My father is the epitome of the American Dream. He is from a working class family in a working class to poor neighborhood. My father is the youngest of four children. Both his parents were from Montana, which my grandmother would always recall fondly. They moved to Oregon, I believe, during or shortly after the war (WWII).
His father liked to gamble and from the (few) stories that my father used to tell, he would frequently borrow money from his children. I have the impression that my father did not have a lot of respect for his father, but I could be wrong. It is just that I heard more stories growing up about my father’s mentor, Carlos, than my Grandfather. That said however, my father has always placed great emphasis on family before anything else. My father’s mentor taught him all about fixing up cars, houses, and running a business. My father always had a lot of drive and direction, so he, I assume absorbed it all like a sponge.
He learned so much from the two men together. From Carlos he learned all about work and from my grandfather, all about what not to do, I imagine. He was able to buy his first house when he was 18 years old. Mind you this house was in the neighborhood he grew up in, around the corner from the wrecking yard my grandfather ran. The house essentially consisted of four rooms and could likely fit in the apartment that my husband and I now share. This house was also nowhere near as expensive as a house it’s size would be today in the same neighborhood. He bought it for less than $20,000 I think and now a similar lot and sized house is at least $100,000. Other larger houses in the neighborhood are going for anywhere from $60,000 to $300,000+. I guess this neighborhood has been the up-and-coming one for about five years or so now.
My father has always been frugal and has always had a ‘plan’. It was very important for him to provide for his family the way his parents couldn’t. He really is a self-made man. He knew what he wanted and, with his plan, how to get it, which he says has become ever harder to do as we have become so reliant on technology and credit. It used to be easy or him to fix-up or build a house and do 90% of the work himself. The same, he says, applied to cars.
If I use Robert Kohls’ article, “The Values Americans Live By” as a base with my father and myself as the example, I can attempt to better explain why I think my father and all that I learned from him (and my mother) might win the top prize as “All-American”. According to Kohls, most Americans would disagree that Americans have a list of shared values, because of “their belief that every individual is so unique that the same list of values could never be applied to all, or even most, of their fellow citizens” (Kohls). As an American, I think Kohls is right on point, most of my friends and colleagues in America would have to think for a minute if they were to come up with a list of values. Yet, once they did I don’t think the list would be that far off from a list that, say, I might ask my German friends or British friends to pen either. Of course, since stereotypes abound, asking a German or British friend to create a list of values Americans seem to live by is another story.