A reminder of the origin and intent of the Labor Day holiday as well as a great poem by Edgar A. Guest for reflection and celebration.

Labor Day - PeopleEach year Labor Day represents the symbolic end of our summers, a time for relaxation and for many, their last chance to travel with the family before the school year begins anew. For these reasons and more, it often goes by with little or no thought to the origin and intent of the holiday.

Origin & Intent

The Labor Day holiday was first celebrated in 1882, following a series of labor relations problem in the United States that culminated with an event known as the Pullman strike. This Pullman Strike of railway workers essentially stopped all traffic west of Chicago and elevated the awareness of a growing need for displaying greater appreciation for the American workers. As a result the first Labor Day holiday was established as a Federal holiday and first held in New York. According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, Labor Day…

…is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Therefore, as you travel with your family, wrap-up your Summers and prepare for the new school year, don’t forget to think about the workers that helped make your country great. This holiday should be especially meaningful to the servant leaders who, through their dedication to serving those they lead, must recognize these incredible contributions. As a reflection of the great services of these workers, I found the following poem to be a great reflection of famous America Workers. Many of those mentioned in the poem became great servant leaders through their hard work, dedication and services to their stake holders. Please enjoy this poem by Edgar A. Guest and have a wonderful Labor Day!

They Earned The Right

I knew Ket and Knudsen, Zeller, Zeder and Breer.
I knew Henry Ford back yonder as a lightplant engineer.
I’m a knew-’em-when companion who frequently recalls
That none of the those big brothers were too proud for overalls.

All the Fishers, all the leaders, all the motion pioneers
Worked at molds or lathes or benches at the start of their careers.
Chrysler, Keller, Nash and others whom I could but now won’t name
Had no high-falutin’ notion ease and softness led to fame.

They had work to do and did it. Did it bravely, did it right,
Never thinking it important that their collars should be white.
Never counted hours of labor, never wished their tasks to cease,
And for years their two companions were those brothers, dirt and grease.

Boy, this verse is fact, not fiction, all the fellows I have named
Worked for years for wages and were never once ashamed.
Dirt and grease were their companions, better friends than linen white;
Better friends than ease and softness, golf or dancing every night.

Now in evening clothes you see them in the nation’s banquet halls.
But they earned the right to be there, years ago, in overalls.

– By Edgar A. Guest


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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