History 18: United States History from 1865

Essay Question

The American Dream has been described in different ways. It’s first use as a phrase was in 1931: That dream of a land

in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.

James Truslow Adams. But the concept had been around far longer, and can be traced to early origins of the American culture. It’s more

broadly accepted meaning is that anyone, no matter their class or their origins, can attain success through sacrifice, hard-work, and

risk-taking.

Walt Disney said, famously, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Using specific examples from the book Walt Disney: An American Original, discuss whether Walt Disney embodied the

ideals of the American Dream. In your discussion, you should recognize that there are both positive and negative elements to the

American Dream, and to Walt Disney as well. Be selective in your discussion and draw from different eras in Walt’s life (and American

history).

NOTE: DO NOT SIMPLY GIVE ME A TIMELINE OF DISNEY’S LIFE!!! BE ANALYTICAL AND ASSESS HOW DISNEY REFLECTS THE AMERICAN DREAM.

Book Essay Assignment
History 18: United States History from 1865
Spring 2016, Section 88209
Due Date: March 1, 2016

The Book:Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas.

Description: Written with the cooperation of the Disney family and Disney corporation, this biography is overall sympathetic

in its depiction of Walt Disney. At the same time, it doesn’t shy away from exploring Disney’s role in some pivotal times facing the

United States during his lifetime. When compared to some later biographies that tend to sensationalize and even imagine traits of

Disney (without much evidence, I might add), this version of the Disney story is grounded in fact, highly documented, and includes

evidence of Disney’s actions during key historical moments for the United States. And it goes without saying that Disney is an American

icon, with his achievements reflecting American society and shaping its culture.

In reading this book, consider how Disney serves as an example of the American Dream, warts and all. In particular, you will be

able to see how his life compares with or reacts to various eras coinciding with his lifetime.

Reading Schedule: Try to read along at a steady pace. Use the Table of Contents and try to follow the sections of Walt Disney:

An American Original correlating with the time period covered each week. The reading moves quickly and I think you’ll enjoy the stories

as they unfold. In particular, for purposes of your paper, consider the following:

• The American Dream: How did Disney’s upbringing in the early decades of the 20th century shape his attitudes toward

opportunity and hard work?
• The 1920s and Modern America: Disney came of age during World War I and during the excesses of the Roaring Twenties. It was a

time of great energy, of can-do spirit, of the growth of advertising and a leisure culture. Consider Disney’s life and how it may have

been influenced by these events.
• The Great Depression was a major struggle for the nation as a whole, and Disney was no exception. How was Disney impacted, both

personally and as a businessman?
• The 1940s were a pivotal time for Disney, in terms of labor strikes, anti-Communist agitation, and the war. Consider his role

in each of these major US periods.
• As America moved into a more conservative and affluent society, Disney evolved as a business model and in his interests.

Consider that correlation. During this period, Disney became more than a business; he led a cultural and commercial revolution of

sorts. How did that tie-in to the affluence the US was experiencing?
• Disney died before the US reached its crisis year of 1968, but he did live long enough to experience the Civil Rights movement

and the anti-war, anti-social protests spreading out through the United States. Did he react to these events in a way that moved

forward or looked backward?

Essay Question

The American Dream has been described in different ways. It’s first use as a phrase was in 1931: That dream of a land in which

life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement. James

Truslow Adams. But the concept had been around far longer, and can be traced to early origins of the American culture. It’s more

broadly accepted meaning is that anyone, no matter their class or their origins, can attain success through sacrifice, hard-work, and

risk-taking.

Walt Disney said, famously, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Using specific examples from the book Walt Disney: An American Original, discuss whether Walt Disney embodied the ideals of the

American Dream. In your discussion, you should recognize that there are both positive and negative elements to the American Dream, and

to Walt Disney as well. Be selective in your discussion and draw from different eras in Walt’s life (and American history).

NOTE: DO NOT SIMPLY GIVE ME A TIMELINE OF DISNEY’S LIFE!!! BE ANALYTICAL AND ASSESS HOW DISNEY REFLECTS THE AMERICAN DREAM.

Nuts and Bolts for Writing Your Paper

• 4-6 pages in length
• Double-spaced
• 12 point standard font (New York, Times, Times New Roman)
• Margins no larger than 1” all around
• Provide a cover sheet for your paper
• Proof-read your paper before handing it in
• If writing is not your strong area, get help at the Writing Lab and ask them to show you where your writing is not good in

terms of grammar or construction and how to fix it
• You must provide both: a discussion of the question with your analysis AND specific examples from the book, the movie, and

class resources
• Your grade will be based upon the level of your analysis, the use of specific facts and examples, and the writing quality
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