The Titan of Industry

As another summer wanes, we find the arrival of Labor Day. Congress approved a federal holiday back in 1894, although its first official observance was held in New York City September 5, 1882. While traditionally meant to celebrate the American worker, this occasion compels us to consider what it means for the modern workplace. While labor conditions have improved, a theme spins upon the spirit of industry – the inherent virtue of hard work.

jb 1 aug

Image Credit: Wikipedia

That principle applies for public administrators, politicians, farmers, trades persons, factory workers, bankers, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, housewives and even the student forging ahead with the latest homework task. The idea of hard work is ingrained in our society from the earliest moments. It’s the idea that no boon should come too easily. America was born in a crucible of strife and peace would only come after great sacrifices. That’s what industry means and remains an inherent theme of Labor Day. Without hard work – industry – there is no labor.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to his daughter in 1787,

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.”

His old friend John Adams lamented to his wife in 1777, as the Revolutionary War raged on,

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

The unwavering push for economy and efficiency in today’s workplace still reigns supreme more than ever before. We are forever reminded that “time is money” for the larger organization. Too often, we forget the personal value of hard work as a key facet of our moral fiber, stretching into the deepest reaches of the human psyche. Once honed, its virtue translates into other arenas. America was built on the idea of industry; it is what we are. Without it, we stand for nothing.

jb 2 augPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

Martin Luther King famously declared the same in a speech,

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

We must seize these lessons, embracing the future with that same vigor with which we have survived the travails of our shared past. Industry will always make America great.

Submitted by Jason Bowns

2 thoughts on “The Titan of Industry

  1. Thanks for this very interesting comment.

    The article is not limited to public sector employees but instead for anyone putting their shoulder to the wheel to complete a task. I’m not quite sure what the comment’s point here is other than to say that hard work isn’t enough? That if someone isn’t being paid enough, then they should not work hard at all? This seems to contradict the question of merit, doesn’t it? How can a worker who does not work hard expect to receive higher wages in the first place, if they have not earned it? Should a poor work ethic be rewarded with a raise? Despite the tragic end to Dr. King’s life, those were his own words. The unequal treatment he sought to protest in Memphis does not diminish his key point that hard work will pay off in the end.

    A reading of The Federalist Papers addresses what was envisioned by the Constitution and federal workers, as argued at the time. For an engaging discussion of what the Founders intended when it came down to public sector workers, you should consult “Alexander Hamilton on the Roles and Responsibilities of the Federal Employee” published by Professor Thomas at the U.S. Naval Academy:


  2. The value of under compensated hard work is greatly overrated. Hard work for its own sake? People doing the most arduous jobs are being paid 12 dollars an hour today. What value is there in that? Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement about the street sweeper is ironical because when he was assassinated he was demonstrating with striking sanitation workers in Memphis to receive a living wage. How can a slaveholder make a valid observation on the value of hard work?

    What are needed in the Public sector are new, fresh ideas and perspectives on the realities in the lives of people that are ostensibly being served. No one should be in the civilian public sector for over ten years. This would eliminate the entrenched bureaucracies that are as self-perpetuating as they are off the mark. I don’t think the original intent in the formation of this country was to create a permanent public sector class.


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