Our nation has been built by the hard-working hands of men and women from all walks of life. Their drive and ambition has helped to bring families from East to West, generation after generation. If it’s one thing the American Spirit has never shied away from, it’s the grit that grinds stones, shifts gears and moves our values towards uncommon resolve. The very things that set us apart from the rest of the world, can be found in the moments we take off our hats to cover our hearts, or when we bow our heads to pray. As Americans, we are unique. What sets us apart is that which we bring to the table.

Generations ago, my great-grandfathers took trains out West in search of a dream. Along the way to that dream, they found success at sundown on the backs of dirty hands that wiped sunburnt brows. They, like many of our grandparents, knew the importance of working tirelessly and never took for granted the value of a dollar. The determination of generations, coupled with blood, sweat and tears, have given my family much to be proud of and a place to call home. I’m certain that each of us feel this same pride when we look back on our roots and how our family names have come to branch out along the Central Coast.

Today, many of us get up before dawn, punch a clock, and put in the hours to ensure that our kids have a healthy dinner on the table and that their schoolbags have a decent lunch. Whether you build homes or you’re the electrician keeping the lights on, you should be proud and honored for your labor. Both the long-haul truckers who spend weeks away from home and the plumbers who rush out to help a neighbor in need, deserve to be acknowledged. The men and women of the trades, whose rough hands turn a wrench all day just to tuck their children in bed each and every night, are the folks we, as a country, should turn to and admire.

I’ve always encouraged the mindset of embracing the trades. I’ve always felt that just because college was a great option, didn’t mean it was the best fit for every person. I’ve always advocated for a greater investment in vocational and trade schools along the Central Coast. The jobs the vocation schools train for are now and will always be in demand. It used to be said as long as there is war, we’ll need a military and as long as people fall ill, there will be a need for doctors; but we tend to forget that as long as cars are around, we’ll need someone to assemble them and keep them running. As long as people have a necessity for food, we’ll need folks to raise the crops and bring food to the market.

California hosts more than 17.2 million jobs in farm and non-farm industries. That’s roughly 34 million hands along the West Coast that contribute to our economy and the prosperity of this country. Without this work-force, the American Dream would be stalled somewhere along the tracks in the middle of nowhere. However, because of the men and women who pick up the heavy load, day in and day out, this nation finds optimism and opportunity crisscrossing the landscape like train cars at night.

Many working in the trades often find a better living and a greater ability to find a job than their degree-earning counterparts. In the next decade, our country will need around 180,000 new persons working in the trades to keep up with growth. This statistic alone shows that our labor force is in need of those who work in these vocations. This is why it is so crucial that we encourage young folks to also explore these career alternatives.

We spend most of our childhood trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. It’s time we tell our kids that there are great opportunities out there and that, although being doctors or lawyers are great professions, there are many other ways to become successful. We should encourage our children who want to serve in law enforcement, applaud those who want to build homes, and tell the kids down the street that someday, they too can have their own American Dream, whether they decide to be a welder or a physical therapist.

So today, I hope you’ll stand with me in saluting the American Worker. Let’s think about the carpenters and the masons; the pipefitters and the sheet metal workers. Let’s give them our thanks. They’ve built the nation we know and love, and they’ll continue to keep us growing for years to come.