I don’t know about you, but I was sure bummed to hear about Mike Ilitch’s passing last Friday. He did so much for Detroit. As the news broke, I was surprised to learn he was a first generation American of Macedonian descent. Considering the empire he built, it got me wondering if someone starting out in America could do the same thing today. What do you think?
Dear Mr. Brulay,
You ask an interesting question. Mr. Ilitch was indeed a great man who not only exceled in business, but by all accounts, life, too. Back in my day we learned about Horatio Alger. Do they still talk about him in schools? Anyway, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, good old Horatio wrote stories where the main character went from ‘rags-to-riches.’ His stories were meant to instill integrity, excellence, and perseverance, especially among young boys in the late 19th century. Now, I definitely think Mike Ilitch possessed all those qualities, but I also believe some people are just born with a natural business sense. They know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to walk away. Heh. Gotta love Kenny Rogers. Anyway, it’s hard to get anywhere in life unless you’re willing to work hard and pay your dues. That’s why so many people immigrated to America: for the chance at something better. That’s what drew people to Detroit – big industry and the opportunity to make a name for yourself. Now, not everyone went on to become a billionaire like Mr. Ilitch, but back then, the opportunity was there. Could it happen to immigrants entering the U.S. today? Eh, probably. It’s just a little harder to achieve these days. There seems to be more obstacles in the way, such as access to quality education and a widening gap between the working and middle classes. I mean Mr. I. grew his business empire with nothing but a high school diploma, military experience, and grit. Today, he’d probably be expected to have a college degree or even an MBA to get someplace. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Detroit. I saw stories like Mr. I’s come to life and there’s just enough optimism in this old curmudgeon to believe that we can get back to that again. We all came from somewhere and it’s just a matter of figuring out a way to help each other up the ladder. Maybe that’s why Mr. Ilitch loved Detroit so much. It gave his family a start and he spent the rest of life showing his gratitude.
Hope that answers your question.
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