So Dean’s speech at the end of Championship had what almost seemed like a throwaway comment that managed to offend at least two of my mentors and two of my sponsors (who were responsible for thousands of dollars of funding this year for our team).
His comment about how ‘nobody wants a manual labor job’ was not well-received by the general contractor who has been helping our team with electrical work, fabrication, and assembly for six years, nor by the farmer who gave us his time as well as over two thousand dollars (and has only ever wanted to be a farmer, and loves his job and his life), nor by the owner of the woodworking company that has given us thousands of dollars over the past several years.
I’m worried that I’ve lost one of those mentors (who said to me, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can support this anymore”), and at least one – if not both – of those sponsors, who were deeply offended by Dean’s callous and elitist comment.
And frankly, I agree with them. I couldn’t help but look at the people breaking down the other fields behind Dean while he was speaking, and hoping that they were too busy doing the necessary work to make the Championship a success to have heard him. I couldn’t help but think about all the security guards, janitors, maintenance people, truck drivers, drayage workers and so forth who made each regional and the Championship possible. It made me wonder if Dean has ever heard of Dirty Jobs, much less watched an episode.
Science and technology absolutely make the world a better place, and they should be celebrated, and FIRST is just the vehicle in which to do so. But manual labor jobs feed us, clothe us, produce much of the energy we use, clean up after us… Indeed, even all the coolest robots and technology are ultimately assembled and maintained by manual laborers – or by robots that were assembled and maintained by manual laborers. Without them, science and engineering careers wouldn’t even get off the ground.
So kids, I hope that as you grow up and go to college and get fabulous careers in science and technology, that you keep that lesson close to your heart – the “little guys” getting their hands dirty are the reason your career is even possible, and you should be thankful for each and every one of them.