Labor Day Reflections

September 04, 2018

Labor Day

Most Americans celebrate Labor Day as the unofficial close of summer—a time to get together with family and friends, enjoying the sunshine and day off work with some barbecue and outdoor activities. However, the occasion was founded to honor the contributions American workers have made to our society—an idea that was embodied in the Ronald Reagan Labor Day remarks of 1980, which may be eye-opening for most Americans to revisit.

Reagan delivered the iconic speech while on the campaign trail, and, appropriately, in front of the Statue of Liberty. Given the date, the future president centered his remarks on the wide-ranging impact that American laborers, in all industries, had on the country’s unparalleled success. Reagan contended that the backbone of the country was the work invested by the men and women who envisioned and sought to attain the great “American Dream.” Interestingly enough, the Ronald Reagan Labor Day remarks weren’t just focused on the pivotal role of American workers in general, but rather the involvement of foreign-born workers in that effort.

Reagan said that the prosperity of America was built on the shoulders of citizens from around the world, who all agreed that hard work and dedication would help them and the country—an idea that was emphasized by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as the backdrop. "These families came here to work," he said. "They came to build. Others came to America in different ways, from other lands, under different and often harrowing conditions, but this place symbolizes what they all managed to build, no matter where they came from or how they came or how much they suffered."

Looked at through the lens of today’s politics, the Ronald Reagan Labor Day speech takes on even more meaning. The debate over immigration wages on, causing divides even in the Republican Party, with Reagan’s address illustrating how the party has evolved over the last few decades. While some politicos today have cast doubt on the value of immigration, Reagan instead emphasized that hardworking Americans come from all backgrounds, a decidedly different message from the modern climate. As Labor Day celebrations commence, it may do the country some good to take a break from their parties to ponder the spirit behind Reagan’s words.

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