Sometimes you make decisions in life that avoids a road of “what might have been.” For me it was in Schenectady, NY in the mid 1960’s. I had struck up a friendship with black man from the Ivory Coast. He was working with me on an American corporate intern program after obtaining his graduate degree but had plans to return to his native county, where his father was Minister of Finance. We shared the same given name, a name that is derived from a black Roman Catholic saint. We shared that religion, a fluency in speaking French and my interest in development economics, a major concentration of mine in graduate school. To some extent, I consider taking a job in American business a cop out. I wanted to be a missionary as a youth. I was also a Kennedy Democrat and wanted to save the world. I did serve in the military and not the Peace Corp. Being single at the time made the potential move much easier.
He wrote to his father and I was offered an opportunity to come to the Ivory Coast and work in the government on economic development. I was very tempted. Just about that time, I was called to the corporate office in NYC on an ASAP basis. I jumped on a train and was there that night. My 9:00 AM meeting with the head of Personnel Development revealed that my three-year training assignment has been curtailed to two years and I was desperately needed to fill available positions in key plant locations. I would select three such jobs and begin the interview process immediately. Two weeks later, I was in Cincinnati, Ohio beginning a new job. Boy, was I lucky to be single. I met my wife there and raised a family of three wonderful children.
My friend kept in touch for a couple of years before he returned to Africa. From time to time I notice how the Ivory Coast is doing. They have had the growing pains of many African republics. I wonder if I could have made a difference?