What Happened To The American Dream?

by. Henry Meier

It took two extra holes for Adam Scott to become the first Australian to win the Masters, the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.  He beat out an aging Argentinian and, among others, an African-American superstar looking to make a comeback.  Go back just fifty years and the Masters would have been as diverse as a KKK convention.

Now, imagine twenty years from now if there are not great African-American golfers, if Hispanics simply stop playing the game and Australians don’t grow up dreaming of winning the Masters.  Everyone would lose.

That scenario is the single greatest danger facing our country today.  As institutions with a statutory and moral obligation to help people of modest means, credit unions have a unique opportunity to help ensure that we continue to promote the best and the brightest this country has to offer.  First, the statistics are depressing.  According to an annual survey recently released by the Department of Labor, an increasing number of those in poverty — 10.4 million out of more than 46 million – are in fact working but making little advancement in striving for more financial security.  In addition, there is increasing evidence that the stubborn growth of the working poor reflects declining social mobility in this country; a credible case can be made that Europe is becoming a better place for moving up the ladder of advancement than the United States.

If we are going to help people of modest means, our challenge is more complicated than it was when the credit union movement took hold.  Credit unions no longer have to be created because large groups of people are legally denied loans based on their race, social class or ethnicity.  Still, there is a stubbornly high number of people of modest means and the challenges they face can be just as daunting as those confronted by previous generations.  It is no longer enough just to provide financial products to the poor or those discriminated against, instead we must show how the products and services we offer provide the means of social mobility.

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