On Meet the Press on Sunday, discussing the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s American Dream speech, host David Gregory asked a panel including Sheryl WuDunn, David Brooks, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Al Sharpton, “Is the American Dream still what it has always been?”
WuDunn, the New York Times reporter who shared winning the Pulitzer Prize with her husband Nicholas D. Kristof for their reporting from Beijing about the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the first Asian-American Pulitzer Prize winner, decided to invoke race, saying:
Look, the American dream is still available for the well-educated, so a couple of doctors coming from China or India in the middle class, they can come here and they can live the American dream. But for an inner-city single mom who lives in a bad neighborhood with bad schools, that’s a challenge, and that’s a problem right now. So the civil rights scandal isn’t Jim Crow laws, it’s actually that a poor minority kid living in inner Chicago, he has nowhere to go, whereas the rich white kid living in the suburbs with first-rate schools, y’know, he’s got everything, and education is the escalator out of poverty, but unfortunately that escalator is broken for the kids who need it most.
Later, Gregory asked her, “What is the more hopeful case, though, about the American Dream?” As a committed liberal, WuDunn decided to vilify Congress and invoke the liberal mantra of government providing opportunities, answering,
Well, I think that the problem is government gridlock. It really is. I mean, Headstart… 57,000 kids have been shut out of Headstart. And illegal immigrant children have no way to move up. The chances of an American moving up is worse, it’s one out of twelve, versus in Britain it’s one out of eight. So what does that mean? That means as Washington dithers, America burns. And that’s really important. The government used to be the provider of opportunities, mass education, y’know, local community high schools, secondary and tertiary education. The president mentioned Headstart, and that may be the single most critical thing that can make us build the American dream again. But, as Washington dithers, America burns.
Brooks immediately pointed out, “Headstart is not a successful program.”