Erin O’Flaherty: America needs to reclaim status as ‘land of opportunity’


If America really is the “land of opportunity,” then everyone truly should have a fair chance to succeed.

Sadly, however, I don’t believe we are the land of promise we once were. With the world so full of discrimination, the term “land of opportunity” often gives people false hope.

The American Dream is not as accessible as it is made out to be. True opportunities for many are few and far between.

In today’s world, many people discriminate against anything that seems to differ from them. Many have naturally selfish dispositions and are unwilling to listen to opposing beliefs or opinions. As a result, biases, discrimination and a halt of progressive cultural evolution occur. It seems as though people discriminate against anything to help their view.

Nationality, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, political views and social status seem to be among the most prevalent forms of discrimination. While nearly everyone is affected by discrimination at some point in life, not enough of the population is willing to accept diversity as a benefit for our culture. Many people are stuck in the past.

America is set up to be a melting pot of diversity, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute. From the outside, this melting pot seems to bring our country together, upholding the “stand” part of our motto: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

If those on the outside can accept this diversity, why is it so hard for us to do so?

The “land of opportunity” is far from what it seems. While I wholeheartedly attest to the fact that this country offers more freedoms than most, equal opportunities are not showered upon every member of society.

The word “opportunity” can mean something different to everyone. It could mean money and jobs, class mobility, or even freedom.

As far as job opportunities, discrimination plays a huge role in diminishing opportunities. The gender-wage gap continues to be wide, and while we have laws designed to reduce discrimination in the workplace, many of those are ignored.

Many employers continue to hire less qualified people because they have the same views as the employer.

We are so fortunate to have class mobility, a freedom that few countries have. We have the lower, middle, and upper classes. Through intelligence, hard work and luck, it is possible for anyone to move between the classes.

The principle of this system affords many the hope of changing their lives if they are not happy with their social status. If someone is born poor,  it does not mean they have to be poor for the rest of their life. Moreover, if someone is born rich, they generally are expected to work (in most cases) to keep their money and status.

Nonetheless, opportunities are not equal. It usually takes years of higher education to be offered what would be considered a lucrative job. When people who are born poor cannot afford this education, they are almost automatically ruled out of “moving up.”

The opportunities in America are abundant, but the fine print of these opportunities is that they are not easy to come by without connections, which can take decades to build. Americans, of course, have freedom to find these opportunities, but even the freedom is hindered by discrimination.

I love my country and I love that our mission has been to be a land of opportunity for all. But our growing population, political movements and biases have offset that goal.

I hope we all can open ourselves up to more diversity and acceptance, and once again truly become the “land of opportunity” that we are known for around the world.

Erin O’Flaherty is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting and the current Miss University of Central Florida. She can be reached at [email protected].

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