Erie and the American Dream (The Institute on the American Dream)

A collection of immigrant stories over three generations 

The Institute on the American Dream at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, is collecting information and materials to be used in a special video project entitled "Erie and the American Dream."

The purpose of this project will be to examine various aspects of the immigrant experience in Erie, and to explore how particular circumstances affect an individual's understanding of and/or ability to achieve the "American Dream."  The video will include a series of interviews with a small number of families in the region, and will encompass the perspectives of three generations (more, if possible). A wide range of factors such as language, education, cultural values, ethnicity, and economic stability will be considered as they relate to the experiences of the immigrant families.

Some of the specific topics to be addressed in this project include: the dreams and expectations of the first generation in coming to the United States; the different opportunities and hardships encountered by each generation--were any of these issues specific to Erie?; the hopes of each generation for the future; and finally, how/if the definition of the "American Dream" changed from generation to generation, or changed over time for the individuals themselves. Another very important aspect of this project will be to examine the idea of the "American Dream" itself--what is the definition of "success" in the United States?; is it achievable by all?; are there social/government institutions that help some while preventing others from attaining the "Dream?"

Our goals for this project are twofold: first, we hope to present a realistic view of the challenges and triumphs of immigrants in the Erie area. What we learn from this endeavor will not only help us understand the enormous odds against which most immigrants struggle, but will give us a better appreciation of their achievements and contributions to the local community. Second, we hope to gain a better understanding of the ideals and institutions that at once make the United States both a land of enormous opportunity and a land of dramatic inequalities.

This project is being conducted in partnership with Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, the International Institute of Erie, and the Erie County Historical Society and Museum.