The Value of Work

Labor Day is upon us next week, and with it the ceremonial end of summer.

As I mentioned last week, I wish we used Labor Day as the return to Fall semester, but we will have already completed two weeks of semester by the time we fire up the grill or take a swim for the last time in 2018!

Most cultures have a special day to celebrate the value of work – ironically by taking a one day holiday away from it.  Many European cultures use May 1st as their equivalent of the American Labor Day, and in the former Soviet Union this day was co-joined with Workers’ Day and the occasion for a vast military parade.  The American Labor Day has some parallels, originating in the 19th century as a celebration of Labor and Labor Unions, and it was elevated to the status of a Federal Holiday in 1894.  The parade Americans originated was not a military one, but a parade of groups of people, musical bands and other community symbols, first enacted in New York City.

The dignity of work is a phrase that captures well the importance of why we celebrate Labor Day and its other versions around the world.  Human life and excellence relies on our capacity to be productive people and citizens who can contribute our knowledge, skills and talents to the greater good.  Work, in this sense, is an integral part of who we are and why we are.  But I like to consider that the Labor Day Holiday also ironically reminds us that we can only be productive if we are recreational, if work and play are aligned as co-requisites in our lives, and that “too much work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

That life balance is essential to us and to our students.  College makes demands on our students and it also requires purposeful effort and perseverance for us as faculty and staff.  As importantly, if we are to grow and succeed, we need to ensure that our students balance their lives appropriately with work and leisure, labor and recreation.

This Fall our students are enrolled in more credit hours that in the past five years.  And we as employees of the University have worked hard in bringing them here, and in beginning their semester’s work.  In short, we are all working hard at MGA right now.  That is a good thing, and something to maintain, but it also requires us to keep focused on the other aspects of our lives – our families, our private hours, our times of leisure – and to honor these as well.  If we honor these, we will work well, hard and smartly at MGA.  We know how many of our students are balancing college and work.  Part of our efforts must be to help them achieve that balance, and find a place for leisure as well.

I said at Convocation that there is no greater or more noble calling than education.  We are truly blessed to work in the way we do, in the way of educating the next generation.  While I do believe we can measure our economic impact and that of our students and their livelihoods, I also believe that in a very real sense the work we do in educating our students is priceless.

Next Monday, I hope you enjoy Labor Day with friends and families.  I hope you relax and enjoy the cookout or the pool  or just reading a book or taking a walk.  I hope you will enjoy some recreation and re-creation.

And thank you then for coming back to work on Tuesday, and engaging again in the true dignity of great work.

Happy Labor Day!