Excerpts from “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us’” (Center Street, Nov. 5, 2019), a 304-page book written by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.
As you can probably guess, my father and I didn’t spend a whole lot of time tossing a baseball back and forth in the backyard. When your backyard is a busy patch of a Fifth Avenue sidewalk, playing catch isn’t an easy thing to do. It seems that Manhattan pedestrians don’t take kindly to getting whacked in the head by flying objects.
Instead, during our weekends and summer vacations, my father would take me, my brother, and my sister out to his job sites, letting us trail alongside him the way his own father had done with him. We would arrive early in the morning as the crews were setting up, and I would walk with my dad while he inspected the concrete foundations and metal stairways. Whether it was a golf course or a building, he would walk every inch of it. He has an incredible attention to detail — from the quality of the cement to how many dishes cabinets will hold to the depth of a sand trap. If there were any imperfections, no matter the size or the significance, he would notice. He could figure out how to do the best job at the lowest cost, something the government doesn’t seem to think about very much. He would spend a whole day on the site, then come back the next day to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. He looked— well, you’ve seen the photos: dark suit and long overcoat, out of context on a job site. But there was nowhere my father was more at home. He loved talking with the men and women who made it all happen for him. Many of those men and women, by the way, occupy senior positions at Trump Tower today. The same people who taught me to swing a hammer now help me make major decisions about new projects.
During lunch breaks, I would sit with the union contractors and plumbers while they ate. We would talk about sports and the events of the day, and my brother and I would ask every question about power tools and construction equipment we could think of. I was always amazed by heavy machinery and, in fact, would go on to learn how to drive bulldozers and maneuver cranes. I always said that Eric and I were the only sons of billionaires who could drive D-10 Caterpillars and run chainsaws. We had done just that before we could even drive a car, at least legally.
In the afternoons, I would hear my father talking with the men and women who were in charge of design and development. Those conversations could get tense, especially when they were about deadlines or budgets. But there could be laughter, too. When my father talked to me about the construction business, he would emphasize the need to be both precise and flexible, and to be physically on the site and not in some boardroom listening to people read from spreadsheets. He didn’t lock himself in an office and look at monitors all day. He was on the ground. It was good advice, both for the construction business and for life. It’s also pretty good advice for running a country. Not only should you do a better job, you should do a better job for less money. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, this is even more important when you’re spending other people’s money.
To give me my own solid foundation, my father made my brother and me get jobs as soon as we could lift our own tools. He put us in the care of a couple of his loyal employees, Brian Baudreau and Vinny Stellio. Brian would drive me to school when I was a kid, and had little or no experience in construction when he began working for my dad. But Dad saw something in him that wasn’t on his written résumé. My father promoted people based on their character, street smarts, and work ethic, people — as I said in my 2016 Republican National Convention speech — with doctorates in common sense. Brian went on to head the construction of our hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, bringing it in on time and under budget in the middle of the financial crisis. Now he runs the hotel, and he does it better than those who had been doing the job for decades. Vinny Stellio started as a bodyguard for my father and rose to become one of his most trusted advisors in Trump [Organization]. Sometimes he would drive us to school, too. They were smart guys — brilliant, even — but they didn’t have the right degrees or the right acronyms behind their names to get a good start in most businesses. Most executives wouldn’t even have given them the time of day. But DJT was different. He saw their talent, work ethic, street smarts, and he allowed them to run with those qualities.
Learning the business also came naturally to me. For generations, the men in our family had worked construction jobs. As I mentioned, my grandfather on my mother’s side was an electrician in Communist Czechoslovakia. He kept the lights on — or at least flickering — in the shabby gray buildings of the area, a job that paid enough to put food on the table and to rent his small apartment in the city. He had a huge impact on my life. As I have come to learn, my Czechoslovakian grandparents were very important to my development as a person and to my politics.
On my father’s side, of course, we had the famous Fred Trump, a man I know means as much to my father as my father does to me. Throughout my life, I would hear my father hold his father up as the shining example of work ethic and business acumen.
