Get A Job, Gen Z!

Friday, June 19, 2020

That’s what I think when I see the hundreds of twenty-something millennials and Gen. Z-ers camped out in Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in Seattle.

The honest truth is that many of them don’t have jobs.

The latest unemployment numbers show that 7.7 million Americans under the age of 30 are unemployed. Plus, more than 3 million more young Americans have dropped out of the labor force in just the last month.

Source: Statista

The result is an unemployment rate of 25.2% of Americans aged 16-24, which shockingly increases to one out of every three if you include the 3 million youths that have dropped out of the labor force, which is the highest rate since jobs stats started to be tracked in 1948.

In short: The labor force participation rate shows that high school and college students are simply choosing NOT to work.

The idea of not working just astounds me.

Longtime readers know that I was born in Japan. My father was an Army private stationed in Japan and my mother was a waitress at a noodle shop near the Army base in Tokyo.

My father was transferred back to the U.S. and my mother and I journeyed to the States from Japan in 1957.  

Our long, two-month trip on a slow naval transport ship must have been frightening to my then-20-year-old mother. But she was eager to start a new life in America … a place she was told where anyone who studied hard and worked hard could be successful.

Unfortunately, my parents divorced shortly after we arrived in the U.S. and my mother suddenly found herself living in a strange country with no money, no family, no friends and no place to live.

Life was very hard.

My mother really wanted to return to Japan, but she knew that a half-Japanese, half-American child would have very limited opportunities in Japan. It wasn’t like it is today; the wounds from World War II were too fresh and I would have never been admitted to a top university or have landed a top job.

So instead of returning to Japan where her family and friends were, she scratched, rummaged and scavenged enough to make a new life for us in the U.S.

Later, she married a wonderfully kind but poor vegetable farmer named Ken Sagami who adopted me when I was three years old.

Like most farmers, my father worked like a dog, but our family seldom had more than two nickels to rub together. Despite our meager finances, my mother fiercely held to the idea of the American dream. In America, anybody can get rich if they work hard, she told me.

And she was determined to have me prove her right. On the first day of first grade, my mother marched me to school and asked (more like ordered) the teacher to require me to sit in the front row directly in front of her desk.

My mother gave me almost daily lectures on the importance of education. And as a big believer in corporal punishment, she gave me the spankings of my life for anything less than straight A’s.

The summers weren’t easy, either. My father worked me seven days a week — just like him — all summer long. That was especially frustrating in high school because my friends were joyriding around town, swimming, chasing girls and otherwise having tons of fun … and I was working in the hot summer sun.

I hated it at the time, but those back-breaking summers on the farm are the reason for my successful career. Work ethics are something that you learn, not something that you are born with. And I fear that most young Americans are not being taught what it means to put in a hard day’s work.

My parents would have blown their stacks if I told them I wanted to take a couple weeks off to join a protest.

Our county is far from perfect, and I don’t blame our nation’s youth for demanding change. But like I told my children, do your protesting before or after you put in a honest day’s work.

Best wishes,

Tony Sagami

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