Exactly 30 years ago I made a decision that changed my life forever. And I did it without giving it much thought.
I was working in Ford Motor Company's Washington, D.C., public affairs office. My boss was legendary journalist (and erstwhile presidential press secretary) Jerry terHorst.
Out of the blue, Jerry came to me with a surprising proposition: "Bob, the company has decided you need to get outside the Beltway and get some car experience. We can give you two options-- downtown Detroit, working for the Lincoln Mercury Division; or Toronto, working for Ford of Canada."
I had been to downtown Detroit. I had never been to Toronto. Sight unseen, I instantly chose Toronto.
It was supposed to be a two-year, "developmental" assignment. Implicit was the notion that I would then circle through Ford HQ in Dearborn, MI, and then -- perhaps -- replace Jerry in DC down the line.
The job actually turned out to be in Oakville -- a Toronto suburb -- but that was fine. I lived in downtown Toronto and reverse-commuted to Ford of Canada's Head Office (which was a far less onerous prospect in 1986 than in 2016). My thought was that I would live it up as a wild and crazy single guy for two years and then move back to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
But then stuff began to happen. It turned out I loved my colleagues at Ford. I loved my job, which was basically lending out cars to equally wild and crazy auto journalists and praying that they'd be returned in one piece. And I loved living in Toronto, with all of its diversity and energy.
In the end, though, it was love itself that did me in. Or saved me, depending on your point of view.
I met a woman -- a Canadian woman -- in Ford's finance department. In a moment of weakness she agreed to marriage. Two days before our wedding -- and after having bought a home in Ann Arbor for our anticipated move with Ford to Michigan, as my two year stint was up -- I was offered a job with IBM Canada. I had worked for IBM previously in New York and had particularly liked my Canadian colleagues. And the new, young CEO, John M. Thompson, was bright and full of energy. So I said yes.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Thirty years (and several job changes) later, I am happy to be in Canada. It is where we raised our two children and where we put down roots. I became a citizen in 1995 -- a "dual", retaining my U.S. citizenship (and right to vote). Do I miss the United States and, more particularly, my home state of Massachusetts? Sure. I sometimes long for Fenway Park; for long walks along Crane Beach in Ipswich; for my family and friends.
But I don't long for America's current political spasms, which exhibit all of the signs of a nation suffering a collective nervous breakdown. And I don't long for a nation that has turned partisanship into a kind of blood sport, urged on by cable networks and semi-deranged radio commentators.
Just the other day I was sifting through some old press releases I'd written for my old U.S. Senate boss, Republican Bob Dole, in 1980. One was praising the naming of a Democrat, Ed Muskie as Secretary of State; the other urged bipartisan support of Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the wake of a failed attempt to rescue Iranian hostages.
Those two releases tell you all you need to know about how far political discourse has fallen in the United States in the decades since. No one today urges bi-partisan support for anything, much less restraint in times of trouble. There are no Bob Doles -- or Ed Muskie's -- in sight.
Until recently, some of my American friends continued to urge me to return "home'. They said I must find it boring to be in Canada. Or that I must get tired of the cold; or the high taxes; or the dipsy-doodle currency we affectionately call the loonie.
Of course with the advent of a Trump-Hillary race, they're now calling to see if I have an available spare room. Or hotel.
The truth is, I am home. And it feels pretty good. Sometimes making a decision on the spur of the moment looks a lot smarter than the person who made it.
(Robert Waite splits his time between Toronto and Ottawa. And occasionally gets to Fenway Park when his youngest brother offers up a ticket.)
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