Ashton Kutcher received the “Ultimate Choice Award” at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards held on Sunday, 11 August 2013, and then spoke to the audience. He elaborated on three important lessons he learned before he became known as Ashton. The first of the three lessons involved work. “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground.’
Ashton’s incredible advice continued, “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.”
The simple fact that Ashton’s remarks made national headlines reveals a great deal about the culture of America – the culture of work. David Azerrad of The Foundry expressed his opinion about why Ashton’s remarks made such a hit: “In America, we no longer extol hard work the way we used to…. The `work is for suckers’ mentality is no longer confined to a few marginal Huck Finns….
“Public opinion has also become much more tolerant of idleness. When Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through America in the 1830s, he was struck by the very strong prejudice in favor of work:
“`I sometimes met rich young people, enemies by temperament of every painful effort, who had been forced to take up a profession. Their nature and their fortune permitted them to remain idle; public opinion imperiously forbade it to them, and they had to obey.’
“Public opinion imperiously forbids many things today, including smoking and not recycling, but not working is most definitely not one of them. We have not (yet) become a nation of slackers, mooches, and loafers, but we may reasonably wonder whether America is still `the Land of Labor,’ as Benjamin Franklin described the country to prospective immigrants. The erosion of our culture of work has profound ramifications for the health of the American dream. Along with economic freedom, a culture that sustains, encourages, and honors hard work is one of the twin pillars that make the American Dream possible. The American Dream, after all, is dreamed by dreamers – but achieved by workers….”
Azerrad then quoted Frederick Douglass, “Our great apostle of upward mobility.” “`WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!! Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work into which the whole heart is put, and which, in both temporal and spiritual affairs, is the true miracle worker.’”
Bishop H. David Burton, then Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke about our rapidly changing world, particularly the changing employment market: “Today, many have forgotten the value of work. Some falsely believe that the highest goal in life is to achieve a condition in which one no longer needs to work. President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was fond of saying, `Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, that love of work is success.’
“Work is not a matter of economic need alone; it is a spiritual necessity. Our Father in Heaven works to bring about our salvation and exaltation (see Moses 1:39). And, beginning with Adam, He has commanded us to work. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam was instructed to `dress [till] it and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15). After the Fall, Adam was told, `In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’ (Genesis 3:19). As with any other commandment, there is joy in its keeping. To work – honestly and productively – brings contentment and a sense of self-worth. Having done all we can to be self-reliant, to provide for our own needs and those of our family, we can turn to the Lord in confidence to ask for what we might yet lack.”
I admire a man or woman who knows how to work and is willing to work hard. Teaching children and youth to work is one of our most important responsibilities. The rising generation needs to learn the value of work by being involved in household chores. Bishop Burton said, “Wise parents will work alongside their children, will provide frequent praise, and will make sure no task is overwhelming.”
When my children were young and home on a day off from school or on summer vacation, they would often complain when given a chore, “I’m on vacation!” My reply to them was, “You are on vacation from school but not on vacation from life!” Too many people in this world think that the most important part of life is when we stop working – whether for a vacation or in retirement.
Shortly after my husband retired, we started to travel and traveled for long periods of time. We saw a lot of country, met a lot of fabulous people, and spent some wonderful days with our children, grandchildren, and other family members. Most people would think that a “life of luxury” was wonderful, and it was to a point; however, I found that I always had to find some work to do. When at my children’s homes, I found some deep cleaning tasks – jobs that busy parents do not have the time or energy to do. While at my brother’s home, I helped pull weeds and plant flowers. I had to work whenever I found the opportunity because I did not particularly enjoy a “never-ending vacation.”
Work is an eternal principle, and God has commanded us to work. In addition, work is a blessing because it builds self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. When we work hard to accomplish something, we feel good about ourselves – whether it is a good grade in school, a talent such as playing the piano, mowing a lawn, painting a room, or providing for ourselves and/or our family. We must constantly be modeling and teaching the importance of work in order to bring the culture of work back to America!