Sometimes the Toughest Questions Open Doors to Success


When my daughter Anna was 13, she came to her mother and I with a heavy ask. She wanted to go to Ecuador with some classmates in a school-related trip where they would work and study in a rain-forest preserve. She was barely a teen and it was the late ‘90s when the “semester abroad” concept was a little less of a thing, so our initial reaction was not what she had hoped.

Eventually, we acquiesced. She had a great time, but she returned with a grand scheme tucked neatly up her sleeve. We would learn much later that our very observant daughter had noticed some of the students working at the preserve were staying longer than her group, and a helpful staff member explained that when she was sixteen she would be eligible for that privilege. Anna tucked that bit of information away, and just prior to her 16th birthday she came to us with her plan fully intact. Airline schedules and fare costs, ground travel plans, information about the established rainforest study facility, and on and on. Armed with facts and determined to go, she convinced her mother and I that this could work. What we didn’t know is that her abundance of planning time had allowed her to build in some less-structured but more anxiety invoking side trips that were (perhaps) intentionally obscured in the itinerary she provided before she left. Ultimately, her trip was a success, as was our subsequent family discussion about her youthful take on permission versus forgiveness.

From that trip, many others have followed: A mission trip to a Haitian clinic. Two months in Costa Rico to brush up on her medical Spanish, a solo medical research trip to a remote fishing village in Malaysia. A trip to Uganda where she upped the ante by taking her younger brother, Peter, with her. Like any younger brother worth his salt, he has taken full advantage of the parental skids greased by his sister. To date, his adventures include spending most of a summer backpacking in Europe, a trip to Vietnam and regular trips to feed his growing passion for rock climbing.

Observing Anna’s love of travel, her mother regularly expressed her fear that one or both of her children would end up living in some remote backwater, out of reach and visiting St. Louis far less than a potential future grandmother might like, but at least for now that is not the case.

Peter is a Lead Consultant in his ninth year with Cerner Corporation in Kansas City and, as you may have guessed by now, my daughter became a physician. Anna is married to a wonderful gentleman she met in med school in New Orleans, and they both practice Family Medicine at a teaching hospital in Memphis. The perfect American success story, with roots that extend well beyond the US.

My son-in-law was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He is a die-hard Cowboys and Texans fan. (Maybe next year, dude). His parents, lovely people both, were born in Bangladesh and came to the US for college. They remained and became citizens. His father worked for NASA and his mother became a college professor and real estate investor.

My daughter and her family are the living example of the new face of America. And while I can admit to being biased by the arrival of my first granddaughter, Sarabi Louise, I would say things are looking pretty rosy.

In this issue, one of our features explores the issue of diversity in the construction industry. As it turns out, St. Louis is in the odd position of lagging in the building rebound from the ’08 economic downturn relative to other major US cities, and at the same time we are struggling to field enough skilled workers to fill current and future construction needs.

Clearly our outreach needs to be expanded. A lot.

The St. Louis – Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council is one organization with a laser focus on creating opportunities for minorities and women in the construction industry. Director of Training and Workforce Development, John Gaal, EdD, says the Carpenters are launching a new initiative in 2019 that should fulfill the diversity objective and provide a second chance at work and life for many, including prisoners who have served their sentences. In 2019, the union will begin a carpentry program within the Missouri prison system. He and his organization are not alone in the quest to reach out to people of all gender, ethnic and other diverse backgrounds to consider the benefits of a career in the construction industry. Others include:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • The IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 1
  • The St. Louis Chapter of NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association)
  • The Construction Career Development Initiative (CCDI) founded by Clayco in 2015
  • MOKAN CCAC (Missouri-Kansas/St. Louis Construction Contractors Assistance Center)
  • The Associated General Contractors of Missouri

These fine associations and many, many others are looking into the future and seeing that change is essential to maintaining America’s status as the greatest country on earth.

Sadly, at this writing, the US government is shut down in an impasse concerning the future of immigration in America. One argument is that immigration has literally built our country. An equally robust point of view says that changing world conditions require a new look at the rules and regulations. Fair enough.

Our country will somehow bump its way through this quagmire and come out better for it. Just remember, sometimes future successes start with a heavy ask.

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