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PUBLISHED: 5:00 PM on Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Still honor a hard day's work

As you're reading this, you're either getting ready for or already enjoying the long Labor Day weekend.

Likely it includes some fishing, or at least relaxing with friends and family, celebrating the last days of summer. But I hope it also includes a couple of moments thinking about what it means.

Labor Day.

Not Vacation Day. Not Hour-And-A-Half-Lunch Day. Not Cover-For-Me Day. Not Personal-Time-Off Day.

Labor Day.

Labor as in "I'll give you $1.05 in value for every $1 you're paying."

Labor as in "Riding for the brand" (Texas terms) or "Giving the boss a fair day's work for a fair day's pay."

In this week's Capital City Weekly, you'll see many local businesses and organizations honoring their employees, and also thanking the friends and families in our community that make their business possible.

In every industry, every organization, every team, the people who make all the difference are not the super stars. They are the people who arrive early, stay late and often skip lunch to do more than their fair share.

They deal with a changing business climate, more uncertainty, more deadlines, more technology and for the most part longer hours.

They leave it all on the field, still take work home, and ask for nothing more than respect and the chance to be part of the team.

They are my heroes.

We are a nation of working folk. The pride in my family is not what we inherited, which is nothing, but what our forefathers earned with the sweat of their brow and the sharpness of their mind.

My mother's father, Joseph Vaslov Bilicek, immigrated from Czechoslovakia to Texas soon after the turn of the century, as a 19-year-old with nothing but his determination and his wit to carry him into a new world. Realizing that all his fellow passengers on the ship bearing him to Galveston could not speak English, he learned enough of the language from the ship's crew to translate for the others.

That was his first job in America, crafted on the spur of the moment from necessity and opportunity. He earned enough as a translator to pay his way into the rich farmland southwest of Houston.

There he would purchase land, get married and eventually raise nine children, who would give him more than three dozen grandchildren.

While a few still farm to this day, most pursued careers from teaching to military service to the newspaper business.

Was that a gift?

Only because he, and all who followed him, worked for it and earned it.

And learned all that is honorable about creating something, from the fruit of our own effort and creativity and determination. What we learned from our parents and have tried to pass on to our children.

The best days of my childhood were not fishing, or playing baseball, or even chasing girls (well, almost).

Those best days were riding shotgun with my Dad, in an ancient '64 Chevy pickup, heading off to do chores. My father was the hardest-working, most selfless, most sincere person I've ever known or hope to know.

He raised four strapping boys on determination, working two or sometimes three jobs, and never earning a nickel that he didn't give to others, instead of keeping it for himself.

And never played a day of his life, except if it was to take his kids on an adventure they wanted.

And what I learnt most from him was that working is what makes a man, what being a Dad and an adult is all about.

I wonder today about the kids who never rode shotgun with their Dad, never wanted to work just to be with the most important person in their lives, never wanted to do chores, wanted to hear, "Wow, did you see he did that without being told?"

In my business, working with newspapers from south Texas to the Kenai, we are fond of saying "nothing happens until somebody sells something."

But it's more basic than that. Regardless of the business you are in, nothing happens until somebody puts his or her shoulder to the wheel, decides to settle for nothing less than success, and runs that extra mile, works that extra hour.

In Juneau, almost 18,000 people over the age of 16 work for a living.

They include government employees and teachers, fishermen and miners, police and firemen, retailers and sales people, restaurant owners, cooks and waiters. It is these working folks who make our community tick.

It also includes the dedicated and hardworking team that brings you this newspaper each week, a few you see and many more behind the scenes: our editor Amanda Gragert; our sales team of Karen Wright, Amy Bennett and Tessa Cox; our art team of Jennie Oxman and Kristie Pierce; our distribution supervisor Jack Marshall; the more than a dozen folks from Ketchikan to Skagway who deliver the Weekly to hundreds of locations; plus the production, printing and financial support staff at our sister paper, the Juneau Empire.

They all are critical each week in creating and continuing to improve the Weekly into the great paper you are reading today.

To them all and all of the other hard-working folks in Southeast, we say "thanks!" and "well done!"

Leschper is general manager of the Capital City Weekly and advertising director of the Juneau Empire. Email him at lee.leschper@juneauempire.com.


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