There is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. There are things like warm beds, food on the table, and steady work that pays the bills. There are people, too. The selfless heroes in our armed forces who defend our nation. Those in blue who protect our streets. The brave firefighters who put themselves in danger. The doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to save lives. Those men and women deserve our praise, our admiration, and more. But allow me to add another group to that list, one that might not seem so obvious: electrical workers.
Growing up the son of a telecommunications supervisor, I learned at an early age that those who work in utility maintenance have special jobs. It’s often said that firefighters run into buildings while others run out of them. Electrical workers often do something much like that. When storms are raging and conditions are at their worst, most sensible people head for shelter. Those responsible for keeping the lights on do the opposite. They put on their boots and their jackets and prepare to spend nights in the rain or snow. I know because I watched my own father do that. I watched him and his team do whatever it took to keep the telephones working in west Alabama, even if it meant working through the night or through a holiday.
One of my friends, Joey Holmes, saw his father do the same thing. His father, Ricky Holmes, worked together with my father for more than thirty years. They worked together, as others in the team did, through countless nights to restore phone service to customers. They often went unnoticed, unthanked, and unheralded for their dedication. After all, we rarely think of utility service until it goes out. That’s not our fault, as customers. On the contrary, it’s a compliment to the men and women who do their job so well. Like football referees, the better they do, the less attention they draw.
While I decided to work in politics, my friend, Joey, followed his father’s footsteps. He works on a substation construction crew for a major utility. Like both of our fathers before us, he’s one of the hardest working people I know. His work has taken him to so many places, far from his family and his home, to work long hours providing power to people who will never meet him. His kind of job, the same job done by thousands of electrical workers from one coast to another, isn’t the kind you do if you want medals. It’s the kind of job whose reward comes from knowing that what you do makes people’s lives better.
Last Thanksgiving, I wrote that reliability is something for which Americans should be thankful, stating –
“It’s easy to take reliable power for granted. It is only when the lights begin to dim and television sets begin to flicker, as they might soon do in Scotland, that the consequences of irresponsible energy policy become clear. Thankfully, U.S. policy makers still have time to preserve the robust and nearly perfectly-dependable system that makes electrical reliability just an afterthought for most American families. It only requires a realization that environmental agendas must be balanced carefully with engineering realities and that the electrons that power American homes and businesses must come largely from sources we can control. It doesn’t take the brightest bulb to recognize those realities, just leadership with a clear and unwavering focus on protecting the power grid that makes America great.”
That thought remains as true today as it did this time last year. This Thanksgiving, I suggest that we should be thankful, as well, for the people behind our power grid. They may not dodge bullets or run into fires, but what they do often requires sacrifice and character. And what they do is a big part of what makes America great.
My friend, Joey Holmes, and his wife just had their first child, a beautiful baby girl. As he and his family gather around their own Thanksgiving table, I know they’ll be thankful for her. As for me, added to the many blessings life has given me, I’ll be thankful for Joey and other electrical workers like him. They are why my oven works and my lights burn. They are part of what makes my Thanksgiving – and yours – possible.