I recently had the pleasure of meeting a college instructor who grew up in Kenya and was educated in Africa, England and the United States, and who has lived here for 10 years with his wife and young son. During the course of our conversation, I asked him about his experiences in the countries in which he has lived, and, unsolicited, he said, “America is the greatest country in the world.”
It struck me as one of the best compliments I have ever received. “It’s true,” he said, reinforcing his sincerity. It’s something we’ve all heard at one time or another, on T.V., the radio, the Internet and especially around Independence Day. But when someone says it to you with the level of admiration as it was said to me, well, it produced an instant flash of pride and humility all at once.
Yes, we live in the greatest nation in the world. With all of our problems – war, a trade imbalance, compounding national debt and sometimes not-so-great public relations with other countries, we still represent that beaming beacon of hope for so many.
What makes this country great? Part of the equation in anyone’s calculation has to be American manufacturing. It has built our middle class and made the prosperity that we enjoy today possible. John Ratzenberger gets it, and he’s trying to make sure our politicians don’t forget it.
As host of “Made in America” on the Travel Channel, Ratzenberger spends his days filming interviews in manufacturing plants around the country to highlight some of the good stuff that is still made here.
There’s lots of it, as he demonstrates in one episode filmed at the Barbasol plant in Elkhart, Ind., where they use only U.S.-sourced chemicals and components.
After visiting more than 300 American manufacturing facilities, Ratzenberger can easily testify to the wave of change that is setting itself up to extinguish the brilliance of a century’s worth of American manufacturing.
Recently, Ratzenberger and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) teamed up on this important issue to present a series of town hall meetings in New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio, Philadelphia, New York, South Carolina and Illinois. In this watershed election year, they want to make sure American manufacturing doesn’t continue to be outsourced, off-shored or shunted into the history books.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend one of these town hall meetings, take 10 minutes out of your day to see some highlights at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOlxquxYUPI and www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1fh5NSawoY. Not only will you see Ratzenberger at his finest, but you’ll also hear from AAM members who are gravely concerned about the short-term thinking that has gotten us to where we are now.
“The loss of manufacturing means nothing less than the loss of our country,” Ratzenberger says. “That’s where we’re headed. We’re going to lose this civilization because we’re squeezing our middle class. And we’re building the middle classes of other nations. We’re giving them our equipment, our technology, our know-how. And we’re giving them our money.”
When you hear the evidence that he and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard present, you’ll be left with no doubt about the bleak future our country faces if we let this issue slide.
“We have to be constantly vigilant, because the minute we let down our guard, this crowd, this bunch of free traders, are prepared to give away our jobs,” Gerard says.
There has been some talk of NAFTA and trade imbalance and other tangential issues surrounding the big issue of the economy, but no one candidate has taken ownership of American manufacturing and its role in making America a great nation.
“When you see these presidential candidates, hold their feet to the fire,” Ratzenberger says. “It’s up to us. They’re not going to do it. Otherwise they would have done it.”
Post your own comments, share and rate the video clips of Ratzenberger at YouTube.com, or visit the AAM’s blog at www.manufacturethis.org. For some inspiring American manufacturing stories, visit www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Made_in_America.
E-mail Managing Editor Lisa Towers at firstname.lastname@example.org.