I'm fascinated by the life I led for about a month in Sandpoint, Idaho, this past summer and by what life is like in Southern California where I live most of the time.
Basically, what keeps rushing through my mind is how incredibly great life is in this country if you work. Yes, I know I get to live a charmed life.
But I worked for it and so did my parents.
I wish I could explain that to the politicians and commentators and complainers on TV.
My family has had a charmed life and I know it.
But the charm was work.
My grandfather was a 16-year-old from Detroit.
His father had disappeared, leaving the family to fend for themselves. Grandpa did that by stealing his older brother’s birth certiﬁcate that made him out to be 18. He used that to join the U.S. Army and enlisted in the cavalry. He learned to shoot a riﬂe from a moving horse or a slower donkey. He was sent to the Philippines to ﬁght the Aguinaldo uprising of the native people against the Americans.
It was dangerous combat in the jungles.
But he did it and then came home and worked as a production-line tool and die maker at Ford Motor in Dearborn, Michigan, and then at General Electric in Schenectady, New York.
I imagine that as a thin Jewish boy in the Army in the early 1900s, he was the object of a great deal of anti-Semitism, but he never complained about it.
Instead, he worked very hard and sent money home.
His wife worked as a clerk at a small department store in Schenectady.
This turned out to be the salvation of the Stein family because my grandfather was laid oﬀ at GE when the Great Depression hit.
He worked at various odd jobs all through the horrible economic climate of the Depression.
He worked whenever he possibly could.
Nothing was beneath his dignity if it helped support his family.
My father left home at 15 to enter Williams College, probably the best small college in America. He worked as a dishwasher at a fraternity that did not allow Jews as members.
He entered every oratorical or writing contest he could to try to win $50 or $100. He went on to be the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, served on the board of many corporations, and became a famous economist and commentator.
He never stopped working. He was working in the hospital as he was dying of heart disease, with needles and tubes coming in and out of him. I have a notebook of his thoughts about 1999 Treasury plans to redeem long-term bonds and replace them with short-term bonds.
That notebook, not a computer, was, and still is, stained with his blood from where the tubes were not properly inserted into his body. Now, to be sure, my father was born with a super brain. But he was also born with the work gene.
To him, a man or woman was what he or she did with his or her brain.
In that vein, he selected a woman, a genius named Marina von Neumann Whitman to be the ﬁrst woman member of the Council of Economic Advisers.
My mother was also a hard worker, but mostly in politics as a Republican Party publicist, operative, and helper in every campaign she could ﬁnd in Maryland.
She also taught elementary school children in the inner city of Washington, D.C.
She would cry when she talked about how hard her students struggled to learn to read.
She later paid out of her own pocket for some of them to go to Howard University, and she was not a wealthy woman. My father was the author of a famous saying that explains much of life.
"If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." We might think of this when we hear the gloom and doom on the TV and the internet.
It’s called "Stein’s Law."
I have tried to carry on this legacy of hard work and helping those less fortunate than I am.
I have not even come close to the achievements of my pop.
But I have observed that with the rarest exceptions, such as a pandemic, my life gets measurably better the harder I work.
Protest marches don’t do it.
Carrying signs does not do it.
Setting ﬁres does not do it.
Stealing does not do it.
Getting high does not do it.
Tearing down statues does not do it.
Claiming to be a morally superior person does not do it.
Work does it.
That’s what built America.
That’s what will build your life. I promise you.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes cast him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read Ben Stein's Reports — More Here.
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