To know where we are going, it’s helpful to understand how we got to where we are. I believe that’s what Labor Day was created to mean. The first Monday in September is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.
Reaching for new horizons
No doubt we face challenges that can split the best of families, communities, companies, churches and government leaders. But when we look at what the American worker can do, it’s amazing to see the infrastructure that has been built to connect us to the quality of life we enjoy. That includes engineering wonders that operate power grids, transportation systems and buildings, from the smallest home to structures that hold millions of gallons of water or reach thousands of feet into the clouds.
On the shoulders of best practices
Equally amazing is how generations of workers pass on best practices and pull together to rebuild following disasters. Recently I found myself in New Orleans and Mississippi visiting with utility critical infrastructure professionals who are responsible for keeping the lights on.
Like so many who witnessed the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, I was tempted to ask, “How do these local communities recover from such a disaster?” The overly simple answer provided by a few is, “Don’t build near the water.” Obviously that would eliminate a major part of where we live, work and play. Then the next thought would be, “Don’t build where there is a risk from earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.”
But the reality is, when disaster strikes, the thousands who answer the call for help are critical to the recovery process. Those with the most impact on the rebuilding process are local leaders who are committed to the long view to drive the community to pull together and continue rebuilding long after the thousands of helpers have gone home.
The way we choose to celebrate Labor Day is as diverse as we Americans. Many of us took a well-deserved break for the day, finding ways to spend quality time with our families. My family, complete with dogs, enjoyed time exploring and having a cookout at Panther Falls, a hidden wonder off the beaten path in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Regardless of how we celebrate Labor Day, we should realize that our traditional ideals are why we are so connected to the conveniences we have, so it’s appropriate to pay tribute to those on whom so much depends. To continue that tribute, we need to continue on with the best practices of past generations to be the bridge builders of tomorrow, and continue to build our country’s strength, freedom, leadership and infrastructure.