I wanted to write my Dad a letter on Father’s Day. At first, I thought it would be personal. From me to him. A handwritten note, with a nice tie or a “Car & Driver” magazine subscription.
But as I drove around and considered it (as a car guy, I like to do that to collect my thoughts) the more it felt right to share it more widely. With all the fathers and sons and daughters and mom’s out there – especially those from families who, like mine, immigrated to Canada.
You see, my parents were from Lebanon, and, like many of their generation, decided to seek out a safer, more stable place to raise a family. So together with his wife, they came to Canada and settled in the proud automotive capital of the country: Windsor, Ont.
After a few years of running their own business, my parents realized that working long, 18-hour days together as entrepreneurs wasn’t providing the stability they wanted for the family. To be there for after-school sports. To break bread at dinner time. To go over homework together.
Luckily, their choice to live in Windsor worked out. My dad began working in the automotive industry, which was, and still is, the heartbeat of this nation’s economy.
My dad began doing double duty, he ran his business with mom and worked shifts at Stellantis’ (then Chrysler) Windsor Assembly Plant until we were in high school. Year after year, he made that sacrifice for his family. Month after month, he built minivans. Day after day, he provided for us all. It was on his salary, benefits and job security that we were clothed, fed and educated, while mom made it to every extracurricular event.
I know that now, but I didn’t then. Life is lived forward and understood backwards after all. At the time, I was like most teenagers, who didn’t know the importance of a hard day’s work. But there was dad again, helping me learn that lesson the best way possible. By encouraging me to get a job at Stellantis too, so that I could pay my way through university.
So that’s exactly what I did.
To this day, I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to be a temporary part-time worker alongside him. In those four years, I saw firsthand what kind of a man he was. Respected by his peers. An expert at his job. Generous to others. On many occasions showing me the right way to complete tasks.
My dad showed me how to give your employer a dime for their nickel. He showed me how to lead by example, be part of a community, learn to get better and faster at what you do, do extra training, and to never, ever complain. He showed me that life is 90 per cent showing up. I watched him and started to change. So, I worked an eight-hour shift after going to class all day. Well, three times a week, anyway.
I look back on those days working together there, as truly special. Not only were we solidifying our bond and creating memories, but we were also helping other Canadian families create their own in the thousands of minivans we helped build.
Today, I’ve been trained to know how things are built as an engineer, and I’m proud to be the head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network while studying for my doctorate. I have two sisters, who are a doctor and a nurse. And I can’t say enough to my parents for their dedication, and to the automotive industry – an industry and workforce that’s been through a lot and is constantly changing to meet the demands of a changing economy.
Fortunately, things are on the rise again for cars and trucks in Ontario. In the last 18 months we’ve seen 14 billion dollars in investment, with almost all the major automotive plants in the province committing to retooling and making way for the excitement and innovation that comes with the electric vehicle movement. Progress and prosperity for a whole new generation of families in Ontario to share.
Dad. Thank you for all that you’ve shown me, taught me and given me. I’m so proud to be your son. I love you. And yes, the next volume of “Car & Driver” is in the mail.
Raed Kadri is the head of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network.
Interested in a career in the automotive industry? To explore a variety of skills and careers for Ontario’s automotive and mobility sector, visit ovin-navigator.ca
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