Conscience Laureate

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



Michael F. Ford, the founding director of the Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream,  wrote an article published in the Washington Post  about the Center’s second annual “State of the American Dream” survey.   The study revealed five myths about the American dream. My favorite myth was the one about the importance of money.  Ford wrote: “In a national survey of more than 1,300 adults  we completed in March, only 6 percent of Americans ranked “wealth” as their first or second definition of the American dream. Forty-five percent named “a good life for my family,” while 34 percent put “financial security” — material comfort that is not necessarily synonymous with Bill Gates-like riches — on top.

While money may certainly be part of a good life, the American dream isn’t just about dollars and cents. Thirty-two percent of our respondents pointed to “freedom” as their dream; 29 percent to “opportunity”; and 21 percent to the “pursuit of happiness.” A fat bank account can be a means to these ends, but only a small minority believe that money is a worthy end in itself.” So, if only 6% of Americans think wealth is important, why are the “99%” complaining about rich people?


When Sharon Sharp was Director of the Illinois Lottery, she invited me to be ball number 11 at a promotional party for the lottery.  I had a lot of fun.  I don’t play the lottery; probably because there are no lottery outlets by my home.  But millions of people in Illinois play the lottery.  The state of Illinois must think that winning a lot of money is part of the American dream, because the state has a plethora of games with “dream” its name, and even promoted an ad campaign that touted, “Dream a Little Dream with Me.”

Recently, some winners of the Illinois lottery’s scratch off game got a shock when the checks from the state bounced!  The lottery wrote 311 checks and mailed them to winners, but 85 of them were returned, marked “insufficient funds”.  Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said a mistake happened when a computer file wasn’t sent to the lottery’s bank correctly. Lottery officials did not key in the required security verification for the checks.

The lottery has apologized to the affected people and will pay for any bank charges that occurred because of the rubber checks.  The losing winners will also receive some free scratch off cards as an apology.

Since only 6% of Americans care about wealth, I am sure it did not bother the lottery ticket holders at all when their winning checks bounced because they are likely a part of the 94% who do not see wealth as a major priority. They probably just played the game for the thrill of it.


  1. J.J. Peppers, a few feet south of Rush and Chicago sells Lottery tickets.

  2. A bit cynical? I think you’re considering wealth per se versus having sufficient money to live the life you want to live. Most of us don’t want a yacht; I think that includes thee and me. You like to fly first class and can afford it; I just want to “get there” and use my money for other things. The people who clean our apartment twice a month view us, I am sure, as wealthy; I view us as comfortable. If we made a big score on the lottery, we’d probably pay off our grand-kids’ college loans, reimburse our children for their college loans, “help” our daughters by apartments, pay off our son’s mortgage, etc. Being frugal, I’d probably invest the rest.