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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

It is after all a fairly standard sequence in American history, isn't it? My grandparents were Eastern European immigrants who went through Ellis Island like everybody else, and you have this three-generational sequence. My grandparents were in the clothing business, in the sweatshops in New York, and then the next generation, my parents, sort of scratch their way into the middle classes, but don't become professionals or get a college education. And then the next generation -- me -- goes on to professional life.
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Stephen Jay Gould

Evolutionary Biologist and Paleontologist

Paleontology seemed an oddity. It wasn't the usual path of that third generation that makes it into the professions. Law and medicine is probably more common, but they were totally supportive. I somehow always knew I was going to go to college and be a professional of some sort. I had no idea what college was. It was kind of scary. I thought you had to study all day, which in fact you do. But my grandparents, who were sort of old country, Hungarian and Yiddish speakers -- it was, if anything, more of a puzzle, but it sounded wonderful -- they were, again, supportive. I remember my grandfather telling me I really ought to go to MIT, because that's the one place he knew about that was a technical education. Nothing to do with paleontology, but they thought it was fine. They were very happy to see a grandchild who was obviously intellectually fascinated, and who was going to have the opportunities that they had never had.
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John Grisham

Best-Selling Author

My parents did not have the benefit of college. They didn't get to go to college. They were from a very rural part of the deep South, where most of my relatives were from. College to them was always a dream. For us, it was always a requirement. We knew -- because they told us -- we'd go to college. And they worked very hard to pay for it, and to provide it for all of five kids. And I was the first member of my family to finish college, and to get a graduate degree in law, and to start practicing law. And for the family, that was a source of immense pride. To me, that's the American Dream, for one generation to keep building the dream for later generations.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

My father had served in both World War I and World War II, so we grew up thinking we were pretty good Americans. We didn't feel that we were lesser Americans than families who had been here a couple hundred years. I suppose there is a sort of innocence to many children of the immigrant story in the sense that they take the Statue of Liberty very seriously. They take the First Amendment seriously. They believe that this stuff is serious, that if you go out there and you cover America, the dream is supposed to work. We're not cynics. We're skeptics, and I think that was ingrained in our home and crystallized in my education at Harvard, where I was on the Harvard Crimson, which was a very good daily paper and which was very independent of the Harvard administration. It was fiercely independent. It took no money from Harvard, and there was a culture there of great social and cultural and political independence. Then I worked in the South for five years -- on a very good paper in Nashville, Tennessee for four years, which during the early days of the civil rights movement was independent and liberal and a tension point with, I think, the community at large often on racial issues. You learn not to seek popularity.
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David Halberstam

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism

The immigrant dream is very powerful in our family. America gave you a chance to be who you wanted to be. I think a lot of people take this for granted in America. They assume every other country is like this, and America, there's a couple of things that I think are critical to the American Dream. One is that one generation comes here and doesn't have the skill or the language and therefore has to sacrifice, but critical to their reason for sacrificing is the idea that the next generation will live better than they did in the old country and will rise above them. It's a great, great powerful thing, the ability to rise in one generation above what your parents were. The other thing -- and I think people really do take this for granted -- is the idea that in America you can invent yourself and be who you want. You don't have to be a prisoner of the past. To an astonishing degree in Europe, in the Old World or other parts, if your father was a peasant, you're a peasant. If he worked on the railroad, you're supposed to work on the railroad. If he was a tailor, you're a tailor. If he went to the École Polytechnique and was a high-level engineer, you can go to the École Polytechnique. But in America, that's not true. We really can be whatever we want, and it's just built into this country. Because of the great university system, because of the open education, there really is a sense that whatever it is you want to be, you can be, and I think that is more powerful now than ever.
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