I want to address a topic that only the guy to the left apparently understands. At a time when the American economy has produced unacceptable unemployment, when workers who have jobs are underpaid and have no medical benefits, when the hard won ability to bargain collectively has come undone intellectually as well as politically, it is time to offer the future leaders of this nation a choice: on May 1, 2011, our children can reflect on the trials and tribulations of those who labor for a living, or they can sell lemonade. In the future, perhaps this question will become a litmus test similar to positions staked by past generations on suffrage, slavery, and war.
Though, I hope not.
Okay, perhaps my cynicism has made me a bit delusional, but I noticed that there is a national movement to celebrate Lemonade Day every year in May–not on Memorial Day, mind you, but on May 1, which I believe continues to be International Workers’ Day for many countries around the world. So why draft yet another celebration day for an already cluttered American calendar? And why put on (or very close to) May 1?
Lemonade Day celebrates entrepreneurship, which in the political lexicon of our contemporary moment could credibly be considered the ideological opposite of a day that celebrates labor. On the website created to promote Lemonade Day, the organizers explain that they want communities–meaning families, businesses and schools–to help create the next generation of entrepreneurs. Accordingly, “Kids plan for success by setting goals, creating budgets, securing investors, selecting a site, purchasing supplies, serving customers, making a profit, repaying investors and giving back to the community. This fun, free and exciting program encourages participants to ‘save a little, spend a little, share a little,’ instilling valuable principles that will help prepare them for life.” And after all, we know that managerial values form organically and are unimpeachable. Parents and schools can simply feed kids these “principles” without a shred of ambiguity and conflict. And God blesses America, too.
The creative genius behind this movement is Michael Holthouse, a Houston-based businessman who made a fortune in the telecommunication business and now operates or contributes to a series of non-profits that seek to rescue at-risk kids by offering them the holy grail the American life–the business plan. In a powerpoint presentation promoting Holthouse’s approach, he frames the imperative for our time as a choice between a future of gang-bangers or happy little girls with a lemonade stand that basks in sunny racial harmony. But clearly Holthouse does not imagine he is merely a social reformer–he is no Rauschenbusch–rather he pushes the American Dream, that ubiquitous ideal open to all but clearly only achieved by the kind of success enjoyed by Holthouse.
In a era during in which the idea of labor seems exiled to some Manichean universe, despite the ravages of unemployment, and murals of workers painted by a patriotic American (and daughter of a war veteran, to boot) are being taken down in Maine, the rise of lemonade stands on May 1, 2011 might appear as one of those signposts in a new age of fracture.