I recently had the opportunity to chat with John Ratzenberger, a long time advocate for American manufacturing. Everyone over the age of 30 knows John as Cliff from the TV show “Cheers”, and those under 30 recognize his voice, as it's been that of a character in every Pixar movie made. My son cannot get over that I spoke to Mack the truck from Cars!!
What most people don't know about John Ratzenberger, is that he has been on a mission to revitalize American manufacturing for over a decade
John has been a worthy advocate for the American made movement, long before it's current wave of energy. From 2003-2008 he produced and hosted the first run of the reality TV show John Ratzenberger's American Made. In 2006 he co-authored the book We’ve Got it Made in America: A Common Man’s Salute to an Uncommon Country, published by Time Warner. John co-founded the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation, which advocates careers in manufacturing to kids of all ages and is a topic, which you will learn, he is VERY passionate about. He even developed an environmentally friendly alternative to packing peanuts which is made in the USA, of course!
A Reality TV Show about Real people making American products
Today, John's goal is to bring back his reality TV show, John Ratzenberger's American Made. The last time the show ran, it was focused on American made products, because that's what the backers wanted. This time around, John wants the show done the way he wants it to be, and this is why he is asking for your help. He visualizes a show that focuses on the people behind the product. He wants to highlight those who work in the American manufacturing industry, to tell their stories and to showcase the jobs they do, to in a sense, keep America running. He is inviting each and every one of us to be a part of his dream.
This is to bring everyone together. Manufacturing affects every single one of us, everywhere.
Why does John Ratzenberger care so much about American manufacturing?
John knows that American Manufacturing is the backbone of our country. Throughout this nation, towns and even states, depend on the manufacturing industry for the jobs provided, and for the tax revenue received.
When a manufacturer leaves, with it goes the tax money. The quality of schools goes down. The quality of roads go down. Without manufacturing we could be a third world country.
What outcome does John Ratzenberger hope his show will have on the American Manufacturing industry?
John told me that with each episode he will visit a different company to focus on the people that work there. He wants to show that these are educated, skilled and talented workers and that the jobs are of great quality. He hopes that this will generate interest in manufacturing careers, as more workers are retiring than are entering the field. Skilled workers are needed to keep the American manufacturing industry going.
The average worker is 58. Once people retire, it's over.
He hopes that young people will see this show and want to pursue a career in manufacturing, and that parents will encourage their kids to purse these careers also.
Why is there a shortage of young, skilled workers in the first place?
John believes that children today are not exposed to hands on experiences like they were in the past. Shop class is no longer part of school curriculum, kids are not outside building forts, and they are playing video games and texting rather than learning how to change the oil of their car.
When children can build things, it gives them self confidence, and self reliance. This helps them all through life whether they choose a manufacturing career or not.
And whose fault is this? Well everyone's. Parents, for not encouraging kids to turn the TV off, or to put the iPhone away. The school systems, for taking away classes like shop, that showed kids they were capable of building things. Society, for making it easier to throw a broken item away and buy a new one, rather than take the interest and time to in try and fix it.
We took the curiosity and inventiveness out of our children. They need to be building things and fixing things for civilization to move forward.
John had some great ideas on how to introduce kids to tools and how things are built. “Collect broken appliances, cut the cords off and give them to the kids to take apart. That's it. They don't have to put them back together, it's all in the experience”. They are learning how to use the tools, they are seeing how things are connected, so eventually they will want to and be able to, put things together. Genius. I have a whole basement full of appliances like that, so I know what my kids will be doing this weekend while they are eating all their candy.
How can you help John raise the money he needs to get his TV reality show, John Ratzenberger's American Made on the air?
John has set up a FundAnything crowd funding campaign. Check it out here. You can contribute the amount that you are able, and in return you are not only supporting the American made movement, but you also get some very cool American made items, including some of our favorites! With a contribution of $35 you receive a Revolutionary Tervis Tumbler inscribed with a message from John. With a $40 contribution you receive a bottle of Gator Ron's, John's secret hamburger recipe, and participation in a burger cook off. SO cool! And these are just a few examples of the many items available. Make sure to check out the crowd funding page to see them all.
And of course, I had to ask John what American made products he truly loves!
Here some of the American made products John Ratzenberger LOVES
Bear Archery bows