Of Plumbers, Philosophers, and the Dignity of Work

I’ve long been taken by this observation:

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

John W. Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, and earlier a secretary of the U.S. Department Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, said it. This quote is good fodder for today – Labor Day.

I read this quote years ago and filed it away in memory, or at least a paraphrase of it. I found it once again – and others from Gardner – at the Brainy Quotes Web site.

Plumbing and philosophy – both noble lines of work. What Gardner’s observation says to me is treat the people who tread in those fields with equal dignity and respect.

It’s Labor Day, a national holiday. Enjoy rest and relaxation from your labors. Be grateful for those who are working today.

Tell us about the pipes and the theories – and the people who make them good for us – that you are thinking about this Labor Day.

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John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College.

7 Responses to “Of Plumbers, Philosophers, and the Dignity of Work”

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November 26, 2011 at 9:16 am, Mary Cantrell said:

Plumbing is not an easy work to do. Needs training, skills and even expertise. But being a plumber is a decent job.

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December 25, 2011 at 9:54 am, Raleigh Plumber said:

Being a plumber myself, this article put a big smile on my face. It is of course nice to be recognized any day not just on Labor Day. But in this manner it adds a little zest to it

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January 26, 2012 at 3:59 am, Plumber Fort Worth TX said:

Nothing can compare the joy of doing what you love. I love servicing people and fixing their plumbing problems, that’s why I love being a plumber.

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February 01, 2012 at 3:56 am, ian hilton said:

I agree. It’s very hard trade to learn, but once you have mastered it, you have pretty good career to look forward to as plumbers will always be needed.

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March 24, 2012 at 1:47 am, Jim Tomlin said:

Too often people are not willing to realize that excellence is important in our society no matter what the field. Unfortunately I think that it is no secret that we have too much admiration for less important activities such mediocre movie stars and athletes instead of plumbers, doctors, and teachers that make our society run every day.

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April 01, 2012 at 2:38 am, Jack Thomas said:

We work closely with plumbers especially when pipes break! You can’t fully appreciate the invaluable services plumbers provide until you have a foot or two of water in your basement!

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May 13, 2012 at 9:41 am, Tyler said:

Thats a great article. Being a plumber is hard and dirty work. I am kinda biased though.. I am a plumber :)