Head down to the Toadstool for a chat with Hendrick Smith on Thursday

It’s a bit last-minute, we know, but if you’re reading this before 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, head down to the Toadstool Bookshop at Lorden Plaza in Milford and exchange views with Hedrick Smith.

The former New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter will discuss his book “Who Stole the American Dream” and it is the kind of discussion that Americans of all stripes should be having as often as possible.

At first glance, we know, the title might seem off-putting. Many of us still harbor the American dream in which each and every one of us has an equal chance to succeed, indeed to thrive.

In America, we used to say, anyone can grow up to be president.

Well, though, even as we were saying it, and that hasn’t been all that recently, we knew it wasn’t true, at least not then. Women couldn’t grow up to be president. Black people couldn’t grow up to be president. That’s changed, certainly, or at least it seems to have changed. Perhaps President Obama was merely an aberration, something that we’ll see as the years pass and let’s hope not too many of them.

But where we really used to be sort of equal was economically. Oh, the odds were against us morphing into the Nelson Rockefellers of our world but we always had the chance, we believed, to make something of ourselves, to have better lives than our parents.

Now?

Too many of us worry that our children and their children not only might have it worse than we, but already do. How many of us have children with college educations crashing in our basements because they can’t find jobs so can’t afford an apartment? Too many.

Hedrick Smith’s book argues that the odds have been stacked against us, that the super rich have the world, or at least our part of it, skewed so much in their favor that the rest of us, particularly the middle class, haven’t a chance to grasp the brass ring of the American dream. The best we can hope for is a bit more than survival level and our kids are really up against it.

In his talks around the country, he has found common ground with liberals and conservatives, the latter because smart business people (many of whom are conservative) understand that a nation stacked against the people who actually do the work, perform the tasks set for them by the super rich, need hope, need to see a ladder they can climb to success. So they, too, these business people, know that the playing field has to be … well, it can never be level because so many have started with so much. But if not level, at least our side needs to see a chance to win something.

Smith’s talk at the Toadstool begins at 4 p.m. and he welcomes dialogue, he seems to love the give and take of these gatherings, and he wants to hear from people of every political and economic stripe. So go, if you can. And if you can’t, read the book.