Our nation once “turned its lonely eyes” to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Now, just as in the era those lyrics were penned, we’re in need of his example again.
A USA Today/Gallup poll released in June 2012 revealed that only half of Americans still believe in the American Dream —in the opportunity for a person to get ahead by working hard. And it’s not hard to see why. Americans are struggling: working 50- to 60-hour weeks, trying to support their families, manage their finances, and find meaning in the midst of unprecedented challenges and social shifts.
In this world of constant change and uncertainty, we need someone to look up to—someone to remind us that hope is still possible.
Our nation’s leaders seldom provide this. Our celebrities certainly don’t. But in Joe, we can once again find our way. He may have captured our imagination in a simpler time, but even in a world where the old rules no longer apply, his example still shines bright.
Joe = The American Dream
During the magical summer of 1941, Joe captured and held the nation’s attention during a very dark time, when Americans were weary from economic depression and impending war. His electrifying 56-game hitting streak (still considered one of the most remarkable achievements by any athlete in any sport) symbolized the potential for greatness we all yearned to see in ourselves.
He was the living embodiment of the American Dream: a young Italian from a poor fisherman’s family whose hard work and spirit enabled him to become one of the most accomplished, admired, and respected ballplayers of all time.
The American Dream is a promise—a promise that anyone, regardless of race, economic situation, or background, can realize their dream and achieve their full potential through hard work, dedication, and integrity. As Ken Burns, producer of the documentary Baseball, has said, Joe proved to us that “Your talent can take you as far as you can take your talent.”
Joltin’ Joe hasn’t gone away; in fact, he’s more relevant now than ever.
Joe = Inspiration
The defining issue of our time is how to keep the American Dream alive. And Joe DiMaggio—and the timeless ideals he embodies—can help us revive our belief in that dream, just as he did during that tense summer of ’41. The promise of America hasn’t changed, but our precarious economic times have us doubting whether it’s still possible for us and for our children.
During Joe’s legendary hitting streak (in a time without the internet or instant Twitter updates), the country came together over the progress of his incredible feat. The great baseball historian Robert Creamer tells of when his friend Andy Creichton travelled across the U.S. with a group of friends. Along the way, they stopped to get a bite to eat in a dusty diner filled with ranch hands and farm workers. Andy watched as the workers came in and asked the diner owner: “Did he get one?” They didn’t need to say the name “Joe DiMaggio.” Everyone was watching and waiting.
As Ken Burns has said of this time:
“We sort of all collectively held our breath. (‘Did he get one? Did he get one? Did he get a hit?’) DiMaggio was the glue that kept us all stuck together that summer. He was ‘us.’ It made Americans feel that anything was possible.”
Joe’s legendary hitting streak may be something no one will ever come close to challenging. But what he managed to accomplish, both on and off the field, from his humble beginnings is something every American can look to and draw hope from.
Joe = Us
Joe reminds us that humanity is capable of great things. He reminds us that talent combined with hard work and fair play can take us as far as we dare to dream. He reminds us that anything is possible.
“What does Joe DiMaggio mean to America?”
It’s a question we’ve asked historians, authors, key commentators of our times, producers, and fans across the web. The answers were varied, but the common thread in all of them was this:
Joe is America.
And it’s time we remember and embrace that again.
The Joe DiMaggio movement will continue to evolve as it grows, but our promise to you is that we are dedicated to experimenting with all creative avenues available in this digital age to help Americans redefine and rebuild their American Dream.
Will you join us?
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and join our growing community on Facebook at www.facebook.com/officialjoedimaggio.
There’s a little Joltin’ Joe in all of us—let’s rediscover it together.