In 1931, an American writer, James Truslow Adam coined the phrase “the American Dream,” an ideal he surmised as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” But Adam’s coinage and articulation was predated by John Winthrop’s 1630 “City on Hill” sermon, in which Winthrop eloquently laid out his dream of a society, where everyone would have a chance to prosper as long as they worked hard and upheld lofty ethical standards. Winthrop and Adam’s ‘dreams’ have since captured the American imagination, inspiring the founding fathers’ pursuit of a society that protected everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political theorist, visiting the new nation in the 1830s, called this dream “the charm of anticipated success.” In a sense, America, like every great society, is the product of a dream.
In November 2012, Xi Jinping articulated a vision for the nation’s future that he called the Chinese Dream. He presented the dream with specific goals, like becoming a well off society by 2020. The government reminds the public about the Chinese Dream with promotional posters. And the public reminds the government how it feels about the dream with constant posts on social media.
“I have a dream!” These words will always resonate. Not only did they come to pass, they secured a place for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the annals of history. The truth is, dreams are powerful. A leader is defined and known by his dream. Dreams are the seeds of a leader’s legacy. They drive a leader’s achievements. Without a dream, a leader is merely a wanderer. Dreams dictate a leader’s first steps in any venture and provide the impetus for continuous improvement. Dreams not only convey our deepest desires and shape our personal lives; they also shape our national destinies.
National dreams are a social contract between the leadership and the led. They consist of the promises the government makes to the people and the promises the people make to themselves and to one another. Though leaders set the tone, a national dream is not entirely the prerogative of a government; it is the shared aspiration of a people.
What is the Nigerian dream?
The truth is that Nigeria has had a succession of leaders with diametrically opposed dreams, some good others not. But despite this absence of a clear, unifying and consistent Nigerian dream, the main aspirations of the people are basically the same: food, shelter and security, access to quality health care and education, equal opportunities within a system that is fair to all, and pride of place within the African continent and the world at large. These dreams are well within our grasp, and it will take the effort of all to progressively bring it to fruition. It will take leadership to articulate a dream the people can rally round and create an enabling environment for individual ingenuity to thrive. On the other hand, it will take the people to assume responsibility for promoting and defending the country of their dreams. This goes from seemingly mundane actions like not throwing out refuse on the streets, to paying taxes to obeying traffic lights and performing our civic duties during elections, etc. As a people we have the natural and human resources needed to make Nigeria a great nation.
In the immortal words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
• Nigeria Has A Great Future