Weather Center | Classifieds | Advertise With Us 

Tampa Bay Online Edition

Last Updated: Jul 23, 2008 - 4:15:37 PM 

Front Page 
 Top Stories
 Features and Series
 Finding Florida
 Community In Focus
 Links Mentioned
 In Your Words
 News & Community
 Community News
 Where In South Hillsborough?
 Observing The Web
 In Uniform
 Community In Retrospect
 Nation and World
 Positive Talk
 Over Coffee
 Saturation Point
 View From the Road
 Wandering Florida
 Savvy Senior
 You, Me and Business

Observer Classifieds

Place a Classified Ad

Send a Letter to the Editor

Send a Press Release

Staff Directory

Archives / Search 2003

Community Links


Commentary: Life, Immigration and Adventure
By Mitch Traphagen
May 4, 2006 - 8:00:00 PM

Email this article
 Printer friendly page


One of the truly amazing things about this country is not just the opportunity that we have but rather, the choices we have for those opportunities. We can choose to work hard towards becoming a highly paid CEO of a corporation or we can choose to become a ditch digger. No one is telling us we have to do either. No one is telling is we can't do either. It's up to us.

That is one of the things so great about this country — we have the opportunity and we have the choice. How things turn out is entirely up to us and our own hard work and dedication to our goals.

The United States is not really the melting pot that we were all taught it to be in junior high civics classes. It is, rather, a multi-course meal. The end result, however, is the same.

The hodge-podge of cultures and backgrounds that is found in America somehow works here - a feat that few other countries can claim. And it not only works, it works really, really well. Despite the problems and changes in the world, this country still leads on virtually any measure of success — and usually by very wide margins.

From my perspective, for an immigrant — legal or otherwise — the easiest path to business and financial success involves assimilating into the general culture of this country. That is accomplished through English language skills and the adoption of the norms and mores of the local community. That does not mean that any individual's native culture must be sacrificed, however.

But there again, we have the choice. Not everyone wants to be a CEO. Some people simply want an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Some people simply want to provide for their children and create the means for their lives to be better. It doesn't matter if you are an illegal immigrant or a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, that is a common thread among all hardworking people in this nation.

And in America, the choices and opportunities are limited only by imagination. No single nation can compare with that. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprise when people want to come here.

As a relatively wealthy populace, we shouldn't be shocked that others in the world want the chance to not only earn a share in that wealth but also to contribute to it.

And, as such, we shouldn't be offended when people are willing to work hard and contribute to this great nation in an effort to earn a little bit for themselves and their families. If you stop to think about it, risking all to come here for those opportunities is no small compliment towards the U.S.

Regardless of where you stand on the immigration issue, I think it's important to remember some of the above and, before drawing any lines in the sand, take a moment to remember why people want to come here. The reasons are no different than those of our immigrant forebears — more opportunities and a chance for a better life. Wanting that is not criminal — ironically, that is part of the American spirit.

And if you think about it, whether it's right or wrong, with those goals in mind, the smartest thing anyone with a drive for success can do is come to America.


For the past few years I've had a small video production company. My brother, who lives in Minnesota, recently asked me to make a "photo-video" for his son, my nephew, who is graduating from high school this year.

He sent a few hundred pictures from Zach's life. There were cute toddler shots and heart-warming shots with Mom and Dad. There were pictures of triumph and achievement. As I was organizing them into something that would make a semi-coherent documentary, I made a sad discovery.

I wasn't in any of the pictures.

My wife and I generally go home for a few days each year around the holidays. For me, those days usually involve a bit of soul searching. I love my life in Florida — I love being able to go outside in the February sunshine. I love the water, the palm trees and the sky. But in making this video for my brother, it became clear to me that I am paying a big price for all that.

As Zach's life began to unfold through the pictures on my computer screen, I could see that he has become an extraordinary young man. I saw the Halloween costumes and the school awards, the basketball shots and the tuxedo on prom night. I saw what is an incredibly happy family. But in reality, I had missed it all.

I'm glad that I was able to make the video. I'm glad I was able to get to know my nephew — at least a little bit - through those pictures. I just wish I had actually been there for some of it.

Oh, and I really need to say congratulations to Zach. I know that with love, patience and faith you are going to make your way.


If all goes to plan, I will soon be on the road in my somewhat tired little RV — which, I hope, can be described as a "Formerly Leaky RV." Since it hasn't rained here in�well, just about forever, I don't know if it still leaks or not. I'm guessing that I will have the opportunity to find out somewhere in the country.

For me, the hardest part of all will be leaving. I can feel the sense of adventure growing in my gut — and I can also feel the pangs of missing Michelle and our stable of quadrupeds. But I do know that making the trip is a good idea. Treading back and forth over the same ground tends to give me tunnel vision. I'm certain that getting out there and seeing life anew will freshen my perspective and jump-start the passion that I tend to feel for every odd sort of minutia imaginable.

And hopefully in the coming weeks, I'll be able to congratulate Zach in person. In fact, I'm looking forward to it.

For those who have signed up for emails from the road, the updates — and answers to a few questions — will begin in the coming days.

If you'd like to receive occasional updates, just send an email to


What follows is a public comments section. This is not from the Observer News staff - it comes from other people and contains their opinions and theirs alone. The Observer News does not control the material that follows. We do, however, reserve the right to remove objectionable material at our discretion. By that we mean that we will edit or delete any content that we deem is inappropriate. By posting your comments, you are stating that you agree to these terms.

Click here to report a comment. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Commentary: Losing A Friend, Gaining Some Faith
Saying Goodbye to a Friend
Together We Can Create A Miracle