Labor Day 2010 celebrations will be muted, or non-existent, for millions of Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to continue the search for work.
The Great Recession is reaping a bitter harvest of jobs, hopes, and dreams. Americans fortunate enough to be gainfully employed are haunted by fear and anxiety, which are the debilitating bi-products of widespread economic uncertainty.
A growing number of respected economists are beginning to raise the specter of a potentially devastating double-dip recession. Many corporate leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs are hoarding huge amounts of capital, refusing to invest in new workers and technological infrastructure. They argue to all who will listen that the prevailing national political climate is, at best, anti-business or, at worst, socialistic.
Republican and Democratic administrations have appropriated billions for fiscal and monetary stimulus. However, the recession without end grinds on. Political Jeremiahs lament the American ship of state is listing toward second-class status among the world's industrial powers. Tens of thousands of concerned Americans recently gathered before the Lincoln Memorial to pray for the restoration of the American Spirit.
Despite our difficult economic circumstances, I believe there is still much to celebrate and appreciate. The American Spirit is not broken, nor will it be broken.
During the nadir of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt boldly confronted eerily similar economic and political circumstances. In his first inaugural address delivered in March 1933, Roosevelt famously rallied a dispirited American people by proclaiming: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
The President acknowledged the severity of "our common difficulties," and he calmed a troubled nation by asserting that America's problems "concern, thank God, only material things."
America's greatness is not defined by the gyrations of the New York Stock Exchange, real estate values, or the national unemployment rate. Lost among the exhortations of economic malaise is the fact that millions of laid-off workers have enrolled in technical, two-year and four-year colleges.
Millions of others are attending proprietary schools, signing up for job-training programs, and benefiting from subsidized on-the-job training. This painful, but necessary, process of retraining, re-educating, and retooling our 20th Century workforce for 21st Century opportunities will eventually pay huge dividends in increased productivity and prosperity.
During this Labor Day, please reflect upon the enduring greatness of the generations of American workers who contributed to the making of this nation. Throughout our history, courageous men and women have risen to meet and overcome daunting domestic and international challenges.
This time will be no different. Through good and bad economic times, America remains the last best hope on the face of the Earth.
Michael Thurmond is Georgia's Labor Commissioner.