‘In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream …’ It’s a ‘death trap,’ a ‘suicide rap.’
‘I want to guard your dreams and visions.’ ”
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
“This man said that you can move to Greece, live in Greece, but you can’t become a Greek. You can move to Japan, live there, but you can’t become Japanese; or France and become a Frenchman; or German—or become a—all of these things.
But he said, everybody or anybody from any corner of the world can come to America and become an American.”
I have a piece coming up on globalization but today it is about the American work ethos and American workers and, I imagine, a view on any version of isolationism <extreme to practical>.
I find very little appealing in an isolationist concept <any aspect of it> … even the common rhetoric of the day.
Simplistically I feel like it suggests we, America, cannot compete globally. In my pea like brain I view it like sports … sports in which almost every home team retains an advantage … despite the same rules, same number of players, same dimensions of the court & field. Mainly it comes down to coaching, ability and , I imagine, pride of home field … uhm … but I still get on a bus and go play away games.
I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone.”
Which reminds me of how much during American presidential campaign, and even now somewhat, I found it extremely aggravating how we had a bunch of people talking about American workers and American businesses.
They all seemed to forget that our ethos is “just do it.”
When set free to do the voodoo it does … American business is dynamic, energetic, innovative, can-do and actually gets out there and makes & sells shit.
We shouldn’t be impatient because the success is coming fast enough and in our impatience “change the rules” or “hide within our borders” but instead we should use our impatience to invite competition, sweat it out and beat the crap out of them.
My impatience? I sometimes get a bit impatient when I hear people moaning about the state of the world and the inevitable “the sky is falling” or “the world is unfair” <pick your poison>.
Given an opportunity every generation believes it is tougher for them and will create their own prognostications of doom & gloom and, yet, we are still here and still have the world’s largest economy <and best on a variety of measures>.
I am not suggesting there aren’t real business issues and I am not suggesting from a regulatory standpoint there are some tweaks to the system which would enable businesses to improve themselves to compete better <please notice I didn’t say “to constrict the competition” but rather to have us improve to compete>.
Isolation goes against every bone in our “just do it” American body & soul.
Nike trademarked it but the pilgrims brought it to America. From day one immigrants, with the help of Native Americans, went to work building America … stone by stone … seed by seed … idea by idea … sweat drop by sweat drop.
America First should never be America Alone.
America has never been an individual competition it has always been about a team competition.
America First should be earned on the playing field competing against the best of the best and winning <by the way … that defines ‘exceptionalism’>.
America should be about building a better engine, building a better race car and running a better race.
”It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes.”
It is aggravating to hear “close the borders” combined with “the world is going to shit” … which all leads to ‘disengage from the world <competition>.’
What kind of shit response is that?
What kind of “winner” doesn’t want to compete and compete against the best?
It seems like we should be investing not in building advantages for ourselves but rather in building a better team. That is where money and energy should be spent.
Hire better coaches.
Offer better training programs.
Buy better equipment.
Study better strategies.
Create better plan of attacks.
I wasn’t a huge Ronald Reagan fan but he got it … he hated changing the rules of the business game <tariffs & regulations> and only did so situationally, tactically and for short term ‘balancing out’ … as he says … given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.
But … he understood the importance of the attitude of the American worker above all else … check out these words he said to Harley Davidson:
… you gave some folks in Washington an important lesson about how we go about buying and selling with other nations. You see, we’ve shaken hands on an agreement with most of the other nations of the world, an agreement that sets the rules for international trade. We have problems, of course, with some of those nations—the ones that don’t let us sell to their people as freely as they sell to ours. But the agreement, called the GATT agreement—that’s the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — gives us ways of dealing with those problems, and it also gives us ways of giving industries the kind of breathing room we gave you.
And if they’re as serious as you were about shaping up—now we’re about to begin worldwide talks on how to make this agreement even stronger.
Because of the GATT agreement, when you were ready to sell more bikes around the world, no one stopped you.
But now there are some in Congress who say, in effect, that the United States should break its word with the other countries.
