Today is Labor Day. All across America, millions of people are discovering that the best way to celebrate Labor Day is by not working.
Do you live to work, or do you work to live?
If you are married, look at your wedding album: Are there any pictures in there of you at work?
And on your tombstone, do you want it to say, “I wish that I could have spent more time at work”?
Here is what Robert Kennedy had to say about this, 42 years ago:
Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product… if we should judge America by that — counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
When Kennedy said these words, the unemployment rate in America was 3.7%. Today, it is almost three times as high. Too many of our working brothers and sisters are out of work, thanks to more than a decade of economic mismanagement. 10% of us are unemployed, and the other 90% work like dogs to try to avoid joining them. Which is just what the bosses want.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I look forward to a Labor Day where every worker has a job, every worker has a pension, every worker has paid vacations, and every worker has the health care to enjoy life.
My opponents call that France. I call it America, an America that is Number One.
Not #1 in wasted military expenditures.
Not #1 in number of foreign countries occupied.
Number One in jobs. Number One in health. Number One in education. Number One in happiness.
As Robert Kennedy famously said, “I dream of things that never were, and ask, ‘Why not?'” Why not? Let’s make it happen.
And then all of us who are Americans, including the ones today who are jobless, homeless, sick and suffering, we all can then say, “I am proud to be an American.”
Are you with me?