For the past several years I’ve heard a great, loud chorus composed of government personnel, activists, and everyday individuals singing about how the American Dream is no longer attainable, how life is stacked against those who aren’t born to luxury and wealth, how life for the vast majority is nothing but drudgery and endless victimhood and hopelessness.
That may make for good theater and give political advantage for some, but it isn’t the reality of a great many men and women who have rejected the victim role and have worked hard to live their dream. These men and women are all around us if we just look.
There is little I can do to honor the hard work and sacrifice these people have invested in earning the freedom to live their dreams. However, on occasion I want to highlight some of these folks by telling their story. The story of where they came from and what it took to reach their dream. These are not stories of wealth and fame and a life of ease. Rather these are stories of long hours, very hard and often dirty work and a willingness to do what needed to be done to reach goals that were seemingly unreachable.
These are stories of the true American heroes. These are men and women carrying forward the American spirit of overcoming great obstacles and finding ways to succeed instead of excuses for failure.
These are the men and women we should be striving to emulate for they are the real future of the country if the future is to be one of growth and success rather than one of decline and ever growing misery.
I met Jaime recently. He is in his early fifties. He grew up in small town Texas where his parents struggled to make a living and provide for their kids. His was a good traditional Hispanic Catholic family, attending mass every Sunday followed by a large family meal. Those Sunday’s are his most vivid memory of his childhood.
Jaime dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. He wanted the things his parents couldn’t give him. He wanted them badly enough that he was willing to work long hours to get them.
Like many dropouts, it was only years later that he realized how big a mistake dropping out of school was.
Jaime struggled as a young man trying to support a small but growing family on what a high school dropout could make. He had no education. He didn’t have a trade. He had no skills.
He was getting nowhere fast.
Finally in his late twenties he decided to get his GED. He worked days and took classes at night.
He and his wife had a part-time job on the side. Their earnings from the part-time job were set aside as their “dream” fund. They didn’t know what their dream was—but they knew they were going to have a dream and it was going to be their opportunity to radically change their life.
In due time Jaime received his GED and with it a new job as a pastry chef for a large cafeteria style restaurant. It was the best job he had to date. His hourly wage wasn’t that great but the job had benefits and a 401(k)—and it wasn’t backbreaking physical labor.
After a few years he decided to change jobs, taking a position as a pastry chef for a country club. His income increased and he felt he had a little more prestige working for the country club rather than a cafeteria.
All the while he and his wife were diligently working their other part-time job, religiously saving for their dream, although they still didn’t know what that dream would be.
Finally, in his early forties, Jaime decided he needed something that would allow him to increase his income. He wanted to find something that would ultimately give his family more security while providing a better living than his pastry chef position could ever provide.
Jaime decided to take a step back in order to take many steps forward. He went to work for a brake and alignment service center with the intent of learning the business and eventually becoming a certified technician.
It was a tough decision. Not only did he take a decrease in pay, there were no benefits. No longer would he have a 401(k) with any company matching funds. He was going to have to pay for his own insurance. He was taking a big risk with only the promise of a brighter future.
His new occupation demanded he work all day and come home and study for his certification at night. The shop opened at 7AM and closed at 6PM, six days a week—and then off to the house to get cleaned up and study–long hours and all for only the expectation of a better life sometime in the future.
And, yes, he and his wife were still working that part-time job, saving for their unknown future dream.
Jaime got his certification. He not only became a certified brake and alignment technician, he became one of the best anywhere in the oil field. He eventually brought one of his sons and his son-in-law into the business while building a large and loyal clientele.
As the years at the brake and alignment shop passed, the dream finally began to formulate in his mind—he was going to open his own brake and alignment shop.
That was what Jaime and his wife had been working toward for twenty years.
Jaime is opening his brake and alignment shop at the perfect time. Business in Texas is booming. Many auto repair shops have two to three week waiting lists for even simple repairs. Jaime has an extensive list of business and individual clients who will provide him with immediate and sustained business.
He has taken the time to make sure he is doing the right things to establish a successful and ethical business. His first two hires were his son and son-in-law.
Jaime is the epitome of the American dream, rising from modest circumstances to being the creator of his own destiny. But not only has he created his own destiny, he has helped shape his entire family’s destiny as the shop, owned by his kids, will continue to service customers long after he has retired.
The American Dream is far from dead—just ask Jaime Vizcaino.
Oh, by the way, that part-time job he and his wife have had for the past twenty years saving for their dream?—they get up every morning at 3:30 to deliver papers and then go back to bed for an hour at 5AM (yep, they still do it).
Do you know someone with a great American Dream story that should be shared? If so, just let me know so we can feature it here: firstname.lastname@example.org.