My great grandfather left Czarist Russia (escaped when the soldiers came to draft him...the family story is that his mother and sisters distracted the soldiers while he left out the back door...when I was young I thought that meant they served them tea and strudel) and came to America.
He settled in New Bedford and supported his family with a horse drawn fruit cart. He could communicate in many languages (as a port city there were many languages being spoken), but never could read or write in English...Yiddish was his native tongue, and when reading or writing was required the kids would do it (I'm sure before the kids there were others in the community).
My grandfather (his son) was able to setup a hot dog cart at the beach when he graduated high school at 17. One day he passed a vacant storefront on the waterfront in the city, and with a handshake, rented it and opened a grocery store...lost everything twice (in hurricanes) but was able to support his family well and sent my mother to college, and my uncle through medical school. He would do various kinds of business deals (buy out a failing store and such). When he died, there were several people whom he had loaned money to that had been paying back the loans regularly...the terms were that any outstanding debt was wiped off the table...these were handshake loans, and they changed peoples lives and allowed them to start their own businesses and take care of their families.
His two children were much better off then him, and they were able to send all of their children through college...the 5 of us range from Lawyers to honey peddlers, none have been 'failures'.
Is this not _exactly_ the american dream? My great grandfather couldn't read or write English, and lived in an Orthodox Jewish community that might be viewed as 'closed' by many.
God Bless America.
On a related note, I haven't fact checked it, but Colbert tonight pointed out that 'America the Beautiful' was written by a woman...a woman that lived with another woman for 20+ years in what was known as a 'Boston Marriage'.