Janet Ruane, Professor in the Sociology Department, co-wrote an opinion piece for The Chicago Tribune about how, despite the challenges we face, Americans remain optimistic and still dare to dream. An excerpt of the Op-Ed is below. Read the full piece at The Chicago Tribune.
The crises keep coming. But Americans haven’t lost their ability to dream.
Another school year is coming to a close, leaving students pondering their futures. Experts have argued that COVID-19 and the isolation it brought have influenced people’s development and future outlook — especially among the young. This topic is heating up again as new variants and 1 million-plus deaths in the U.S. raise the possibility of a return to Zoom classrooms, masking, social distancing and growing economic challenges.
To make matters worse, we must also contend with a new, frightening backdrop — the war on Ukraine. Daily accounts of the war present us with devastating sights and sounds: collapsed cities, explosions, mass graves, distraught victims. Life as people knew it is disappearing. In a March 16 New Yorker story, “What Young Ukrainians Have Lost Overnight,” one young woman said, “Now there’s nothing in the future.”
Is this young woman right? Is the future empty? For the past several years, we have researched what it means to dream — to imagine future possibilities. Tapping more than 270 people, we asked: Does everyone dream no matter what their reality is? What do those dreams look like? Are they uniquely personal, or are they patterned, following a cultural script? Do dreams differ from age to age, group to group, context to context? Do people ever fail to dream or simply stop dreaming?