Parade Magazine: What Does Labor Day Mean to Americans?

By M.B. Roberts

In honor of Labor Day, established 121 years ago by President Grover Cleveland, Parade talked with Mike Rowe, host of CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It and founder of mikeroweWORKS (, a foundation that grants scholarships to men and women who have demonstrated an interest in and an aptitude for mastering a specific trade.

Check out our conversation about Mike’s mom, the junk in Mike’s garage and jobs—dirty and otherwise.

Was there someone who influenced your philosophy of work?

My idol was my granddad who built the house I was born in without a blueprint, and who I tried very hard to emulate.

The seminal part was when he told me, “Be a tradesman. I don’t care if you want to be a writer or an opera singer or a TV guy. It doesn’t matter. You can approach any vocation with the mind of a tradesman. It simply means you look from job to job. You apply a beginning, a middle and an end to everything you do.” That’s really what you do. You eat what you kill!

So, every worker needs to learn to market himself?

I think the business of finding the work and creating your own opportunity is every bit as important as mastering the underlying skill that will allow you to compete in the first place. Deep down, we’re all salesmen. We have to be.

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