Graphic: Masthead for American Dream Symposium.

The American Dream: Reality or Myth?

Washburn Law's Robert J. Dole Center for Law and Government in partnership with the Washburn Law Journal is pleased to host "American Dream: Reality or Myth?"

The symposium will be held Thursday, November 4, 2021. It will be broadcast live via Zoom. Registration is required to receive the link for the Symposium.

The 2021 Washburn Law Journal Symposium explores the conceptual viability of the American Dream. The American Dream promises to all Americans that through hard work and perseverance they can rise from rags to riches to fulfill their economic Manifest Destiny. Reality belies this myth. According to the World Economic Forum, the United States now ranks behind many other Western democracies in social mobility. Furthermore, compelling evidence suggests the American Dream has always been a myth for marginalized groups because of both intentional discrimination and structural inequality. This program will explore the core aspects of the American Dream—and the policies and laws that shape them—to determine whether equality of opportunity exists for the average American.

The symposium will consist of a keynote speaker and two panels.

  • Homeownership: The Fable of the Foundation
  • Keynote
  • Equal Opportunity: Fiction or Reality?

Watch all videos or view individual presentations below.

Follow the Symposium on Twitter at #wljamericandream.

Symposium Schedule

NOTE: All times shown below are Central Time (CT); e.g., 9:50 a.m. CT = 10:50 a.m. Eastern Time = 8:50 a.m. Mountain Time = 7:50 a.m. Pacific Time.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

9:50 a.m. – Welcome

Photograph: Carla Pratt. Photograph: Zachary Smith.

  • Shawn S. Leisinger, Associate Dean for Centers and External Programs, Washburn University School of Law
  • Zachary J. Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Washburn Law Journal

10:00 a.m. – Panel 1: Homeownership: The Fable of the Foundation

The ability to own one's home has been seen as the most vital aspect to achieving the American Dream. At the same time, America also has a history of discriminatory and disparate impact housing policies. From a current perspective, homeownership in America is experiencing a downward trend. This panel will explore the accuracy of homeownership as the symbol of the American Dream from an historical and a contemporary perspective.

Photograph: Judith Fox. Photograph: Patricia McCoy. Photograph: David Reiss.

Photograph: Kristen Barnes. Photograph: Andrea Boyack.

  • Judith Fox, Director, Economic Justice Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Law School [ Bio ]
  • Patricia McCoy, Liberty Mutual Insurance Professor of Law, Boston College Law School [ Bio ]
  • David Reiss, Professor of Law & Research Director, Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), Brooklyn Law School [ Bio ]
  • Kristen Barnes, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research, Syracuse University College of Law [ Bio ]
  • Moderator: Andrea J. Boyack, Norman R. Pozez Chair in Business and Transactional Law and Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law [ Bio ]
    Follow on Twitter @AndreaBoyack.

12:00 p.m. – Lunch (on your own)

12:30 p.m. – Keynote Address: Home Is Where I Want to Be

Professor Jennifer Taub will consider the range of federal, state, and local efforts that can be employed to stave off foreclosures and evictions and to help find housing for those without homes. Case studies addressed including the lackluster response to the 2008 financial crisis, the various eviction moratoria in response to the Covid pandemic in 2020-2021, and the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Photograph: Lizzy McEntire.

  • Introduction: Lizzy E. McEntire, Senior Articles Editor, Washburn Law Journal

Photograph: Jennifer Taub.

  • Jennifer Taub, Professor of Law, Western New England School of Law [ Bio ]
    Follow on Twitter @jentaub.

1:15 p.m. – Panel 2: Equal Opportunity: Fiction or Reality?

Legend holds that, regardless of status, anyone in America can work hard to receive a good education on the path to obtaining wealth and social mobility. Reality suggests that wealth and status are the keys through which Americans access opportunity and the American Dream. This panel will explore the connections between opportunity, wealth, and status in achieving success in American society. It will touch upon education, employment, and wealth policies that may exclude the disadvantaged from avenues of opportunity.

Photograph: Palma Strand. Photograph: Nicole McConlogue. Photograph: Matthew Dimick.

Photograph: Victoria Haneman. Photograph: Marsha Griggs.

  • Palma J. Strand, Professor of Law and Director of 2040 Initiative, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Creighton University Graduate School [ Bio ]
  • Nicole McConlogue, Associate Professor of Law and Clinic Director, West Virginia University College of Law [ Bio ]
  • Matthew Dimick, Professor of Law, University of Buffalo School of Law [ Bio ]
  • Victoria J. Haneman, Endowed Professorship, Frank J. Kellegher Professor of Trusts & Estates, Creighton University School of Law [ Bio ]
    Follow on Twitter @TaxLawProf.
  • Moderator: Marsha Griggs, Director of Academic Enrichment and Bar Passage and Associate Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law [ Bio ]
    Follow on Twitter @ProfessorGriggs.

3:00 p.m. – Closing Comments and Adjourn

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Date / Location

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Washburn Law Journal Special Issue

Washburn Law Journal, volume 61, issue 3 (spring/summer 2021), will be dedicated to the topic of this symposium, and will feature articles written by the participants. Participants are encouraged, but not required, to take advantage of this opportunity for publication by submitting an article or essay. Authors who cannot attend the symposium, but would like to submit, will also be considered for publication in the Journal.

Recent symposium issues of the Washburn Law Journal have focused on

See the Journal's archive for other past issues.

Inquiries about publication opportunities in the Washburn Law Journal should be directed to Zachary Smith, Editor-in-Chief, at

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General Inquiries

Shawn Leisinger
Associate Dean for Centers and External Programs
(785) 670-2464

Professor David Rubenstein
Director, Center for Law and Government
(785) 670-1682

Zachary Smith
Editor-in-Chief, Washburn Law Journal

Lizzy McEntire
Senior Articles Editor, Washburn Law Journal

Media Contact

Ryan Purcell
Assistant Director of Marketing Communications
(785) 670-1841