Employment issues have been in the forefront of the news recently. The need to have more jobs created, to put America back to work, etc. … and yet, signs are posted throughout the city stating “taking applications” and I began to wonder. Opening this morning’s newspaper an article on the front page, below the fold, declared, “A man with a degree and a dream” … a partial answer was found.
His name is Martei Plange. His homeland is Ghana. His dream was to come to America. His desire was to earn a college degree. His hope was that the degree would result in a job. The journey began at the age of 16. He is now 25 years old, has a degree in electrical engineering and he is still working to realize his American Dream. A sub-title to the article states: “Even in underemployment, Martei Plange works, and works, to realize his American Dream.”
Martei’s story was told by Michael Kruse, staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times. Mr. Kruse changed my understanding of just what it means to hold an American Dream. Most Americans equate the American Dream with financial stability. Mr. Plange, along with a large number of nonwhites and immigrants, see the American Dream as simply having the opportunity. Martei holds down two part-time jobs – one stocking shelves at a grocery store and the other as a valet parking attendant – and he holds onto the American Dream.
I quote … “’In a lot of countries, you’re restricted in some way, but here you don’t have that,’ (Martei) said after all the cars were parked. ‘You can pretty much do whatever you want to do. You can pretty much get anything you want.’ Anything, you suggest to him, except a job in his chosen profession. ‘But I have a job,’ Martei said with a smile. ‘I have two.’”
Mike Ford, the founding director of the Institute for Politics and the American Dream at Ohio’s Xavier University, says, “The American Dream is such a core part of our national lore, and yet it was created by and is sustained by non-native Americans. It’s not a dream by America. It’s a dream about America. It’s about values that people bring here not that they get here.”
Mr. Plange’s desires and needs are simple. He lives off his income from the part-time job at the grocery store and saves his part-time income from parking cars for graduate school. Those who he works for and with share that Martei is “reliable, professional and dependable” … “He works.” As Martei shares, about parking cars, “I actually love it. You get to meet a lot of people, you drive great cars, and you go to so many places. And you’re always running and moving. It’s like a free workout.”
The bottom line is that he is willing to do anything to make the American Dream a reality - regardless of the hours or the demands on his time and energy. He is willing to work and work hard long hours to seize the opportunities that are presenting themselves. Maybe it is the world from whence he came ... a world where the average yearly salary is $670 ... or maybe it is his work ethic or maybe, just maybe, it is something much deeper that is buried in his soul.
This one thing I do know, because of his humility and “surviving spirit” that he inherited, learned, witness and received from his father the American Dream will become a reality … is a reality … for Martei Plange and for all those who dare to dream, work, and hope for a better tomorrow. To quote a little red-haired girl, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow … you are only a day away.”
Quote for today: “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to the day to find it was all vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible..." T.E. Lawrence