Sara Millan (left) thanks Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America CEO Bruce Marks after NACA was able to reduce her family's mortgage during an event in Los Angeles in September 2010. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

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IMG Academy pitching coach Dave Shepard gives pointers to pitcher Cameron Varga. Chip Litherland for NPR hide caption

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Vernon Jackson leaving the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., in 2006. He later went to prison for three years on bribery charges. Caleb Jones/AP hide caption

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NPR listener Matt Anderson defines the American dream as "having the time, money, health and resources to get to enjoy such simple and whimsical pleasures with my family at our local state fair." Courtesy of Matt Anderson hide caption

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Hyungsoo Kim brought his sons Woosuk (left) and Whoohyun to California from Korea so the boys could get an American public-school education. In "goose families," one parent migrates to an English-speaking country with the children, while the other parent stays in Korea. Martin Kaste/NPR hide caption

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Jennifer Larr (center) is seen here in Rwanda at the Gashora Girls Academy, where she was a teacher in 2011. Larr is part of a new generation of young adults focusing on travel, studying abroad and global experiences. Courtesy of Jennifer Larr hide caption

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Blades, shown in 1970. Echoes/Getty Images hide caption

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Michelle Holshue racked up $140,000 in student loan debt while training to become a public health nurse. She's living her dream of helping others, she says, but never expected it "to be so hard." Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

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In plays like FOB, M. Butterfly and Chinglish, David Henry Hwang, seen here at a 2006 gala, touches on the obstacles that can stand between immigrants and the American dream. Amy Sussman/Getty Images hide caption

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Bruce Springsteen onstage during the Born in the USA tour in 1985. Richard E. Aaron/Redferns hide caption

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The Record

Springsteen's American Dream, Beautiful And Bleak

Ann Powers says her infatuation with The Boss grew into adult respect for the strivers in his songs.

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Comedian Charlie Hill says he's achieved the American dream, but that it's been out of reach for many fellow Native Americans. Courtesy of Charlie Hill hide caption

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Paulette Goddard in the Tramp's (Charlie Chaplin) dream of a middle-class life in Modern Times. Chaplin/United Artists/The Kobal Collection hide caption

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A model shows off an ABC student's work. Most of the students are studying manicuring. Courtesy of Advance Beauty College hide caption

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U.S.-born Angel Luis Cruz, the son of Dominican immigrants, owns an insurance company in South Carolina. He says anti-illegal immigration laws have hurt his business. Kathy Lohr/NPR hide caption

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Prince performing at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, Calif., in 1985. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

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The Record

My American Dream Sounds Like Prince

Miles Marshall Lewis draws a line from Prince's concern for his community to the Hip-Hop Nation.

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Juan Carlos Reyes is studying for his master's degree. The son of poor Dominican parents, Reyes is convinced his success is an aberration and wonders about the kids from his neighborhood who were left behind. Claudio Sanchez/NPR hide caption

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