Happy 100th Birthday to the Panama Canal

October, 2014

shipOn August 15, 1914, Captain John A. Constantine made the first official transit of the Panama Canal. This 48-mile water route across the Continental Divide was finished on time and within budget.

Without United States ingenuity and funding, however, this project might never have seen completion. The French had tried; they lost 22,000 lives to disease and accidents, spent $287 million, and gave up after nine years.

Previously considering a passage through Nicaragua, the United States Congress authorized purchase of the assets of the failed French project in 1902. Under President Theodore Roosevelt, a U.S. engineering panel was formed. Their plan was to create a lock system that could raise and lower ships 85 feet using water from the Chagres River.

The country of Colombia had different ideas. With the Panama region still part of Colombia, they refused to ratify the agreement which would allow the United States to proceed with its plan. The Panamanians revolted, declared their independence, and negotiated a treaty giving America the rights to over 500 square miles to build the canal and control the zone in perpetuity.

Forty-two thousand workers built, dredged and excavated the route from Colon to Balboa.

The dam they built on the Chagres River created Gatun Lake. This allowed navigation through the mountains on the Pacific side and reduced by about half the distance requiring excavation.

They built a new, heavy-duty Panama Railway to carry workers, supplies, equipment, and debris into and out of the area. It also handled the commercial freight crossing the isthmus.

To combat disease, a rigorous approach to sanitation and mosquito abatement was implemented. This systematic, organized approach was a medical breakthrough. It essentially eliminated yellow fever in Panama and removed a significant barrier to worker recruitment.

Construction of the Panama Canal also pushed the window on technology. American companies improved their rock crushers, dredgers, even refrigeration systems to speed the project along. And new electric-powered “mule engines” were designed to help stabilize and guide ships through the locks.

By the time of its completion, the building of the Panama Canal moved enough earth and rubble to cover Manhattan Island 12-feet high.

Today, it takes eight-to-10 hours to go through the locks, lake and passageways of the canal, and 13,000-14,000 vessels use the waterway each year. Specially-trained canal pilots assume navigational control of the ship while in the canal. Tolls for a ship’s transit can be as high as $450,000.

The Panama Canal is no longer under U.S. authority, with control transferred to Panama in 1999. It currently is undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion project to allow passage of vessels carrying nearly three times their current loads. The new locks and deeper navigational channels are scheduled to open in 2015.

In last month’s Reflections, I lamented that not enough “Can Do” and too much “Can’t Do” are restricting America’s success. America was built on a “Can Do” attitude and the Panama Canal is a shining example.

Something to reflect upon.

We Need More “Can Do” in America!

September, 2014

shamrock_possibleAmerica’s success is being restricted by not enough “Can Do” and too much “Can’t Do.”

America was built on the attitude of “Can Do.” Regardless of the problems we have faced—and we have had many—the American people have rallied to solve problems. The key to success has always been leadership…

Accomplishing the right objective at the right time!!!

“Reflections” readers have been exposed to a number of ideas that, if implemented, would generate greater success for America.

Recently, George Shultz, the former Secretary of Labor, Treasury and State, offered some sound ideas:

  • Cleanse the personal income tax system of deductions and lower the marginal rate on a revenue neutral basis;
  • Reduce corporate taxes so our companies can compete on a worldwide basis, and keep more jobs in America;
  • Get control of spending. If we don’t, debt service will be unbearable when interest rates rise to a normal level; and,
  • Address Obamacare. Let people buy the coverage they want and need. Expand health saving accounts.

Implementing these ideas, plus expanding our own energy resources, would have a positive effect on the economy and create more jobs in the USA!

Can’t Do

We have government agencies placing one road block after another, reducing our ability to do the right things.

EPA is enemy number one. They issue one regulation after another shutting down electrical production. They have no regard for our electrical output. Coal provides 40% of our electricity. Where will the power come from if EPA shuts them down? Solar and wind mills won’t cover the loss. Prices will go up. Jobs will be lost!

The Dodd-Frank law was passed four years ago. We are still waiting for the unelected bureaucrats to issue the final regulations. In the meantime, try to get a home loan.

We could go on and on about the government epidemic of “Can’t Do” regulations. Why does the government want to regulate more of our lives?

I live in a prairie state. You can still see the ruts in the ground from the wagon trains as they headed west. These hardy souls piled all of their possessions in a wagon, bound for a place they had never seen. They made it to the west coast without the benefit of the EPA, IRS, Labor Department or OSHA.

Their hearts were filled with a “Can Do” attitude and they built America!


We need a “Can Do” attitude in Washington more than ever. Only our own “Can’t Do” stupidity is holding our nation back from achieving greatness.

We have an election in a few months. When you vote, choose wisely.

Let’s get America moving again!

More Skills = More Pay

August, 2014

shamrock_skillsCongress and the President continue to focus on the minimum wage. They should be focusing on how to Increase the skills of the American worker!

Millions of jobs cannot be filled because workers don’t have the necessary skills. What’s the solution?

More technical training programs!

In metro Kansas City we are fortunate to have a number of quality programs at our high schools and community colleges where young men and women can earn certifications and degrees in highly skilled, high demand fields like manufacturing, health care, auto technology, welding, graphic design, culinary arts and more.

The Olathe, KS school district is a state and national award winner where the lives of students are being changed and the new face of the American work force is taking shape.

Here are just a few stories from the Olathe Career and Technical Education programs:

  • After being shot, a young man turned away from inner city gangs, found a new pathway in auto technology, graduated from the Olathe Advanced Technical Center (OATC) with multiple industry certifications, became the first in his family to go to college and is now earning over $60,000 right out of community college.
  • The athletic trainer for an NFL football team is a  graduate of the Olathe Sports Medicine Program.
  • Chefs graduating from the Olathe Culinary Arts programs have won national competitions, received scholarships worth millions and are now working in the finest restaurants in the U.S. and Europe.
  • Nearly 100 young men and women graduated, earned industry certifications and found well-paid jobs right out of Olathe high schools this year alone.

Industry representatives are literally standing at the end of the graduation lines to offer these kids jobs.

What’s particularly moving about these stories is that many of these students were ready to drop out of school before they found these hands-on, career training programs. Nationally over 75% of all kids who are failing in school are boys. On the other hand, over 90% of boys who take technical education programs at schools like OATC graduate with above average grades and go on to meaningful careers or success in college.

Programs like these prove that we can get a great return on our education dollars. Economic research shows returns of up to four-to-one on the cost of career and technical training programs vs. the taxes collected and economic benefits generated by these well-training and highly motivated new workers.

Nationally, there is talk of the income gap. I believe it’s an opportunity gap. When a person doesn’t have the necessary skills to do more than flip burgers, then they’re only worth minimum wage. But, if our schools and businesses can provide the training these people need, their skills will be magnified and their pay checks will grow accordingly.

Looking out over the coming decades there will be millions of new jobs available that require skilled training, industry-required certification and some post-secondary education. They’ll be in the health care, manufacturing and high-tech fields. But, the vast majority of these jobs will not require an expensive, four-year college degree.


Urge your local, state, school district and federal government leaders to focus on the solution to higher pay: Greater Skills!!!

Let’s not focus on the minimum wage. Focus instead on more skills for greater income and success!!