The first Monday of September is celebrated as Labor Day in the U.S. For school children in many states, the new school year has already started. However, in Michigan, where I live, students only started back the Tuesday after Labor Day. The state legislature decided to make the start-back date uniform across the state in order to maximize the summer tourism season for all Michigan cities. Previously, each school district made its own decision when to begin the new school year. This wide variability often confuses immigrants to the U.S. because their home countries have a national policy making educational curricula and schedules unified. This is another example of how the U.S. is not one nation but rather a confederation of 50 states with competing jurisdictions. In addition to the Labor Day holiday and the start of school, football is now firmly underway—from high school to colleges to the pro leagues.
Below, I offer you a favorite football joke of mine plus a quiz on the history and meaning of Labor Day.
A Football Joke
A lion was coaching his team in a football game. The giraffe was good at catching tall passes, the rhino was a tough defender, and the donkey was a great kicker. Still, the game was not going well for the Jungle Team. At the end of the half, they were behind 21-3.
The lion gave an inspiring half-time talk to his team. It didn’t help much, however. At the end of the third quarter, they trailed 28-10. Finally, the team’s best runner, the centipede entered the game. In the fourth quarter, he ran wild, going up and down the field, scoring three touchdowns, and winning the game for the Jungle Team.
As the jubilant team celebrated, the coach went over and asked the game’s hero, “Where were you when we needed you in the first three quarters?”
“I was lacing up my shoes,” the centipede replied.
behind = losing, trailing
centipede = an insect with 100 legs [cent=hundred, ped=foot]
jubilant = joyful, very happy
lacing up = putting the shoe laces through each eyelet
Labor Day Quiz
1. Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first ____ in September.
2. American labor leader Peter McGuire organized the first American “labor day” in ____ in New York City.
3. Originally, Labor Day was celebrated by a street parade to show the public the ____ of trade unions and labor organizations.
a. political clout
c. strength and pride
d. purchasing power
4. This parade was followed by a ____ for workers and worker families.
b. educational seminar
c. day of volunteering
d. day of reflection on the need to organize workers
5. Because of the ____ from the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland rushed a bill through Congress to make Labor Day a federal holiday.
c. deaths and violence
d. massive mail campaign
6. Today, Labor Day includes speeches by ____, placing emphasis on the economic and civil significance of the holiday.
b. civic leaders
c. labor leaders
d. all of the above
7. For most Americans today, Labor Day symbolizes end of ____.
a. oppression of the labor movement
b. Grove Cleveland’s Presidency
c. abuse of American workers
8. In addition to speeches and parades, the holiday includes picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, sports activities, public arts events, and _____.
b. rest and relaxation
c. prayer for the sacrifices of past workers
d. organizing labor unions
1. d. Monday
2. a. 1882
3. c. strength and pride
4. a. festival
5. c. deaths and violence
6. d. all of the above
7. d. summer
8. b. rest and relaxation