To spark a national discussion and debate, Eureka College, in collaboration with McLaughlin and Associates, has created the first-of-its-kind American Opportunity Index, a national poll of 1,007 likely voters assessing their attitudes and perceptions about the state of freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams. The full results are available at www.eureka.edu/aoi.
Eureka is the smallest college to graduate a president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan's remarkable journey took him from rural Illinois to world leader, with five careers in between—his life story illustrates the promise of American Opportunity.
Ronald Reagan once said, “The national purpose of our country is to unleash the full talent and genius of every individual.”
Do people today believe that America still offers the freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams? Here's what we found:
· Our survey showed that 91 percent of Americans agree, a sign that there is a personal sense of opportunity. Of interest, among African-Americans, the percentage was 96 percent.
·Americans are more divided on equality. When asked if they have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams as compared to their parents and grandparents, 45 percent of those surveyed say they do not.
·Forty-two percent disagreed that future generations will have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams compared to today.
·When asked if our leaders work to make sure Americans have the freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams, only 57 percent agreed.
These findings are based on seven metrics; personal access, equality of access, compared to past generations, compared to other nations, attitude about the future, belief in the future of American Opportunity and leadership. When totaled, these seven metrics produce a cumulative percentage score or “Index of American Opportunity.” Here, at the start of 2016, Americans perceive opportunity at two-thirds or 66 percent of its full potential based on the seven metrics.
The Reagan Society of Eureka College gathered over the weekend on the campus of Eureka College in Illinois to commemorate the 105th anniversary of Reagan's birth and the 161st anniversary of the founding of Eureka College—which amazingly both fall on February 6th.
At the event, we celebrated the values of lifelong learning, servant leadership, and the discovery of one’s vision and voice that are central to the classical liberal arts education Reagan experienced at Eureka. These liberal arts values helped him to become one of the most transformational leaders of the 20th century. He never forgot these lessons, nor where he came from, often saying, "Everything that has been good in my life began here [Eureka College]."
Eureka College challenges the nation to remember American Opportunity. President Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” We believe this is true for the opportunity that goes hand-in-hand with freedom.
The best annual birthday present in support of the legacy of Ronald Reagan is for all of us to keep American Opportunity in mind.
Dr. J. David Arnold is president of Eureka College.