by Michael F. Ford

All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Michael Ford Field Experience Scholarship at Xavier University.

Our presidential candidates feel compelled to talk about the elusive American Dream. But few seem to have a clear understanding of what the Dream really means for the average citizen. The late Michael Ford, a respected national political strategist and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University, was uniquely qualified to offer his insights. In this book, Ford presents a thorough analysis of the American Dream and provides a fresh, contemporary perspective on a concept first popularized by historian James Truslow Adams in the Great Depression era.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Ford asserts that the American Dream is surprisingly resilient, despite the steady decline of public trust in those institutions historically seen as the Dream's protectors. He asserts that the American Dream is not about material acquisition; it is not about becoming wealthy or acquiring an expensive house or getting the best job. It is about hope, aspiration, and the freedom to lead a meaningful life and to become the person one wants to be.

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Ford discusses threats to the American Dream, including the shortcomings of American higher education, the problem of automation and the economy of the future, the decline of the middle class, and the prevalence of civic illiteracy in the American population. He critiques the misuse of the American Dream by commercial entities, politicians, pundits, and special interest groups that use the concept to market themselves or their products. Ford concludes that these threats demand national attention and he offers inspiration and provocative ideas to help preserve the American Dream.

Ford reminds us repeatedly that the American Dream is one of the few unifying ideas in our republic. He asserts that the American Dream defines our aspirations both as a country and as individuals, and that the Dream's resilience confirms our belief in ourselves. It is for these reasons that Ford, in the title of his book, appropriately borrows from Robert Browning's poetic question: Ah, but a man s reach should exceed his grasp or what's a Heaven for?

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From the book jacket:

Among Mike Ford's many gifts, the greatest may have been his ability to inspire young people around him, teach them to be the best versions of themselves, and understand the importance of giving back to their communities and their country. This book is yet another manifestation of that extraordinary gift. 

Vice President Walter Mondale


Michael Ford, a tough, veteran pol, equally at home in the world of ideas. 

Peter Goldman, Former Senior Editor of Newsweek


No one I know thought more about the American Dream, and worked harder to defend and save it, than Mike Ford. His book is his torch passed on to each of us to keep our unique American Dream alive. 

Joe Trippi, National Campaign Consultant and Fox News Contributor


With laughter in his heart, steel in his spine, and political genius in his genes, Mike Ford served loyally and well our democracy, our country, and justice. He was a teacher of democracy who inspired the thousands of us who worked with him. And because Mike made us believe we were better than we really were, he enabled us to become better than we had been. I hope, someday, we will see his like again. But until we do, we have his book. 

Mark Shields, Syndicated Columnist and Political Analyst PBS Newshour


It takes a heart as big as Mike Ford's to understand why the American Dream is embedded in the soul of every American. After four decades of analyzing America s biggest hopes and desires, Ford innately describes the Dream's true nature, why it's at risk today, and what to do about it. 

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell


About the Author

Michael F. Ford was uniquely qualified to offer his insights into the state of the American Dream and its ongoing importance to the American character, economy, and spirit.

After a long and distinguished career as a national senior political strategist and CEO of his own communications company, Ford returned to his alma mater, Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and founded the Center for the Study of the American Dream.

As its Founding Director, Ford led the Center's efforts in generating significant original research and survey data, in order to better identify and analyze shifts in the continued evolution of the American Dream. In furtherance of the Center s mission, Ford lectured widely, appeared on a variety of television and radio programs, and published articles on the subject of the American Dream.

At the time of his death in late 2013, Mr. Ford had just finished writing this book. With the generous help of the Center and his family, Mr. Ford's long-awaited analysis of the current state of the American Dream and long-term threats to its continuance is presented here.