"Like all cultures, American culture has some great strengths, some glaring weaknesses, and some strange paradoxes. It may be too simplistic to conclude that Americans are lonely superachievers, but there is some truth to that. We try to get everything without giving up anything, but it seems you can't have your cake and eat it too.

"Success, self-esteem, and fun appear to be the most highly valued things in our culture. Love, money, and 'playing to win' are valued nearly as highly. Personal freedom and personal initiative make it possible for Americans to pursue these values.

"While we are looking out for number one, we give less attention to group loyalty, family relationships, and sexual morality. All these tend to put limits on the individual pursuit of the primary values. As for God and fate, they get some attention, but when they conflict with core cultural values, the core values usually take priority.

"American culture is changing rapidly in areas such as gender roles, where there is no agreement about what is proper and desirable. It is hard to know what the next generation will do with the culture they inherit. It seems that they may be less achievement-oriented and more people-oriented than their parents. They certainly have more options, more money, more free time, and more teaching on self-esteem than any previous generation. How can it be that so many of them are still bored, aimless, and taking drugs? If we're so rich, why ain't we smart?

"American culture assumes that if a society creates opportunities for its youth, everything else will turn out right. That assumption is not standing up well. America has not yet determined what else it needs or where else it should look. If America changes this basic assumption, the effects will permeate and transform the whole culture, but in what direction? We do no know. We cannot find direction in sayings like Just do it or Go for it They don't even tell us what 'it' is.

"America has vast wealth, power, and influence. It may be the best country in the world for shopping, having fun, or making your life a success. But is it the best country for 'living'? Are we the freest people in the world and yet voluntary slaves to the clock and the credit card? Is consumerism the key to the good life or the start of the rat race? Is the whole American Dream too good to be true? Time will tell."