The American Dream

It has been 243 years since our founding fathers signed the Declaration Of Independence and the great American experiment began.

These words form the moral backbone of our country and represent our core values:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

We have not always lived up to these values. Slavery and the treatment of the Native American Indians are glaring examples. And there certainly have been other moments where America has not lived up to these values.

However, it has been my experience, over fifty-seven years living in the US, that we try to live to these values and that the notions of freedom and equality are deeply rooted in the culture of America.

Which leads me to the American Dream, the notion that there is economic opportunity for all, regardless of who you are and where you come from.

That has been my experience personally. I worked my way through college, arrived in NYC at the age of 21 with not a penny to my name, but with a job waiting for me, and I made the best of that.

It is also my experience in the venture capital business. I have seen people without a college education pursue their dream and come out a winner. I have seen people with broken English make it with hustle and ingenuity.

But again, there are gaps in this record of opportunity. It is not as easy for a young black woman growing up in Brownsville to find economic opportunity as it is a young white man growing up in Palo Alto. There are many parts of America where life has gotten harder for the current generation relative to their parent’s generation.

But what makes America special is that we believe that isn’t right and it should be addressed. And I see it being addressed in my work on the education sector and beyond. I am hopeful that we will see a meaningful dent in many of these opportunity gaps in my lifetime.

It is fashionable these days to bemoan what is wrong with America and there is much that is wrong. But I prefer to stare at what remains right about America and celebrate it, particularly on our birthday.

#Current Affairs

Comments (Archived):

  1. David C. Baker

    Even though I didn’t live here until I was 18, I love this country and its founding principles. People are the same everywhere, I believe, and so it’s this unique, young experiment that has created so much opportunity. May we find the right balance between freedom + responsibility.

    1. Amar

      Big time +100. Speaking as an immigrant who is a citizen….We are still, the largest and most active country-as-a-startup continuously evolving and scaling. Yes, there are lots of things that are broken and I posit this is proof that we are learning, not proof that we are failing.We uncover more items to fix because we try more and experiment more and risk as much as / more than any other country in the world (adjusted for scale and presence). I am not talking about just risking capital and resources though that happens as well. I am talking about taking risks with our values, beliefs and purpose.On this 4th of July, I am proud to be an American and optimistic and hopeful that the future is bright for us as a country. We are not a small nation that might be utopia but cannot grow beyond being 10/20/50M in population, we are not a Goliath that survives, thrives and progresses but struggles to include ethics as a guiding foundational principle in governance. We are a country (in my humble opinion) that values getting better and welcomes whoever is willing to show up and assist in this endeavor. We are for better or worse a country that deeply believes that “perfect is the enemy of good” in all things including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.Happy Murica Day y’all 🙂 The AVC community is a fantastic place to celebrate this!

  2. William Mougayar

    I like your optimism. It’s essential and a foundation of courage and true progress.

    1. kenberger

      Happy Canada day this week, too!

      1. Richard

        I hear that ALBERTA is ready to join the US.

        1. kenberger

          Next, you’ll tell me that New Mexico already did.

        2. jason wright

          I’ve heard it’s on condition that it agrees to change its name to George.

      2. William Mougayar

        Thanks Ken! Next, in the July series, is July 14th 🙂

  3. kenberger

    I love this and agree, but the use of “we” in the following feels super optimistic: “But what makes America special is that we believe that isn’t right and it should be addressed”.Truth is our country (USA) is super divided, and there is a huge portion of its citizens that feel the opposite, or neutral at best.Also true in many other nations where I spend lots of time, where we see this division sometimes play out in loud fashion (Germany, Switzerland, UK, France etc).

  4. Tom Labus

    You can always get “off the mat” in America, if you want to. You’re not done until you say so. Enjoy this great day with family and friends. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. jason wright

      Is that a lake, or an inlet?

      1. Tom Labus

        A spring fed lake. No motor boats.. canoes and in the last few years people started using stand up paddle boards. pretty quiet too

        1. jason wright


  5. harris497

    Well said. Good start to a conversation I’ll have with my wife later today. Happy 4th Fred and all.

