Local View: Granting driver's licenses ensures humanity, dignity

From the column: "I wondered how my dilemma would feel if I had no driver’s license. There would have been no option then to rent a car."

white man wearing suit holds up document, surrounded by cheering people
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz holds up signed legislation removing the immigration status proof requirement from state driver's license applications. The bill he signed into law Tuesday, March 7, 2023, goes into effect Oct. 1.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Recently being reduced to a one-car family of two retired folks is surely a problem of the privileged. My beloved 2007 Ford Focus five-speed manual transmission went to its eternal rust with less than 140,000 miles. And it was paid for. I am forlorn. While our other car is also paid off, it’s 11 years old. I suppose two old people could quietly “coast out” with what we have, but the felt inconvenience still nags, especially when I wanted to visit my 90-year-old mother in Tomah, Wisconsin, for a week but did not want to leave my wife “comfortless” (though I’m risking sacrilege quoting Jesus here) — that is, carless.

I explored public-transportation options. How I pine for the proposed Northern Lights Express train to get me to the Twin Cities! I honestly do enjoy taking the train or the bus, having done a lot of that living in Copenhagen and more recently in Chicago. People-watching and reading are so much better than being behind the wheel on the freeway.

As the bus options between Duluth and the Twin Cities were all filled on the days and times I needed to make connections to Tomah, I sketched out an itinerary that took me to the Twin Cities one day, then, after an overnight stay at our son’s and daughter-in-law’s home in Coon Rapids, put me on the Amtrak to Tomah the next. It would have meant hiring a taxi from the bus terminal in Minneapolis to take me to Coon Rapids and then another one the next morning to get me to Union Station in St. Paul.

My return trip would have been similar, taking the bus this time from Tomah to Minneapolis, a cab to Coon Rapids for an overnight, and then another cab to catch my Duluth bus the next morning. I could have made the Tomah-to-Duluth trip in one day had I caught the Amtrak in Tomah at around 3 a.m., but I’m too old for that.

I got out my calculator to add up the cost of one train, three buses, and four taxis, and it came to $377. I considered my options. Seeing our granddaughters in Coon Rapids would have been lovely, but I would be taking time away from being with my mother, whom I don’t see often enough.


I rented a car, the cost being almost the same, and rather than spending the better part of four days traveling by public transportation, I spent four hours each way behind the wheel.

I wondered how my dilemma would feel if I had no driver’s license. There would have been no option then to rent a car.

But there’s more. During my week with my mother, I went to the local fitness center five times, took relatives out for dinner three times, stopped at the grocery store four times, and attended worship at a local church. Without a license, I would have had to take taxis to do all that.

Much has been written in local media recently about driver’s licenses for people who are undocumented in Minnesota, citing the many and various benefits, not only for those immediately impacted but for all of us. I would like to lift up the issue of the humanity, dignity, and individual agency of those affected. Too often we talk about people as “other,” rather than centering them in our deliberations. Our undocumented brothers and sisters also have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children, medical appointments, jobs, errands, worship, and any number of other commitments. Might we consider their lives through their lenses rather than considering them as “other?”

The Rev. David Tryggestad of Duluth is a retired pastor and a contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.

David Tryggestad.jpg
David Tryggestad

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