Recognizing American values en route to the American dream

June 2, 2016 By    
Photo credit: cavecreek4/Foter/CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: cavecreek4/Foter/CC BY-NC-ND

As Memorial Day came and went, I found myself asking what the Greatest Generation would think of our nation today.

Keep in mind, these are the folks who endured the Great Depression and fought valiantly to retain our freedoms in World War II. Journalist Tom Brokaw once wrote about this group, explaining that because their everyday lives were about deprivation and sacrifice, it would have been easy enough for the American dream to fade away when the economic conditions of the time were so grave and unrelenting.

Yet, the Greatest Generation ensured the American dream lived on, leaving a better world for the generations that followed. The Greatest Generation valued the notion of work – hard work – and that nothing is given and everything is earned.

Can the same be written of today’s generation?

Every generation, of course, has exceptions, and there are undoubtedly a number of hard-working millennials in the workforce today. But the sense of entitlement that’s emerged among young people presents challenges for blue-collar industries, including propane, that are desperately trying to fill jobs.

No one wants to get their hands dirty anymore or put in a hard day’s work. I hear these sentiments continuously, whether I’m visiting with propane marketers who are strategizing how to fill vacant positions or with equipment manufacturers who are trying to bring more welders or other skilled craftsmen into the fold.

These are real concerns for a nation at a political crossroads. Young people have been brought up over the last couple of decades with the understanding that you go to college when you come of age. But college isn’t for everyone – nor should it be.

Parents want the best for their kids, and it’s understood in our society that a college education puts kids on the fastest track to success. This isn’t always the case, though.

Because a college education has been accepted as the norm, more kids than ever are pursuing the same available jobs upon graduation. On top of the competitive landscape, a number of college graduates enter the workforce with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars of debt.

Is the assumption of such debt unfortunate? Yes. The American education system is certainly broken, but, as I pointed out recently to a young colleague, every person who assumes college debt does so by choice. No one can force kids to attend college and take on loans – not even parents, who should educate their kids about trade schools and other alternative paths to achieve the American dream.

Those from the Greatest Generation didn’t take one path to achieve the American dream. They did, however, unite as one nation as well as any generation in U.S. history.

Our nation is unfortunately as divided now as it has been at any point in my lifetime. Stuart Weidie, president of Blossman Gas and chairman of the board of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), broached this subject at NPGA’s Propane Days, where he discussed the people’s screams for political change.

“All too often people are asking somebody else to fix their problems,” Weidie says. “The concepts of individual responsibility, hard work, helping your neighbor and taking steps to improve your own life seem to be a thing of the past. But aren’t those things we stand for in our industry?”

A united America is hopefully once again near, but achieving unity will require different generations to come together and recognize which values are American and which values are not.

The value of hard work – the kind the propane industry embodies – is as American as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At least it should be.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

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