Most recognize him as Cliff Clavin, the mailman on "Cheers," but Hollywood actor and director John Ratzenberger is keeping busy these days actually plugging America.
Every Tuesday night at 9 o'clock on the Travel Channel, "John Ratzenberger's Made in America" takes viewers into America's shops and factories, introducing otherwise unrecognized men and women who strive through hard work, skill and devotion to make this a better country.
Over the past two years, Ratzenberger has touted Americans who produce products like Craftsman tools, Steinway pianos, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Barbasol Shaving Cream, John Deere, Brooks Brothers, Stetson hats, Swanson TV dinners, Spam, Gatorade, Ivory soap, Gibson guitars, Goodyear tires, Airstream trailers, Crayola crayons, the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, even the Wiffle Ball.
Ratzenberger, whom this columnist met with last week in Los Angeles, says "Made in America" is "closer to my heart than anything I have done professionally in 30 years." And for good reason.
"(T)he America I grew up in hardly exists anymore," says the native of Bridgeport, Conn. "The America I remember from the 1950s and '60s was an America of ma-and-pa stores and a blue-collar middle class. There was a sense of community, and, above all else, there were community standards.
"But from what I can see all around me today, that America is fading fast, if it's not already gone," he says. "Like America, Bridgeport was all immigrants - Italians, Poles, Irish, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Portuguese. Yet there was no racial or ethnic tension, at least among the kids. We were bonded by the fact that our parents worked hard jobs.
"In school we said the Pledge of Allegiance and in summer marched in parades on streets decorated with American flags," says the actor, who, appearing before one recent audience, criticized this country's "silly educational emphasis on multiculturalism" that "only causes people to be hyperaware of color instead of being colorblind."
"From what I can see, too many kids don't learn pride in their country anymore. You may not share my concern - but you should," he says. "The fact is that in another generation, at least half of all native-born Americans won't have learned about patriotism even by osmosis."
The actor warns that "structures and organizations, even countries, don't survive forever on momentum."
"They need to be re-supplied with energy, and that energy comes from asking not what your country can do for you, but from what you can do for your country."
John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .
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