So when it came time to get a job, I figured I would do something with my hands. It seemed only natural after all the time I had spent hanging around job sites as a kid. By that time, I could tell the sound of a Sawzall from a circular saw. I could hang Sheetrock, pour concrete, and get a stripped Phillips-head screw out of a wall without much trouble. Though I might forget which fork you were supposed to use with salad at a dinner party, I did know what grit sandpaper you’d use on the table. My mom eventually got some of the etiquette to stick, but it took a while.
Though I mowed lawns in Connecticut in my early teens, my first real job came when I was fifteen. I worked the summer at my father’s casino on the marina in Atlantic City. There were docks outside, and the beautiful people docking boats in the harbor kept me busy all summer. Some days I would be a dock attendant, throwing ropes over the boats for pretty good tips. For a while, it was a good time. I hung out with pretty girls, made a bunch of friends, and had plenty of spending money. Then, a couple of years later, I got what I thought was a promotion and ended up out in the woods with a chain saw in my hands.
Clearing land for a development, I discovered a very different world from the one I had known on the docks. All of a sudden, the pretty girls were gone, I was making no money in tips, and every human being in sight was a sweaty man in work boots.
Not exactly what you’d call a promotion. But I learned everything I could about doing manual labor and soaked up all the norms of behavior that came with being around working men. It was good for me to be working and making my own money, especially because a lot of the kids who grew up like I did went the route of the spoiled brats you see in movies: taking limousines to school, partying in the New York clubs, and going away to expensive resorts for spring break. (Although I may have done some of that myself. I never said I was perfect, did I?) Getting away from all that every summer was good for me. To this day, Eric and I are probably the only sons of a billionaire who could parallel park a Caterpillar D-10 in Manhattan if we had to, because that’s what we did all summer as kids.
It was during that “promotion,” however, that I got my first hard lesson in negotiation — and the lesson came from none other than Donald J. Trump. Looking back, it was a little like playing your first pickup basketball game against Michael Jordan.
My father did not operate at half speed when it came to deal-making, even with his kids — and he still doesn’t. He wasn’t going to pull punches. That’s how we were going to learn — the hard way. Going in, I’m sure I thought, Hey, I’m this guy’s kid, he’ll go easy on me, cut me a break, treat me different from everyone else.
I was very wrong.
Here’s what happened. Hanging around the job site one day, I started doing a little math (which was never my best subject as a youngster, but when it came to money, I was able to figure it out). I thought, I used to make hundreds of dollars in tips, smelling nothing but sunscreen and salt water, and now I’m in mud and sawdust up to my knees, wiping dirt out of my eyes, and working around sweaty dudes for less money. I decided I would tell my father that weekend after dinner what I had realized about my paychecks. I assumed that he would immediately raise my pay and commend me for realizing how unfair the system was to working guys like me.
What actually happened was much different. But to this day, I’m grateful that it did. It was a light-bulb-over-the-head moment for me. Here’s how it all went down, written as a one-act play, just so you get the full experience that I did (notice that “Don Jr.” does not have a major speaking role).
[Interior, dinner table. Donald J. Trump seated at the head.]
[Enter Don Jr. with very long hair, probably wearing cargo shorts and a camouf lage T-shirt.]
Don Jr.: Dad, I’ve realized that even though I’m doing more work on the job site, you’re paying me way less money for it. Why didn’t I get a raise?
Dad: Well, you didn’t ask me for more money, so I didn’t give you more money. That’s how the world works. Why would I give you more money than you’re willing to work for? That would make me an idiot.
Don Jr.: I, uh—
Dad: Why would I do that? You think people are going to give you more money just because you’re a nice guy? They’re not, Donnie. Anything you want, you have to go out and get it. Nothing is going to be handed to you. Nothing. You have to earn it before you ask for it! Always remember: you don’t get anything you don’t ask for.
[End of scene.]
Over the next few minutes, I think I tried negotiating for a retroactive raise. I may have even pulled some pie charts out of my shorts. My father found it amusing, but he didn’t budge. That day I learned a few lessons that have stuck with me. Number one: You shouldn’t expect to get anything in life that you didn’t work for. Number two: If you don’t ask for it, don’t expect it. And number three: When someone goes around offering things for free, don’t believe them. In most cases, that person is either a liar or an idiot.
Or a leftist, which means they’re both.
Center Street, 304 pages.