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Where is My American Dream?

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On Thursday, Oct. 13, Over 50 and Out of Work went to Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park. We filmed the chaotic scene of occupiers, protestors, opportunists, capitalists, police, journalists and artists and interviewed several participants in the movement.

"Where is my American Dream?" read a sign held by Gerlyne Maitre, 29, of Mount Vernon, N.Y. Maitre, a graduate of Hunter College with a degree in sociology cannot find full-employment. She accepts every temporary part-time job she is offered and works hard, but she cannot see a promising future ahead for herself. She contrasts her life experience to that of her parents, Haitian immigrants who came to the United States in their twenties. Her father became a teacher, and her mother, a registered nurse.

"The American Dream is not a reality for me anymore because I don't have that house; I don't have a car. I can barely afford to keep living and paying for my bills. Eating and stuff like that is a struggle," Maitre said.

Rosina Grignetti, 52, lives in Lexington, Mass. and works as a home caregiver for the elderly on weekends. She traveled to Manhattan to participate in Occupy Wall Street and plans to return because she is concerned about the prospects for the next generation.

"I remember when people could send their kids to college; they could buy a home.
We certainly didn't have one in four children living in poverty, the way we do now, and that's a disgrace," Maitre said. "Bring back the American Dream; give people hope."

Union construction worker Richard DeVoe, 54, lost his position as job steward on the CityCenter development in Las Vegas when the huge project was completed in 2008. A lifelong political activist, DeVoe went through a four-year apprenticeship program and joined the union for income security, but he has not found it, despite his willingness to relocate. DeVoe now resides in Easthampton, Mass., but he and his wife are barely scraping by.

"I can't give up on this, there's too much at stake, so I'm here for the duration," DeVoe said about his commitment to Occupy Wall Street.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center reported that the general public is starting to pay attention to Occupy Wall Street and its ideas. Forty-seven percent of Americans believe that Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps, while 38 percent think that Wall Street helps more than it hurts and 15 percent have no opinion.

Last Thursday when we were at Zuccotti Park, occupiers swept and scrubbed their camp after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the park would have to be vacated so that it could be sanitized by its owner, Brookfield Properties. That order was rescinded on Friday morning, which protestors and supporters regarded as a small, but important milestone victory for the month-old movement.

Today, Occupy Wall Street is cleaning Zuccotti Park again -- this time in preparation for a family sleepover that will begin on Friday afternoon and end Saturday morning.

Commentators have begun to describe Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party benignly as spontaneous expressions of democracy arising from both the left and right wings of the political spectrum. It's interesting to note, however, that some supporters at Tea Party rallies used the occasions as opportunities to carry guns openly while Occupy Wall Street is providing arts and crafts, a singalong and a bedtime story for kids.