We remember that the rights and benefits we enjoy today were not simply handed out to America's working men and women. They had to be won.
They had to be fought for, by men and women of courage and conviction, from the factory floors of the Industrial Revolution to the shopping aisles of today's superstores. They stood up and spoke out to demand a fair shake; an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. Many risked their lives. Some gave their lives. Some made it a cause of their lives-like Senator Ted Kennedy, who we remember today.
So let us never forget: much of what we take for granted-the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare-they all bear the union label. It was the American worker-union men and women-who returned from World War II to make our economy the envy of the world. It was labor that helped build the largest middle class in history. So even if you're not a union member, every American owes something to America's labor movement.
As we remember this history, let us reflect on its meaning in our own time. Like so many Americans, you work hard and meet your responsibilities. You play by the rules and pay your bills. But in recent years, the American Dream seemed to slip away, because from Washington to Wall Street, too often a different culture prevailed.
Wealth was valued over work, selfishness over sacrifice, greed over responsibility, the right to organize undermined rather than strengthened.
That's what we saw. And while it may have worked out well for a few at the top, it sure didn't work out well for our country. That culture-and the policies that flowed from it-undermined the middle class and helped create the greatest economic crisis of our time.
So today, on this Labor Day, we reaffirm our commitment. To rebuild.
To live up to the legacy of those who came before us. To combine the enduring values that have served us so well for so long-hard work and responsibility-with new ideas for a new century. To ensure that our great middle class remains the backbone of our economy-not just a vanishing ideal we celebrate at picnics once a year as summer turns to fall.