The summer before my last semester of college, I worked a construction job pouring concrete footings (foundations) part of the time and basement walls part of the time. My time pouring walls was the toughest work I’ve ever done, and I liked working alongside some of the hardest workers, at least physically, that I’ve ever encountered. Workers like these are just what Dickies is looking for as it seeks out a winner of the Dickies 17th Annual American Worker of the Year award.
Americans value hard work, but only to an extent, which I find interesting.
In my family, hard work was highly valued, and you were scolded and made to feel less of a man if you ever exhibited laziness when there was work to be done. My dad, mom and brothers worked hard, whether it was cutting wood, working in the garden, training for sports, haying or working on the cars. It was ingrained in our psyche that this was what men and women did for their families, and that started (at least in my immediate family) with how hard Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Fred and Mom worked to eke out a living for their family and build a farm.
In other families, I’ve noticed it’s not always the same, especially in white collar professions. I’ve seen, both in TV shows and real life, the doctors who are too preoccupied with their work to be good parents for their families. But it seems to me that too much work, or the too much value placed on the profession, is far less common in blue collar jobs, and that’s probably because it is totally necessary, monetarily, for a blue collar worker to put in the hours that they do.
For doctors and lawyers, the work can become more about ego and legacy than about providing for their families. Wives or husbands and kids, at a certain point, have enough monetary means and need that time with that parent who is too busy building a fortune and reputation.
So there is something special about the American blue collar worker, and I think what is special is that, for some, there is no ceiling on how hard or how much one should work. You work as much as you can to give your family what you need, and no one will ever tell you to stop or give you a break until you can’t do it anymore.
That’s admirable. And thankfully Dickies recognizes this.
“Dickies is very excited to celebrate workers all over the country,” said Chris Prokopeas, vice president of marketing for Dickies. “Millions of Americans work hard every day and rise above some pretty tough conditions with true character and determination. These exceptional individuals personify the Dickies brand and exemplify what it really means to be the American Worker of the Year.”
Past winners of the award have included an oil field roughneck, farmers, builders, teachers, an electrical lineman and soldiers. To me, these individuals represent what rural America is all about, and I’m glad Dickies has chosen to honor this class of citizen. It’s important to let them know they are appreciated, especially in these times because it’s that American working class that will help restore our economy. To read the fascinating story of last year’s winner, Hale Hughes, an oilfield safety manager from Woodville, Texas, check out the Dickies American Worker of the Year website.
To enter, workers can submit a photo and brief essay to illustrate how they represent the ideals of a true, hard-working American. Stories from workers across America will appear online for weekly voting and to honor the nominees.
Dickies will recognize weekly winners and six finalists, then one worker will be named grand prize winner this fall. Those who receive the highest number of votes each week will be recognized as Worker of the Week and they’ll receive customized Dickies garments. Six finalists will be selected by a panel of judges and will each receive $10,000 and a trip for two to the PBR World Finals, where the contest winner will be revealed on October 30, 2009. The grand prize winner will be selected from the pool of six finalists to receive $50,000* and a trip for two to the Dickies 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. At that race, the American Worker of the Year will have a chance to win $1,000,000 by randomly selecting one of the top 12 Race for the Chase drivers to win the Dickies 500.
Nominations are accepted until June 30 at www.americanworkeroftheyear.com, via mail or entry forms at stores or mobile tour stops. Fans who vote online can also win cash and other prizes.
*American Worker of the Year grand prize winner will receive $50,000 instead of the $10,000 the remaining five finalists receive. Additionally, should the American Worker of the Year grand prize winner randomly select the driver who goes on to win the Dickies 500, they will receive the $1 million in lieu of the $50,000 grand prize.
Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.