Actor John Ratzenberger: Society Devalues Manufacturing Skills

Nothing partisan here — just a superb speech that I think dovetails well with what I wrote the other day about “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe and the importance of this reality show trend we’re seeing that finally returns a nobility to the working class that our elitist popular culture has spent decades demeaning.

Forgive me if you’ve already heard me tell this story, but one of my all-time favorite Hollywood moments occurred at a “Wall*E” junket in Beverly Hills a few years ago. Because Ratzenberger is Pixar’s “good luck charm,” he’s in all their films and was there to meet with the media. Somehow the subject came up about the importance of films, and Ratzenberger said something to the effect of how we would all get by just fine if New York and California disappeared tomorrow. But if we lost the Midwest, who would make our bread?

You could’ve heard a pin drop… except for my laughter.

Ratenberger’s cause is a righteous one. He’s not only correct about our economy but he’s also defending men like my father and grandfather, the men and women who do more in a day to keep the world turning than the likes of George Clooney and Joy Behar and David Letterman and Diane Sawyer will do their entire elitist lives.

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Bangor Daily News:

BANGOR, Maine — John Ratzenberger remembers a different time in the country, when he grew up as a kid in Bridgeport, Conn., and had the luxury of being a kid.

“Our parents would not allow us to be indoors, especially on a Saturday, and simply told us to go outside and play,” said Ratzenberger. “No cell phones, no GPS, no maps, no directions. The only rule was be home before the streetlights came on.”


They’d build tree houses, fix their bikes, take things apart — the basic foundation of skills that would serve them well as adults who needed to know how to paint a house or fix a lawnmower. But at some point, society stopped letting kids just go play and began to devalue the skills that allow workers to make and fix things.

That’s why, he said, manufacturing is declining across the country and why the United States soon may become a third-world country — where the plumbing won’t work, the lights may not go on and the infrastructure will crumble.

Ratzenberger, the actor famous for his “Cheers” role as Cliff Clavin, the know-it-all postman, and for his voice roles in every Pixar movie, has emerged in recent years as a leading advocate for manufacturing. He wrote the book “We’ve Got it Made in America, A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country,” addressed Congress and its Manufacturing Caucus, and sits on the Center for America board.

He spoke Wednesday evening at the annual Maine State Chamber dinner in Bangor.

More here.

In September of last year, Mr. Ratzenberger wrote a piece on this very subject for Big Hollywood.

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