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The American dream is alive and well despite challenges, and looks different for each individual, said Kerry Healey, president of the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream (MCAAD).
“The American dream means something different to every person,” Healey told Fox News Digital at the Milken Institute 2022 Global Conference. “It can mean something as simple as getting your first job or being able to be financially independent. While, of course, there are always people who are going to shoot for the top and want to emulate Elon Musk.”
Healey, a former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, said there has been a “decline in opportunity in America over the last 50 years,” but young people are still optimistic about their ability to achieve the American dream.
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“What’s really interesting is that the youngest people are actually the most optimistic people in the country about their ability to achieve the American dream,” she said. “It’s really over time that sometimes the world erodes that confidence.”
An October 2020 survey commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation found that 83% of 13-17 year-olds believe they “have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
This trend has led Healey and MCAAD to focus on maintaining that enthusiasm and “belief in oneself that’s so necessary to achieving one’s dreams.”
The work of the center involves both telling dynamic and inspirational stories of the American Dream, and securing access to opportunity for future generations through four core pillars – education, health, economic freedom and entrepreneurship.
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Healey said the center’s location, in several historic buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House and U.S. Treasury, will create a place “where people can come in, think about … their own history of the history of their family, and those generations that came before them.”
This idea of the American dream, and the hope of freedom, is what still draws immigrants to America, Healey said.
“It is this idea of a nation where you can, through your own hard work and through your own talents and vision, create a new life for yourself and your family,” she said. “Many of them are actually seeking freedom. They might be seeking freedom of religion, they might be seeking political freedom, but they are all seeking economic freedom to be able to create that new life for themselves.”
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MCAAD is part of the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. MCAAD’s mission is to advance economic and social mobility in America and around the world, and it will open a physical location in Washington, D.C., in 2023. The center is already actively implementing programs, from online education to conferences to podcasts, aimed at “restoring hope, expanding opportunity, and removing obstacles for people everywhere to achieve their aspirations.”