Editorial: Old-fashioned elbow grease has marked the American worker for 125 years

Chicago Tribune

This year, the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, let’s remember why this day is so important.

We should take this day to celebrate those people in America who still build things. Because even in our modern times, it is the builders who keep America strong and safe.

The United States officially recognized Labor Day in 1894, at the height of the industrial revolution.

At that moment — only one generation removed from the pain and horrors of the Civil War — America had begun to take its place as a global superpower.

How did this happen so quickly?

In large part because of the American worker. Over the next century, American workers would build and manufacture like no country ever had, create worldwide industries and, most importantly, develop and implement the machinery that helped win World War II and repel the greatest threat to freedom in our history.

In our 21st century culture of ideas, services and apps, it’s easy to overlook or even forget the critical importance of the men and women who make things with their hands. It is tempting to think that as technology evolves, everything can be done virtually, artificially, without the sweat, experience, ingenuity and old-fashioned elbow grease that has marked the American worker for 125 years.

Our nation still depends on these workers — the builders.

We rely on people to construct and assemble and create and repair those tangible products that matter so much to our lives. Even more, we rely on them for our very security.

We don’t often think about national security this way. We focus, rightly so, on the brave men and women of our military.

We must never stop doing that, but we also should expand that focus: From fitters and welders to engineers, those who work in he defense industry take raw steel and turn it into some of the most powerful and essential machines ever made, the very tanks built in small cities like Lima, Ohio and the aircraft carriers and submarines and ships produced by Huntington Ingalls in Newport News, Virginia. The products these workers produce demonstrate America’s will and might all over the world.

It is awe-inspiring to see the dedication and prowess of these builders. Their skills are invaluable. As it is with all the men and women who work with their hands, our very existence depends on the machines they build.

These extraordinary American workers have adapted, grown, mastered new technologies and they continue to safeguard America for the next half-century. They are an inspiration to us all.

We must step forward and support these workers. From automobile plants and oil refineries to defense installations and tool and die shops, these workers are the lifeblood of our country.

And how can we support them? We must help them adapt, learn the new skills necessary to succeed, help them adjust to ever-changing technology.

We applaud them on this 125th Labor Day.


Chicago Tribune

The Lima News contributed to this editorial.

The Lima News contributed to this editorial.

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