As the nation pauses this weekend to celebrate Labor Day, along with the return of school schedules and cooler weather, I’ve been reflecting on the value of work — what it means to each of us individually and what it means to our country.
Having a job is about so much more than a paycheck. Work can help give us a mission, a purpose bigger than ourselves. If you work at a manufacturing plant, then your effort is toward the mission of building a product. If you’re a small business owner, it’s toward the purpose of providing value to your customers or impacting your industry. Whatever it may be, being able to say “I built this” or “I helped create that” can provide a tremendous amount of pride.
Putting your heart into any honest work can offer its own satisfaction. On the wall of my office in Washington, D.C., hangs a painting depicting working men and women. It says: "To rejoice in his labor -- this is the gift of God." To me, this serves as a reminder of an age-old truth that our culture today sometimes seems to lose sight of: hard work is not an enemy. Work has its own reward. It is to be embraced, not avoided. This is something I learned early on during my first jobs -- whether that was shoveling snow, raking leaves, cutting grass, washing dishes, bussing and waiting tables or working as a drugstore clerk and delivery boy. I never felt that any job was a "dead-end job." Any job someone has is providing something that someone else wants or needs -- that is fulfilling! It is a mindset I still try to apply to any work I do today.
Some jobs may not feel like they are making an impact on our country, but just remember: one job can begin to break a cycle of poverty. One job can help send a kid to school or into a vocation. One innovation can spur the next technological advance. One idea can change the world. It is the power of the individual that has always propelled our country’s progress and continues to do so today. Harnessed into the collective power of the American workforce, that work ethic is the engine that drives us forward.
That’s one of the many reasons why the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Trump signed into law last December, is so critical: it directly impacts American workers. Since the law’s passage, one million jobs have been created. Unemployment numbers are reported to be at their lowest point in decades, while in June there were 6.7 million job openings. This means that for the first time since 2000 there are more job openings than those who are unemployed.
This is good news for the American laborers who are willing to put in the sweat, hours, and elbow grease — all they need is the opportunity. And it is good news for all of us. We must continue creating an economy that empowers and rewards hard work. We are fostering an environment where it is easier for businesses to invest and grow. We are rolling back costly and burdensome government regulations that stifle growth. We must continue better equipping our students, who are tomorrow’s workforce, to compete and succeed — with STEM education as well as with vocational and trade schools. As a surgeon, there is much I can do in the operating room, but I can't build the OR, I can't fix the equipment -- I can't do it alone. Our collective efforts as contributing individuals are what together power our country.
President Ronald Reagan said it best when he once shared on Labor Day: “We built this great Nation, built it to surpass the highest standards ever imagined, through the hard work of our people. I would match the American worker against any in the world. The people whose labor fuels our industry and economy are among the most productive anywhere..…As we work to solve our economic problems, let us tap that well of human spirit... Our destiny is not our fate; it is our choice.”