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Labor Day — so much more than the end of summer

Today we pause from work to observe Labor Day.

Except we don’t. Americans have a certain drive that compels them forward without pause. Our work weeks are not limited to 9 to 5 Monday through Friday with weekends and holidays off.

In the 21st century, some do their shopping while others sleep.

We manufacture goods around the clock.

Public servants in critical areas such as first responders and emergency room staff are always available, always accessible.

Work has come to define us. When we meet a new person, they often ask what we do and we tell them how we make our living.

We live in a day of high competition that pushes us to do more, to be better, to innovate and to create in ways not even imaginable to our predecessors. And who knows where it will lead us?

It is doubtful that those involved in the labor movement over a century ago when Labor Day was born could have envisioned today’s American prosperity.

Indeed, we owe the American worker for much of the nation’s strength, freedom and leadership and for the realization of the highest standard of living the world has ever known.

Labor Day was signed into law on June 28, 1894, by President Grover Cleveland to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers.

The holiday originally was observed with parades and picnics, speeches and even cigars and “lager beer kegs … mounted in every conceivable place” during the first Labor Day in New York City, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Picnics, at least, continue to be part of today’s Labor Day tradition, and the holiday has come to signal the end of summer, often spent with family and friends.

So take the day off, if you may; throw one last burger of summer on the grill.

And somewhere along the way, take a moment to appreciate why we honor this day and remember those who toiled in years gone by to make our working life better.

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