Right from the beginning, children are taught - no matter rich or poor, black or white, tall or thin - that they can achieve any goal they set their mind to. In Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could, the Little Blue Engine approaches the broken down train after three large trains declined to help deliver her cargo. Although she is very small and has never been over a mountain, The Little Blue Engine’s willing determination - not her size or experience - is what gets the toys and treats delivered to the children by the next morning. This “I think I can” mind set inspires children to always believe in themselves, no matter how impossible a goal may seem (Piper 34). With that point, let us not forget the 2006 Warner Bros. film Happy Feet. Mumbles, an adolescent penguin and protagonist of the film, is not born like the other penguins in his clan; he cannot sing. In spite of this, Mumbles discovers his love and talent for dance. Even Mumbles’ father, Memphis, begs Mumbles to at least pretend to be like the other singing penguins. In protest, Mumbles states, “Don’t ask me to change, Pa. I can’t” (Happy Feet). However, many are blind to the fact that Mumbles is really just like the rest of us. Like any other American character, Mumbles never stops fighting for his dream - to be loved for being who he truly is. The children of our country are taught that being different is OK, and choosing a unique path in life can still lead to happiness. To conclude, the determination to accomplish a goal or strive to become something great seeds when one is young.
Grit, hard work, and hope piece together the American work ethic. In his 1963 speech, I Have a Dream, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. exhibits his ruthless determination in gaining equal rights for African Americans. No matter how treacherous the fight may have been, King (1963) refused to give up for his cause, proclaiming, “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” Martin Luther King Jr. is a perfect example of the fearless Americans who established our country centuries ago. Leaders are idolized because they are not intimidated by a goal that may seem impossible. Nevertheless, citizens follow this example and strive for success. Therefore, success is earned with the help of the American work ethic.
Unfortunately, success does not always mean happiness. Take the ‘workaholic’ for example. These people live to work instead of work to live; consequently their ability to enjoy life is lost. In The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, protagonist Ethan Allen Hawley is set on establishing a better life for himself and his family. However, Ethan’s thirst for wealth blinds him from his true character. Ethan proclaims, “My light is out. There’s nothing blacker than a wick” (Steinbeck 278). This “light” equating to his moral values, success pushes Ethan to attempt suicide.