The American Dream - Unes almost there

DeWayne Bartels
Leonard Unes, owner of Unes Printing Co., said he is about 10 percent short of achieving his vision of The American Dream. Unes said, for him, The American Dream is about self-satisfaction.

Leonard Unes has a ways to go to reach The American Dream, as he sees it.

Unes, 73, says he has achieved about 90 percent of his goal.

Unes said he has accomplished a lot in his life. He owns his own printing company, served on the city council, is an influential figure in the ITOO Supper and serves on the Peoria Civic Center Board. 

But, that is not quite enough.

His definition

“My definition of The American Dream would be self-satisfaction, not riches and material things,” Unes said.

Unes smiled as he looked out into his printing shop.

There he saw employees working on projects.

“I had a lot of mentors going all the way back to grade school,” he said.

At one time, Unes said, he wanted to be a priest.

Then, as with many young people, there were a whole series of other dreams that came and went. Unes said if there is one thing consistent about his dream, it is that it has changed over the years. 

One dream was to be football player for Notre Dame.

“That one didn’t come true,” he said, smiling again.

“One of my dreams in high school was to be a journalist. I was sports editor of my high school paper,” Unes said. “But, I got replaced by a girl. That dream ended.” 

Despite the dreams that ended in high school, it was in high school a teacher came into his life who changed his life’s goal. He found a new dream, and this one stuck.

“In high school, I had a great printing teacher called Mr. Guidon. He inspired me to succeed in the printing field,” Unes said.

After high school, he went into the printing industry, going to work for Logan Printing. He was making good money, but the military came calling.

He served his country and came back to Peoria, returning to Logan Printing.

But, he had changed.

The military instilled him with a sense of confidence and independence.

“Once again my dream changed. I wanted to have my own shop. I went out on my own,” Unes said.

“It was tough in the beginning, but we made it. Oh, there were sacrifices. There were sleepless nights. I gave up a good weekly salary and gobbled up my savings getting started. But, we came out the better for it.”

Unes said he took inspiration from his grandparents and parents. They came to a new country and forged a life and raised families. Unes said he learned from them to take life’s challenges and overcome them.

“In baseball, I never could hit a curve ball, but life’s curves I can handle,” he said. “My dreams won’t turn into a nightmare because of life’s curves.”

Unes said he is 10 percent short of achieving The American Dream.

“Nine percent of that 10 percent is a part of the dream I feel I will never achieve. It is getting a college education. Education is an issue I don’t feel I have the right to discuss,” Unes said.

“I just wonder how far I could have gone with a college education. I didn’t fulfill that.”

That is such a big deal, Unes said, because his definition of The American Dream is self-satisfaction, and this is an area he has not satisfied.

That leaves another 1 percent unfulfilled. But, that 1 percent, he said, is an area he just might yet fulfill.

“I’ve always wanted to write a short play. I don’t know how to do it. I have a mental block,” Unes said. “I want to pursue it. The hardest part is putting that first word down on paper.”