Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The old man had it right all along—I’m taking the pledge today


Last night on the news I heard an alarming statistic:  “We have not seen unemployment rates this high, or this consistent, since the Great Depression.”  Of course that’s no surprise to anyone in this Information Age (let alone the frightening number of people out there desperate for work) but it still made me sit up and take notice. 

I had just gotten home from work, feeling grumpy because the city has half of Rt.65 torn up & my bus route now includes a LONG detour. 

Poor me, I had to sit in traffic an extra 20-30 minutes... I was reminded of how fortunate I am that I was on that bus in the first place.

I’ll be honest here, I’m not fond of discussing current events on the teepee.  It’s not that I don’t care about Greece’s failing economy, the flooding in Florida or Jennifer Aniston’s latest heartbreak, I just feel it’s a waste of time to rehash that stuff here unless I’m able to put a personal spin on it.   But lately I’ve been really caught up with the nightly news, in particular ‘ABC News with Diane Sawyer’.  They’re not just reporting national or global events, they’re using their platform to MAKE the news. 

It all started a few months ago when they jokingly reported that in our nations capital, the Smithsonian Museum’s souvenir shop (funded with taxpayer money) didn’t sell a single item that was made in America.   When the museum was asked why, they didn’t go into a defensive posture—they admitted it was true, apologized and made a pledge to sell ‘Made in America’ merchandise. 

Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer pushes ‘Made in America’;  what’s not to love about this woman?

And that was just for starters—since then, ABC News has gone after retail giants, college catalogs & construction companies, and showed them that for every item they import from China, there is a comparable (or better quality) product made right here in America, and usually for the same price or less.  They reported that if home construction companies used just 5% more materials manufactured in America, it would add a staggering QUARTER MILLION “liveable wage” jobs to our economy.  They’re even distributing detailed lists of American suppliers ready to help these construction companies with all their material needs, everything from nails to kitchen sinks!   And all made right here in the “good ol’ USA”. 

I wish my dad was alive to see this, as this was his mantra for as long as I can remember, long before it became “the thing to do”.  In the early-mid 80’s, when I worked in the lumber & Home Improvements department at our local Murphy’s Mart, my dad often came in for supplies to take advantage of my 15% Employee Discount. 

My dad in the early 1980s, on a plastering job

Besides working in coal shaft construction or playing music, he hung drywall, did plastering & other home construction or repair.  (With 6 kids and the mines on strike half the time, he and Mom still had a lot of mouths to feed.)

Anyway, I’ll never forget one particular exchange in the store that got the attention of a group of other customers.

  • DAD:  I’m going to need 10 sheets of that sheet rock, a pound of shank nails & a drywall hammer.  You better grab me a new trowel while you’re at it.
  • ME (after getting everything):  Okay Dad, anything else?
  • DAD (holding up the hammer):  Where’d you get this?
  • ME:  Um, right over there in aisle 3. 
  • DAD:  Boy I didn’t mean IN THE STORE—where’d this come from?  This sticker says “Made in Malaysia”. 
  • ME:  Those are all we have—they’re just as good & I bet they’re cheaper too.
  • DAD:  I don’t care if you’re GIVING them away.  Go find me one that says “Made in the USA” or I’ll take my business elsewhere.
  • ME:   Dad, these aren’t regular hammers—c’mon, you’re embarrassing me.
  • DAD:  You SHOULD be!

Luckily my manager Jim Carney was nearby, overheard the exchange, called the hardware store in town & located a drywall hammer for my dad--he even drove up there and picked it up.  Afterwards when I apologized to my boss for my dad’s stubbornness, he said “Doug, I think your dad was right.”  I really appreciated Mr. Carney for that, and ultimately respected my old man more for it too.

So Dad, good for you—and for the record, I plan to start looking at the label first the next time I buy something.  I mean it. 



  1. Hey Doug! Just wanted to say hi and happy Friday. I love ABC News' Made in America series. I think you know I've been on the Made in USA bandwagon for a while for obvious'll be happy to know that there's lots of people on Twitter and Facebook that feel the same way. Of course, it's a challenge finding lots of stuff made here so I can only go out of my way on occasion, but I have managed to buy tops, jeans, and jewelry made in the USA.

  2. Hi Pam, Happy Friday to you too! :) Thanks so much for your thoughts here, and yes I thought of you (and your client Jacob Bromwell) when I wrote this piece; it's good to know there's others out there that feel the same. And you're right, it is a challenge to find American-made all the time, but like Diane Sawyer says, "every little bit helps". Thanks again Pam, hope you have a fun weekend!


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