They say American workers need to run and hide from foreign competition, even if that means other countries will strike back by not letting you sell your bikes to their people. Well, Harley-Davidson has shown how wrong that is and what the truth is. American workers don’t need to hide from anyone. America does best when America sticks by its word. And American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. No one is better than you are.
You may have heard that my temperature’s up about some trade legislation that’s before the Congress right now. On TV the other night, it was called one of the toughest trade bills of this century. I remember the last time we had a so-called tough trade bill. It was called Smoot-Hawley, and they said it would protect American jobs. Instead, after other nations were through retaliating, it helped us—or it helped give us, or at least deepened, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I’m probably the only one here that’s old enough to remember that. I was looking for a job then. [Laughter] Twenty-five percent were unemployed, including me.
The Harley-Davidson example makes a very strong statement about how government, through the judicious application of our trade laws, can help the best and the brightest in American management and labor come together in ways that will create new jobs, new growth, and new prosperity. Government’s role, particularly on the trade front, should be one of creating the conditions where fair trade will flourish, and this is precisely what has been done here. Our trade laws should work to foster growth and trade, not shut it off. And that’s what’s at the heart of our fair trade policy: opening foreign markets, not closing ours. Where U.S. firms have suffered from temporary surges in foreign competition, we haven’t been shy about using our import laws to produce temporary relief. Now, there are those in Congress who say our trade policies haven’t worked, but you here at Harley-Davidson are living proof that our laws are working. The idea of going to mandatory retaliation and shutting down on Presidential discretion in enforcing our trade laws is moving toward a policy that invites, even encourages, trade wars. It’s time to work to expand the world market, not restrict it.
Today, as many as 10 million American jobs are tied to international trade, including many jobs right here at Harley. For more than a century, when America’s trade with the world has grown, America has created more jobs. When trade has declined, so have the number of jobs. So, when it comes to making new jobs, free and fair international trade is America’s big machine. It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes. Your chairman, Vaughn Beals, summed it up when he said, and I will quote him: “We’re sending a very strong message to our competitors and to the international industrial community that U.S. workers, given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.”
The best way to meet foreign competition is also the right way: by sticking to our agreements with other countries and not breaking our promises, by making sure other countries also stick to their agreements with us, and by being the best. As America prepares for the 21st century, you’ve shown us how to be the best. You’ve been leaders in new technology. You’ve stuck by the basic American values of hard work and fair play.
A danger we are currently meandering our way toward is one of attitude.
We currently have a president who doesn’t foster attitude and belief in self but rather believes success is found solely in removing disadvantages, real or not, and removing “unfairness” <even if the other team were simply playing the game better or had better players>.
He is wrong in his approach.
Business is often more about attitude and fortitude then it is about whether “the pitch was mowed at 1 inch instead of an inch & a ½.”
It is a false narrative, and a dangerous narrative, to suggest success is based on ‘fairness’. Why? Because … well … more often than not we will always find that the world was unfair in some form or fashion … and you know what?
You still gotta compete, you still gotta play the game and you still gotta figure out a way to win.
America is at its best just doing it … sweating it out on the streets seeking the runaway American dream.
America is at its best when it ignores all the reason why we cannot do something and just go do it anyway.
America is at its best when we have a leader standing up in front of us not making excuses, not whining about unfairness and all the reasons why we haven’t been successful … but one who is instead saying “here is what we are gonna do and lets go do it.”
It was Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, who said:
“We, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”
But he also reminded everyone of the importance of work ethic.
“They stood for the life of effort, not the life of ease.”
Freedom, Roosevelt warned, had to be earned by the exercise of restraint, and its bounty could only be harvested by diligent labor.
I am not an isolationist mostly because of all I have written today. I am a business guy and as a business guy I want to compete … and I believe I can compete well and win often enough if I put in the smart thinking and the diligent labor.
While I may proudly wrap myself in an American flag I also proudly wrap myself in an attitude … ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone” … and I am an American worker.
We should never underestimate the American worker and American business ingenuity.
We shouldn’t hide from the world … we should be building the best team and sending them to the far corners of the world, wherever they may have an opportunity to compete, and win through hard work and fair play.
Isolation is the wrong path. It’s not American. We compete, work hard, play by the rules … and win more often than we lose.
American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.