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Figments of Our Collective Imagination: Amy Gutmann As a Mythological Symbol of the American Dream


Photo by Sharon Lee / The Daily Pennsylvanian

One might say Penn President Amy Gutmann has achieved the American Dream. Once a first-generation college graduate, Gutmann has ascended to the upper echelon of society. She’s an Ivy League university president with a multimillion-dollar salary to boot.

But the connection between Gutmann and the Dream runs deeper. Like Amy Gutmann, the American Dream is the stuff of legend. It’s captured the imaginations of generations. And like the American Dream, Amy Gutmann is but a myth.

Always appearing at official university functions, but only from a distance. So rarely seen that meeting her around campus is a newsworthy event — one that must be documented with photographic evidence for your peers.

Gutmann is criticized, praised, cursed, celebrated, clowned, memed. Her impact is undeniable. To Penn students, Gutmann is not a mere mortal, but a mythological creature said to bring fame, wealth, and stunning lack of empathy. In short, she represents the American Dream: sometimes so close, but always out of reach.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly from Amy Gutmann.