There are two areas that I tend to avoid discussing just as I would try to avoid the plague – religion and politics. Over the last few days, however, I have had this burning desire to break my rule as it relates to politics.
First an admission: I am a registered democrat who votes very independently, even having voted for republican candidates over my many voting years. Recently I was so perturbed by statements made by presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich that I can no longer hold my peace. In one of his television appearances, he stated that poor kids who live in poor neighborhoods don't see people working and therefore "literally have no habit of showing up on Monday." Instead, they gravitate toward pimping and prostitution. He goes on to say that poor children should be given jobs as janitors to learn about working. In response to his statements I want to address three areas
1. The assumption that because people are poor they do not understand what it means to go to work.
2. Demeaning the work that janitors do
3. The implication that being a janitor is dishonorable.
On the first issue, poor people understand work probably better than rich people. They have to work just to survive. Things are not handled to them on a silver platter. I grew up as a poor child (although I did not feel poor) on a farm, raised by honest, hardworking parents. My father was a farmer and my mother a domestic worker/school teacher. Mom had a college degree and taught school before quitting to raise her children. When she needed to go back to work to help make ends meet for the family she could not get a teaching job so she began working as a domestic. My siblings and I all had strong work ethics instilled in us by both parents. Education was also emphasized. From this poor neighborhood I went on to get an undergraduate degree from Howard university and an MBA from Harvard Business School. I would venture to say poor children understand working and have work ethics as well as or better than rich children, many of whom have never had to work but grew up with much indulgence.
Secondly, being a janitor is hard work and, in general, is rarely appreciated by the public. I know firsthand because I started a janitorial firm, operated it for twenty-five years and grew it into a $20 million business. Most people who enter their office every day do not consider the fact that while they are home in the evenings enjoying their families; someone comes into the office to create a clean, sanitary environment for them when they return to work the next day. Many do not think of this particular activity until their trash can is not emptied or bathroom not cleaned. As a result too often complaints are issued when expected standards are not met but seldom are compliments given when things are done. Few if any other professions are so unappreciated.
Third, being a janitor is an honorable position. The services they perform are necessary for proper maintenance of buildings and these environments. As the owner of a janitorial firm one of my major challenges was keeping my employees motivated and feeling good about the work they did. To this end, they were not called janitors (because of the negative connotation) but were maintenance specialists. To give them opportunities for training and advancement, we developed the Corporate College Program which was designed to provide employees with an advancement track whereby they invested the time and the company provided the training and resources. As a result many employees advanced within the company to managements positions.
So, Mr. Gingrich maybe poor kids should be trained to own janitorial companies instead of limiting them to working as janitors. Currently most janitorial firms are owned by the majority population while most of the workers are minorities.
For those who read this: Have you thanked or complimented the person who keeps your office clean and sanitary?
Causes Lillian Lambert Supports
American Cancer Society, American Heart Assn, Howard Universit, Impact 100 of Richmond