International Builders Show crowd shot

Some 120,000 people are expected in Las Vegas this week. It's taken the better part of a decade of toil and the merging of three big shows into one--the International Builders Show, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, and the International Surface Event--to get it here, but still. The attendee crowd is a strong testament to renewal and resilience for an economic sector and an occupation that was beaten down pretty badly.

It's a lot of people whose lives and livelihoods, whose companies, whose resources of time and money and talent all aim at this single purpose of making homes and neighborhoods better.

Too, IBS and its co-located events have become markets not just of materials and manufactured items, but of better practices and of ideas, of smart tactics that are doable, and practical, and not exorbitant. Because, while all those new products on display in the aisles and their promise of performance, value, and unimagined new functionality are critical to a healthy ecosystem that ultimately brings people homes, that's not all recovery takes.

That's an essential and vital part of it, but it's not all.

We've learned from the past couple of years of observing and reporting on housing's recovery that it's part way there. A great number of people are better off than they were--in both the business of housing and simply in living in their homes and communities--than they were five years ago.

What we're learning in this reset, risk-averse, skin-in-the-game environment is that the business cycle and the housing cycle that latches to it have gone just so far in hauling our economies back from the brink, back from despair.

So, the 120,000 people who are working, buying, selling, hawking, promoting, and energetically pushing commerce forward through the convention center's aisle are part of a mission. To make housing whole again.

The global context of dislocation, of terror, and of energy oversupply serve as a backdrop of an important, more domestic drama playing out here in this country.

The American Dream. Do Americans want it? Who does it matter to, and does that matter in the big picture? How important is it that Americans who have give those who don't have an opportunity to have?

Here's a glimpse through one lens at the state of the American Dream.

Pew Charitable Trusts data on the American Dream

Should this be a surprise? Is it a worry that nine out of 10 Americans say that, effectively, "treading water" would be okay? Is it a concern that just one in 10 says that moving up and into the good American life is a priority?

And on this day, a day we honor a man whose life, and soul and full-powers of eloquence devoted themselves to the Dream--do we worry about the reality?

It's our view that 120,000 people gathering together to ply their wares and propose their ideas, and cobble their deals would be most successful if the hope and determination and ingenuity we know to be part of the American Dream is all alive and kicking.

We'll touch base over the next few days with an anecdote or two about all of this. Meanwhile, best of success to all of those who've invested in making the shows a proud stride forward.