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Is the American Dream in transition?

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    Is the American Dream in Transition?
    9/13/2010

    John Zogby is a highly-acclaimed pollster and regular contributor to numerous television news broadcasts and print publications. The Washington Post calls Zogby “the maverick predictor” and his constituents believe he has no equal in knowing and reporting on the pulse of America.

    This summer I was fortunate to attend a conference where Zogby key-noted the plenary session.  I fully expected his topic would be the November elections and his predictions for national and state races. Instead, he focused on his book, “The Way We’ll Be” a report on the transformation of the American dream. Zogby claims 21st century America is quickly being defined by four meta-movements.  They are:

    1)       living with limits as consumers and citizens

    2)       embracing diversity of views and ways of life

    3)       looking inward to find spiritual comfort

    4)       demanding authenticity from the media, our leaders and leading institutions

    According to Zogby, there is a sea change underway toward personal consumption. He points to the significant rise of secular spiritualism, noting what we own and buy isn’t the test…the test is how fulfilled we are personally and spiritually. Through his polling in recent years he notes that (i) 35% of current workers are in a job that pays less than their previous job, (ii) those who have made it are asking “is this all there really is” and say they could live well with less, (iii) over 1 million baby boomers will live to be 100, can’t retire and are moving from accumulation to giving back, and (iv) the notion of making sacrifices is taking hold, pointing out the move to recycling and smoking cessation as examples.

    Zogby concludes with the following guide to marketing the way we will be:

    1)       Don’t write off the Private Generation (born 1926-45). They’ve got decades of healthy living ahead of them, and they’re going to fill those golden years with volunteering, mentoring, and lifelong learning opportunities.

    2)       Woodstockers (born 1946-64) will finally get tired of trying to look and act like their children. This is a generation that needs a second act--something with more social utility than an endless obsession with self. Write the script and they will come.

    3)       Nikes (born 1965-78) made “Just Do It” their mantra, but as they age, they’re going to bond with their own families as no generation ever before them has, and they are going to spearhead the search for greater fulfillment that the Secular Spiritualists have begun.

    4)       First Globals (born 1979-90) are ready to go anywhere, experience everything, and work and live in exotic places; and they pillage cyberspace for information that will allow them to do all those things. If you can’t market successfully to this amazing crew, find another line of work.

    5)       Americans will continue to define themselves less and less by paid work. It’s “who I am” not “what I do”.

    6)       In the battle between science and anti-science, science wins. No more Terri Schiavos, and no more global warming denial idiocy. Alternative fuels will heat and light our world.

    7)       The church of the future will be a bungalow on Maple Street, not a mega-structure in a sea of parking spaces. It’s intimacy of experience people long for, not production values.

    8)       The nation of the future will be in a strange way more intimate, too. Americans want to live in a world with other people, not in a walled empire surrounded by enemies.

    What is your take on Zogby’s predictions for the future? Are you already experiencing some of the meta-movements he identifies? Which of Zogby’s marketing principles do you take exception with? No matter whether or not you agree with Zogby, it is worth taking the time to reflect on your view of the American dream and how you think it may play out in the future!

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    About Jim

    James W. Dunn joined Bon Secours Virginia Health System in 2008 as Vice President of Advocacy and Community Affairs.  In 2010 the American Hospital Association awarded him the Grassroots Champion Award for his exceptional leadership in generating grassroots and community activity in support of a hospital’s mission.  Jim was recognized for his outstanding grassroots advocacy efforts at the state and federal level.

    Previously, Jim spent 38 years as a chamber of commerce CEO, serving local chambers in North Dakota, Ohio, Georgia and Virginia.   Highlights of Dunn’s 18 years as president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Chamber included $75 million of special funding raised to support regional public-private economic development and transportation initiatives, and in advancement programs targeting early childhood development, crime and public safety and workforce development.  

    Style Weekly named Dunn “Richmonder of the Year” in 2000 and he was recognized as “Chamber Executive of the Year” by both the Virginia and American Chamber of Commerce Executives Associations. He received Leadership Metro Richmond’s “Ukrop Community Vision Award” in 2006. Recently, former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine presented Dunn a lifetime achievement award from the Commonwealth of Virginia for his leadership as a champion for investment in early childhood education.