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Powerball. All it takes is $2 and a dream. (PHOTO:

Powerball winner represents American dream in many ways

If you're honest, you'll admit to a tinge of jealousy after hearing about Pedro Quezada's good fortune.

Quezada is the New Jersy bodega owner who had all the winning numbers in the recent record Powerball lottery, scoring an amazing $338 million dollar jackpot prize.

It's the fourth largest prize in Powerball history and enough money to spark the dreams of all the people lined up at grocery stores, gas stations and convenience markets each week in Milwaukee and elsewhere to take a chance at untold riches by just picking the right numbers or letting the computer pick for them.

Quezada, 45, told reporters he played Powerball regularly at the liquor store where he purchased his winning ticket. Married with five children, he is a immigrant who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic 26 years ago at the age of 19.

Since then, he's operated the tiny Apple Deli Grocery Stores in Passaic N.J. through some trying times, including a fire in May 2009 that severely damaged his store and recent armed robberies where he and his adult son were threatened with handguns.

He was living the American Dream in a way that millions of Americans do as a small businessman who struggled to make ends meet. Playing the lottery was likely his only chance to get out of the daily rat race of his normal life as a friendly grocer most customers and neighbors liked and respected for his work ethic.

After winning the prize, Quezada told the assembled media that he would shut down his store and expressed his desire to help out his family members. He also talked about the "pure joy" he felt after learning he won and his desire to do some good for others with his new found wealth.

Quezada will take his winnings in a lump sum, about $125 million after taxes.

It sounded good. But the ugly part came later.

Quezada doesn't speak English well so most of his statements were translated through Spanish media, a fact many online commentators mentioned in the various stories about the latest lottery winner.

"He's been in the country this long...why can't he speak English yet?!" was a familiar refrain.

"I hope he takes some English lessons so he can learn what he's doing with his $$$$," said another comment.

Continuing that theme, another person wrote: "Twenty five plus years in the US, owns a business and still can't speak enough english to even make a basic statement? Wow, this country has sunk way down!"

Others argued that it wasn't a prerequisite for someone to speak English to reside in the U.S. and criticized the tone of some comments.

"He was a hard working dude," wrote one of Quezada's defenders."Come on, you can't hate when a good person wins, that's just wrong!

The back and forth was interesting because it represented a snapshot of many of the hot-button issues in national politics being played out on a regular basis, including immigration reform, the economy and the plight of small business owners.

Even the current tax code, which was a major theme during last year's presidenntial election, was a topic of discussion after Quezada's win.

"What is interesting here and not even mentioned is he won a $338 million jackpot and ends up with a take home of $152 million," said one reader. "That is less than half, while the Federal, state and local governments get the other 55%."

Some of the response from people commenting online was no doubt sparked by typical human emotions of envy and jealousy, magnified by the personal financial challenges many average Americans struggle with in their daily lives. Sometimes, it takes a lot for some people to feel good about another person's good fortune particularly when it's literally a fortune that arrives due to no other action than picking a bunch of random numbers.

Winning the lottery is a distinctly American dream even if it's considered more of an achievement to become rich through personal hard work or visionary enterprise. When people line up at the window to purchase their weekly - in some cases daily - lottery tickets, the chance for a new life beckons in their imagination despite the usual astronomical odds.

There have been enough cautionary tales about previous lottery winners who end up wasting their money or become estranged from family and friends to suggest it's not always a smooth ride. Quezada probably realizes that already; reports have surfaced that he owed $29,000 in child support payments and the authorities are well aware of his windfall so they will be knocking on his door soon.

He also probably has learned about some of the more hateful online comments about his win and his immigrant status. Some may see that as a small price to pay for such astounding sudden wealth. In the end, the most endearing truth about the lottery is this: Despite the odds, you can't win if you don't play.

But winning isn't always what it's cracked up to be, either.


emills81 | March 29, 2013 at 5:50 p.m. (report)

The point of the this article is...? Are you saying the american dream is winning the lottery? I guess the title senior writer means old guy rambling.

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