  6. Richard

    Liberty and Dignity through unalienable rights is the America dreamThe era was imperfect but potential for perfection of liberty and dignity were rooted therein. It was recognized by even those who time resulted in sacrifice.The best example was an African American, an enslaved African-American who volunteered to join the army under Lafayette in 1781, Armistead served as a double agent working for the Patriots.Housing and now education due to the tax policies set in the past – and the selfishness of the present are the s countries current obstacle to Liberty for all.

  7. JLM

    .The sentence you quote is the most famous utterance ever made by an American. The Declaration of Independence came into existence one year after the initiation of hostilities with England — the most powerful army and navy on the planet and rich beyond comprehension — and turned the Revolution into a fight to the death rather than a messy little rebellion.Thomas Jefferson of Virginia is given credit for the writing, but he was assisted by the “Committee of Five” — Jefferson, John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Robert R Livingston (New York) and Roger Sherman (Connecticut).Jefferson wrote it in 17 days while the Continental Congress was in session. It was delivered to the Congress on 28 June 1776. Congress took a knife to the original draft, reducing it by 25%. One of the biggest edits had to do with slavery wherein the Colonials charged that the Brits had forced slavery upon them — a fair comment given the history of both Irish faux indentured servitude and the first black slaves in America (started in the British Caribbean).There is a rich history of how the document — “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled” — was almost not agreed amongst the 13 colonies with certain colonies brought along kicking and screaming. There were powerful arguments and more powerful persuasion.The importance as noted was that this was no longer a rebellion. This was a war to the finish. Every signatory pledged their life and their fortune. Many were called on both.Lincoln used the sentence quoted as both the legal basis and the moral basis for the abolition of slavery. It carried the day legally, needing only an advocate like Lincoln and his position as President to make it stick. I point this out because the Dec of Independence was the basis for the abolition of slavery.When you use the term “Founding Fathers” you are referring to the signatories of the Continental Association document (1774), the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Articles of Confederation (1777) and the US Constitution (1787).I am always amazed to note how long the American Revolution was fought — 4-19-1775 to 9-3-1783 — and how long from the original Continental Association document to the US Constitution. In the middle of this, Jefferson and his compadres wrote the Declaration in 17 days.Only one man signed all four founding documents, only six men signed three. All together, there were 145 signees. All men. All white.It was an unusual cross section of Colonials — Alexander Hamilton was 19, Burr 20, Ben Franklin 70.The American Declaration is also a bill of particulars that lays out the case against the King of England. It has been used by a great number of countries to model their own strivings for freedom.It was written in 17 days by the guy who founded the University of Virginia in conjunction with the guy who founded the University of Pennsylvania.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Richard

      Only the optimistic Fred could be so cynical about the plight of others and the direction they choose to take.

  8. Richard

    Being born to a drug addicted ho in suburbs of Chicago ain’t no picnic either. Fred is mighty presumptuous about the young black kid from Brownsville (what a joke – this is skin color, skin color – let that sink in) when that kids climbs to the top – and many will – he will stand proud freedom and safety go a long way

  9. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:America’s pain!America’s proud history was at the expense of someone else’s pain!…Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  10. panterosa,

    I highly recommend Todd Rose’s book Dark Horse, which is a project out of Harvard GSEd, which concludes with quite interesting thoughts on that sentence.

  11. jason wright

    The Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

  12. fredwilson

    What a great post

  13. Girish Mehta

    Michael Lewis’ Against the Rules podcast series earlier this year, about fairness, was worth a listen.

  14. JamesHRH

    The country is having a bit of trouble agreeing on a definition of fairness.Great post.

  15. scottythebody

    Having worked in an international environment for the last 13 years, I do believe that the core value of “fairness” (as you described it so nicely above) in America is one of the intrinsic elements of being “an American”. Many cultures simply don’t have this notion at all.