Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher gave an admirable interview on Ellen DeGeneres’s show recently where he remarked, “There’s an entitlement that is starting to emerge that I think is unhealthy for people and unhealthy for our country.” How right he is that the hand-out mentality which has permeated America is terrible for our great Republic. Unfortunately, America has recently forgotten how good hard work is for us.
As a 39-year-old born-and-bred New Yorker, a product of the NYC public school system, I grew up in a single-parent Bronx household where my mother worked very hard many hours a week. She then came home and took care of me and my sister – always cooking us home-cooked meals. I worked 40 hours a week from the age of 11 in a local pizzeria run by a 30-something, hardworking Italian immigrant. This man saved his money to open the business and worked 90 hours a week to send his two young children to Catholic school.
My mom was the daughter of Holocaust survivors, who had instilled in her a unique endurance, and she refused to lose. We never asked nor received help from the government. My mother raised my sister and me to believe in ourselves, and she sacrificed herself tremendously so we could advance. She sacrificed immensely – and we didn’t have much money – but nevertheless we thrived.
From the age of 11, I worked and did just fine in school. As Kutcher said, “The only thing that can be below you is to not have a job,” and his words should be heard by every single American. “When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so, opportunities look a lot like work.”
One better believe in China and Russia they are working day and night – while in America we get heavier and lazier. Kutcher’s words should be framed in schools nationwide.
Before I commenced my career in Public Relations, I worked my way through college. Summers? Eighty hours a week doing dishes, mopping floors, and delivering pizza. Though it was grueling, I loved it and wouldn’t change it for the world. Memories of my mother clipping coupons, always picking up pennies from the floor, having me return bottles for the 5 cent return (in the pre-green days), and never using credit cards because you never knew if you would be able to pay the bills remain in my mind then and now.
Today, thanks to my very hard work and dedication, my PR firm, 5WPR has grown to become one of the 25 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S., ending 2012 with over $14 million in revenues. We have no debt, pay all vendors on time, and have a profitable business, as we work very hard and deliver results. We do not accept complacency; we demand and deliver. We have never had a line of credit, do not carry credit card balances and pay our bills.
Kutcher a few months ago also made a great speech at the Teen Choice Awards when he spoke about the importance of hard work. And throughout America, as employers hear about mandatory vacation times, flex schedules and work-life balance, perhaps these thoughts should be remembered, regardless of which party Americans vote for.
There is no harm in working very hard, and as I remind my children often, in life there are winners and losers. Self-esteem and values can be taught through hard work, as can simple accomplishment.
Every night, on the way home I have to walk by the Occupy Wall Street fools who stand outside of Lloyd Blankfein’s house and yell about how evil he is. Blankfein, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs, who is now a billionaire, is from the Bronx. He sold pretzels at Yankee Stadium as a teenager and worked in the Harvard cafeteria before he made money. He is an American hero and one whose life story should be emulated as heroic.
I love America and am so proud to have been born in this country, but the America we see today is not the America of years past. America needs to get away from the entitlement mentality and get back to good old-fashioned American values – sweat, entrepreneurial spirit and hard work. As Kutcher said, “Working hard, and being generous and smart is a path to a better life.”
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