The Star-News - Aug. 30, 2002

On Labor Day we sing for the MDA


While most of the world celebrates Labor at the beginning of summer, it's just another aspect of American exceptionalism that our Labor Day comes at the end. But the passing of the seasons is no big deal in the South County.

If we choose to join the crowds that will spend Labor Day on the beaches, it won't be to say goodbye. We won't be bracing ourselves for a wet and windy fall and a snowy winter.

Although our Labor Day weather is forecast to begin with low clouds and fog, we can be pretty confident that the gloom will eventually burn off to bring highs of 68 degrees at the beaches and 84 degrees inland.

It's 108 years since President Cleveland, fearful that he'd alienated the electorate by breaking the Pullman strike, gave us a national holiday in honor of labor. He was not reelected.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed "...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."

More than a century later, the day is overshadowed by a sombre addition to the calendar: September 11. The great labor struggles of the 19th century are largely forgotten as we discuss how to right the wrongs of the 21st century. The new enemy is, of course, just a virulent mutation of the theocracy and feudalism our forebears thought they'd done away with back in 1776.

But Labor Day remains as a welcome break for many, and a day of action for some.

For 37 years, that American cultural icon, Jerry Lewis, has been giving up his holiday to present a Telethon to raise funds and awareness to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association's research and services programs.

Each year, 60 million viewers in the U.S. and Canada tune in to the Telethon broadcast. Its record of audience appeal is matched only by such special television events as the Academy Awards and the World Series. The MDA has long had a worldwide impact. Since 1951, it has funneled almost $50 million to researchers in 36 countries on six continents. And many times that amount has been awarded in MDA research grants in the U.S.

This year, the Telethon will start at 6 p.m. Sunday and be broadcast on San Diego's KUSI from 11 p.m. But for those of us who regard the slated lineup of Andy Williams, Ed McMahon, Nancy Sinatra as a little passť, some Chula Vistans have organized a Karaoke-a-thon to benefit the MDA.

From 10 o'clock on Monday morning, singers of all shapes and sizes will be turning up at Fuddrucker's on Third Avenue, Chula Vista, many of them carrying blankets for the long haul.

This local event is already in its seventh year and anybody who would like to touch shoulders in this marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it can call Joanne at 529-5262.