory of the Allies who promoted the hegemony of the United States, particularly in the western world, gave a global visibility to the American Dream. After the Allied victory, with the rise of the United States as the greatest world power, the American dream of equal opportunities became the major immigration attraction for many people, especially those under the control and influence of American imperialism. Brazil, as a prime target of interest for the United States, in Latin America, was strongly impacted. Beserra describes this phenomenon as follows: “I propose that Brazilian immigration to the United States be understood in terms of the ways American imperialist ideologies have penetrated Brazilian society. Grounded in American technological development, and in the position that te United States assumed in the international division of labor after World War II, American ideologies diffuse new standard of consumption and new ways of understanding life and happiness across the globe. This is so much the case that the dreams that brought and keep bringing Brazilians to the United States are particularly connected with the impossibility of accomplishing at home the ideals of material and cultural consumption promoted by the United States”.[3]

[1] James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931; repr., New York: Simon Publications, 2001), 214.

[2] Jim Cullen, The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation (Oxford University Press, 2004), 268-270, Kindle.

[3] Beserra, Brazilian Immigrants in the United States, 13.