….Touched by Greatness

a very good friend of mine by the name of Dave Perry is the managing partner of Perry – Martel international. It is a retained search firm in Ontario, Canada. He is a frequent guest on our Job search Solution radio program. Since he is a Canadian, one day we got to talking about the differences in our countries and how Canadians see the United States. He sent me something that he wrote that was rather touching and certainly worth sharing:

Touched by Greatness

The urgent rhythm of the approaching Medical Transport helicopter shattered the calm of the thin Colorado air. I always had mixed feelings whenever I heard such helicopters in the night: a foreboding concern for whomever might be needing that immediate medical attention, partially offset by guilt-ridden relief that at least ‘it wasn’t for me’.

But this time, it was for me.

Drifting in and out of medicated sedation, I was amused as the bright lights overhead seemed to swirl around the surgical amphitheater. Over 100 visiting doctors were crammed into the upper Surgical Observatory. The Pre-Op support team was bustling with activity in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the distinguished team of surgeons disembarking from the helicopter.

The military surgeons at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver had been blunt with my father: no one had ever survived the heart operation that I was about to undergo. The attending nurse whispered compassionately to my father, “You need to say good-bye now.” My dad squeezed my hand and, in a soft tone percolating with hope, he looked into my eyes, smiled bravely, and said “You’ll be alright Dave. I love you son,” as the cluster of doctors arrived.

My father was assured that these doctors were amongst the greatest team of heart  surgeons in the world and that claim was validated when I went through 12 hours of open-heart surgery and beat the overwhelming odds to survive. Seven months of rehab later and I was back to 100%. I have never met the US Army surgical team that performed the miracle surgery that day, but there is no question that I owe my life to the collective greatness of their divinely-guided hands.

Looking back, I was eight years old in 1968 when my family – mother, father, two sisters and I – moved from Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, British Columbia to the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We were the only Canadians on the

base. Tragedy struck within days of our arrival when my mother Coleen suffered a stroke while attending their very first dinner at the new boss’s house.

My mother subsequently spent many months in the hospital and, since my father had to work such long hours, my two baby sisters were temporarily sent to live with relatives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I stayed on the base under the ever-watchful eye of an extended community of caring neighbors.  I was ‘functionally adopted’ in essence by several families in our cluster and was welcomed into their homes to eat, sleep and play.


The genuine concern and collaborative culture of the base remains fondly etched in my memory. People were passionately engaged in trying to build a better world for themselves and others. On weekends, while my father would be visiting my mother in the hospital, I gladly participated in community work, joining my ‘adopted families’ in goodwill exploits like painting the school, repairing the church, or helping neighbors with heavy yard work.

Those gestures – big or small – were sincere, executed with love and had immense impact on those we assisted. It felt good to be a part of that. I witnessed the power of the greatness that was America. I liked it.

In the summer of 1971, my father was posted to Toronto and we returned to Canada. I didn’t want to leave. I will forever hold the deepest appreciation for America and the unbridled kindness and genuine care our American friends extended to my entire family. A nation’s greatness is distinguished by its compassion, and we certainly felt the full measure of America’s greatness.

Eleven years later, in 1982, I graduated with an Economics degree from McGill University. After working for several recruiting firms for a few years, I started my own executive search firm, Perry-Martel International, in 1988. Over 1,000 successful searches later and here we are.

It vexes me to see the unprecedented pressures on the American psyche including: the bludgeoning National Debt; perennial Trade Deficit; alarming decline in the Labor Force Participation Rate; escalating future Unfunded Liabilities and increased social welfare costs. The impacts to the social and political fabric of the country are apparent Yes, Greatness is once again being summoned from the resourceful imperative embodied in the American spirit of defiance, compassion, and resolve.

It’s on.

The current conditions are an insult to tolerance and an unsavory challenge to endure. We need all cylinders firing – or at least more of them. Ignoring the micro/macro influences for the moment, and just focusing on scale, consider that in terms of the ‘number of cylinders firing’, America can dramatically improve the number of people contributing to the bottom line.

Consider that out of an estimated population of 318 million Americans:

  • 61 million CAN’T WORK – under 16; too young;
  • 102 million DON’T WORK – of working age but Not in Labor Force or Unemployed;
  • 104 million are NOT FULLY ENGAGED and productive at their (70% of the 148 M that DO WORK);

Accordingly, out of 318 million Americans, only 44 million are work at or near full capacity; 267 million do not. That’s difficult to sustain in any economic climate let alone an economy already overburden by the aforementioned mammoth challenges.

In the years since we left Colorado, my affinity and admiration for America has never wavered. Nor has my belief in her capacity for greatness. America has accomplished many great things in its illustrious history. I will forgo trite recaps of such

triumphs, and instead say I think it’s imperative for the country’s exceptional leadership to undertake what must be done now and in the future. Cliché as it sounds, the need for greatness has never been more pronounced in America, and indeed, throughout the world.

My concern for America’s well-being is sincere, as is my belief in her ability to meet the challenges confronting it. Alexis de Tocqueville said, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” ‘So be it.

–    David Perry

  1. What really impressed me more than landing a man on the moon – was bringing him back!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *