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It’s Great to Know the American Dream is Very Alive

October 14, 2016, 1:00 PM UTC
All photos courtesy of the subjects

I bore witness to the American dream Thursday night.

In the hip San Francisco headquarters of the digital publishing software company Automattic, Fortune held its annual 40 Under 40 party. The event has become a must-attend affair for the Silicon Valley elite. They come to see each other and also to celebrate the accomplishments of the not-yet-four-decades-old overachievers from tech and other industries.

This is one impressive list. It includes people like the CEO of the Automattic itself, Matt Mullenweg, whose distributed company has changed the face of publishing. We recognized leaders from the biggest companies in tech, like Joe Zadeh, head of product for Airbnb; Rachel Holt, the top operations executive in North America for Uber; and Bozoma Saint John, who runs marketing for Apple Music.

These are just a few examples, and you can see our entire list here. It is diverse in every way, from gender to nationality to industry. (Even in San Francisco we are aware there is life beyond tech.) Fortune’s group of 40 Under 40 doesn’t merely represent the future of global business. It constitutes the present too.

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On my way home I met someone who embodies the American dream every bit as much as the group Fortune had spent the night celebrating. Like me, this man in his late 40s—we weren’t even close to being eligible to be honored Thursday night and have school-age daughters in the same grade. Unlike me, he drives full-time for Uber and Lyft. He’d been at it since 6:00 a.m. and was preparing to return to his home in Sacramento, a 90-minute journey. An Iraqi who immigrated to California just over two years ago, my driver worked for the U.S. government in Baghdad. He felt fortunate to be here and to be earning a living, no matter how long the hours. He hopes one day to become a U.S. citizen.

From tech’s prodigies to a new American life aided by a wonder of innovation, it felt good, especially in the lamentable political environment we confront daily, to be reminded what a great country we live in.