Letter: Life lessons from selling books, a father pleads his daughter’s case.

August 6, 2015


Claire, Kenneth Starr (president and chancellor of Baylor University, & Southwestern Advantage Alumni, 1966) and Claire’s mom, Diane

Claire, Kenneth Starr (president and chancellor of Baylor University, & Southwestern Advantage Alumni, 1966) and Claire’s mom, Diane

Letter to the Editor, by Rick Whitcomb, Azle , Texas.

This letter is not as much about a recent article, but more the love a father has for his daughter and making things right for all sides. Recently, my daughter, Claire Whitcomb, was the subject of an article in which she was criticized for her sale techniques. I pose a few questions for which we should all consider:

Can you appreciate our younger generation working hard?  You bet! I saw my mother and father, who were part of the “greatest generation ever,” work hard each and every day.  Hard work is not as common as it used to be for the younger generations, or at least it is not defined in the same way. Yet still, there are thousands of college students who choose to break away from the norm and take on a challenge.  In my daughter’s case, it was running her own business selling educational products to families. She, along with over 1,500 Southwestern Advantage independent student dealers, have chosen a summer path that leads to lots of rejection, but so many life skills – door-to-door sales.  Many of them a rigorous schedule, often Monday through Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.. This certainly teaches them to skills they will need in life and their future careers such as determination, problem-solving, communication and work ethic.

Do people make mistakes?  Yes they certainly do, and more so when they are younger.  But, hopefully those mistakes will be less and less as they get older. I am sure my daughter has made many mistakes as she learns her way through life.  After knocking on thousands of doors in the community and sitting down with over 1,000 families, many life lessons have been learned. In meeting such a wide variety of people, you certainly see the best people have to offer, but you also see the worst they have to offer. It is certainly a crash course in life. The neat thing? This program with Southwestern Advantage offers young people the opportunity to fly. It is an internship that gives them an experiential education they can’t learn in the classroom.  By her own admission, Claire has learned quite a bit this summer.  It has been humbling to say the least. In an apology on her Facebook Business page, Claire stated: “I chose to do this summer internship not only to serve families in education, but also to learn to grow into a faithful, loving, strong woman. Unfortunately, that growth came at the expense of some of the members of your community. I am not always servant hearted and my pride gets in the way. I sincerely apologize to anyone who I was pushy, rude, and showed a lack of empathy with. I pray that you forgive me and wish you and your families the absolute best.”

What do you think about selling books door to door? I wouldn’t want to do it, but there have been so many fantastic success stories from the more than 100,000 alumni who have participated in the program – including the college students from Michigan this summer.  In Michigan alone, there are thousands of alumni that make up your communities with a wide array of professions: doctors, lawyers, accountants, pastors, educators, business owners, and homemakers. Currently 42 students from Central Michigan, MSU, U of M, and Calvin College are interning for Southwestern Advantage. They are living and working in both North Carolina and South Carolina.  Who knows? One of the college kids may even be from Mason County?  They may be the next Governor (Rick Perry, alumni of Southwestern Advantage) or a chancellor of a local university (like Kenneth Starr, a 1966 alumni). They could even be a Congressman, best-selling author or an entrepreneur who brings jobs and economy to the area.

Why would you let your daughter sell books door to door?  There is no easy answer to that. Her mother definitely did not want her to do it, but she enjoyed doing it the past two summers – working with families and helping others with their educational needs in the home.  The short answer is: it’s something she needed to do. It takes a special person with a special heart to devote their summers to rejection and a real-life changing experience. What no one locally knows is Claire has turned down two career job offers so that she could go do missionary work in South America for the next two years.  The money she earned this summer is to be used to support her in the mission field.

Can one wrong cause another wrong? Yes, it surely can.  When I grew up you went to the principal’s office if you had a fight.  You worked it out, shook hands, apologized, and went back to life.  Looks like in today’s day and age (social media) has no principal’s office.  It’s easy to gather your friends, throw rocks, and be put to public shame . No one has given too much thought to the girl on the other side of the social media platform.  The one who has been criticized, complained about, and who will forever come up as the girl who got her permit revoked when googled.  Should a book be judged by its cover, content or what someone says about it on social media?  No it shouldn’t.  No one is perfect and we have all made mistakes. Everyday won’t be perfect and we have all had our bad days.

My name is Rick Whitcomb (Claire’s proud father) I grew up and spent the first 24 years of my life in Portage, Michigan.  I met my wonderful wife (Diane) at Western Michigan University and moved to Texas 23 years ago.  I was so happy to hear when Claire had the opportunity to intern in Michigan, to see the beautiful state I grew up in, and meet the “friendly people” that I remember growing up. I know Claire has learned some life lessons this summer and she has met some great families from Mason County.  With the hundreds of customers she had and the thousands of families she has had interaction with, I would love to hear of any experiences you have had with Claire.  Please email me at an email account specially set up for this: lovemasoncounty@yahoo.com


Rick Whitcomb

Azle , Texas