The American Dream is no longer a reality.
The Associated Press recently cited a statistic that made the U.S. middle class shudder: 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 went to the top 1 percent of earners. And while middle class incomes — often credited with keeping the U.S. economy afloat — stagnated at 1 percent growth per year over the past four years, corporate profits have grown 20 percent at the same time.
How did we get here and who is to blame? Those questions and many more will be pondered when two-time Emmy winner Hedrick Smith asks “Who Killed the American Dream?” during the third lecture of UNL’s 2013-14 E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues.
This year’s forum is built around the theme of “U.S. & Them,” and examines the United States’ role in today’s globalized society.
Smith will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. A pre-talk will be given by Mary Jo Deegan, UNL professor of sociology, at 6:30 p.m. the Lied Center’s Steinhart Room.
Smith, who has earned two Emmy awards and two Pulitzer Prizes, will delve into the political and economic policies that have put the middle class on a path to extinction. Lloyd Ambrosius, chair of the Thompson Forum Program Committee and UNL professor of history, said Smith’s talk would be especially profound for younger audiences.
“What he’s focused on is the issue of social mobility,” Ambrosius said. “How do younger Americans fulfill the American Dream for themselves? How can they achieve more in the American economy than their parents did? That has been the American dream … that every generation can do at least as well — hopefully better — than the previous generation.
“Unfortunately, in the last 30 years or so, that is increasingly no longer the case. Younger Americans do not necessarily have future prospects that are as good or better than those of their parents or grandparents. What happened in our society? What are the issues and what are the decisions that need to be made to ensure that future generations can still have the prospect of fulfilling the American dream?”
Smith spent 26 years at the The New York Times, where he was among the team the produced the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Pentagon Papers” series. He ialso s the author of five bestsellers, including “The Power Game: How Washington Works,” which has been touted as a handbook by many in Washington’s inner political circles. His most recent book, “Who Stole the American Dream?” is the basis for his Thompson Forum lecture.
Smith has produced 26 primetime specials and miniseries for PBS, including “Inside the Terror Network” and “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” The specials have gained Smith two Emmys, two Sigma Delta Chi public service awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and two duPont-Columbia Gold Batons for best public affairs program.
The lecture is the third of five presentations in the Thompson Forum series. This year’s forum examines America’s role in the world and delves into a wide range of global and domestic topics, including foreign relations, military reach, educational status and the economy. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Biographical information on each of the speakers is available on the forum’s website, http://enthompson.unl.edu. Sign-language interpreters will be present for the deaf and hard of hearing. Forum lectures will be streamed live at http://go.unl.edu/5ond and available on Lincoln digital cable Channel 80 or Channel 99 on analog cable, UNL campus Channel 8 and UNL’s KRNU radio (90.3 FM).
The Thompson Forum is a cooperative project of the Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center and UNL. It was established in 1988 with the purpose of bringing a diversity of viewpoints on international and public policy issues to the university and the residents of the state to promote understanding and encourage debate.