Speaker to share his chase of American Dream

Katherine Wade

After living in a homeless shelter for more than two months, struggling to find a job and living 365 of the most thrilling days of his life, Adam Shepard achieved the American Dream.

When his 365 days were over, Shepard wrote and published a book called “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream,” which chronicles his experience. He’s now visiting universities, including WKU, to share his story.

Shepard, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., will speak in the Mass Media and Technology Hall auditorium at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and host a book signing afterwards.

Before he ever penned his own memoir, Shepard’s journey started with a different book.

It began shortly after he read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” which showed Shepard that the American Dream was dead.

“Her victimized attitude really bothered me,” he said. “At that time I was surrounded by peers whose mommy and daddy were paying for clothes and iPods and all that, and we didn’t appreciate what we had. I didn’t see anyone having appreciation for the American Dream.”

Shepard decided to try his own experiment to disprove Ehrenreich’s theory. He left his hometown with a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back and $25. In one year, his goal was to have a job, a car, a place to live and $2,500.

And he made it, though it wasn’t easy.

“One time in particular, I was questioning, ‘What’s going on? Why can’t I get a job? Am I going to move forward? Why isn’t this going as I was planning?'” he said. “Then a guy at the homeless shelter laid it out for me. He said I needed to keep going and throwing myself out there.”

Shepard said he learned the value of persistence. Every day was engaging, and he was constantly learning new things and meeting new people.

Jay Gabbard, an associate social work professor who researches homelessness, read Shepard’s book and invited him to speak at WKU.

“I thought it was pretty remarkable that a 22-year-old kid would have the guts to go test something like that out,” he said. “It really impressed me.”

Gabbard said Shepard’s talk will inspire students to pursue their own dreams and passions.

Andrew Fultz, a graduate assistant in the social work department from Lafayette, La., said Shepard’s book is fascinating, and he’s looking forward to hearing him speak.

“I want to hear from him what that was like to be able to go from having everything to having nothing, and then working your tail off to get what you need,” he said.

Shepard said his message to students is to step outside of the box and take a risk.

“Whether we have $25 or a quarter-million dollars, you go out, and you live a life of scratch beginnings,” he said. “I’m a regular guy. I lived a cool story, and you can live a cool story, too.”