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Guest Column: Honoring Work!

Thomas Rhodes: “We need to focus back on what built our nation.”

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Remember, as a kid, the excitement of building something? Whether it was a fort in the yard, a block “castle,” Legos, or just a paper airplane. The sense of accomplishment and pride was the feeling of being purposeful and contributory.

Our state’s LOW labor force participation rate is alarming! According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, South Carolina’s September 2023 labor force participation is 56.9 percent. With our neighbors, Georgia at 61.1 percent and North Carolina at 60.9 percent. It has taken decades, but we have finally reached the point where the data suggest that we don’t honor all work. We have a severe problem on our hands!

While the solutions to increasing the labor force are many and varied, one easy fix NOW is Honoring the Value of ALL WORK. Recently, I heard a highly educated individual making fun of certain occupations as if they were a sentence to those less worthy than him. I quickly reminded him that Jesus hung out with all types of “lower tier job holders,” and they changed the world!

Growing up in rural South Carolina, the son of a small business owner and schoolteacher, my brother and I were taught to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at every interaction. To this day, I catch myself saying those two words often. It’s basic human decency! Unfortunately, many of us have gotten away from the grace that comes with honoring those who help us live our lives.



How we interact with others is not a reflection of their character and values but rather a reflection of our character and our values. If we want a culture with more character and values, we must first look into the mirror! Genesis 2:15 states, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to WORK and take care of it.” Regardless of your faith or even if you have no faith, we should all WORK and take care of our community, state, nation, and world!

The Labor Force Participation Rate for South Carolina in October 1993 was 66.3 percent.  In 30 years, our participation rate has declined significantly to the point where we are now ranked #48 in the Nation behind only Mississippi (53.6 percent) and West Virginia (55.6 percent).  Go back to 1976 when South Carolina had the 11th Highest Labor Force Participation Rate in the Nation.  In 2023 we are ranked 48!

Living in Columbia, I often see others wearing the uniform of our nation’s Armed Forces, and I admire them for their dedication and work for our nation. I also see others wearing different types of uniforms at restaurants, auto repair businesses, plumbing services, HVAC companies, contractors, etc. I also admire their dedication and work for our nation. Regardless of uniform type, hard work is a foundation of American society, and with our labor force participation rate approaching 50 percent, we need to focus back on what built our nation.

Let’s start by honoring ALL WORK, and then we may see a change in our labor force participation rate. Honoring work won’t fix the problem alone, but it’s a quick way to start!



Thomas Rhodes is a fourth generation South Carolina business owner and entrepreneur. Starting his first business at age 16 in rural South Carolina, his entrepreneurial experiences have given him a dynamic understanding of how to create and sustain profitable businesses. He lives in Columbia with his wife and three children.



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1 comment

J Monday Top fan October 26, 2023 at 6:42 am

Thank you for taking time to say this! You nailed it. I have the greatest admiration for the men & women from all walks of life who are still willing to work a 40 hour week & give their best. The Greatest Generation are gone & the last of the Boomers are retiring. That combined with the fact that our US Government pays people not to work is marching our once great country toward destruction- by design. It is not unintentional. I don’t know what it will take for us as Americans to take back our country & the American Dream, but it has become a nightmare.


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