Actor warns Bay State delegates of coming ‘industrial tsunami’

Printed from:

BEACHWOOD, OHIO — The Massachusetts delegation to the Republican National Convention needed little introduction to their guest on Tuesday morning. Everyone already knew his name.

John Ratzenberger, better known as his mailman character Cliff Clavin from Cheers, has been a vocal proponent of vocational and technical education outside of his acting career, and he brought that message to Cleveland. Ratzenberger, who several years ago formed a non-profit called the Foundation for America, challenged the modern notion that children must go college to get ahead in the new economy.

“Manufacturing is to America what spinach is to Popeye,” said Ratzenberger, who entertained the delegation Tuesday morning at a breakfast event hosted by the MassGOP with a quick wit, jokes and a simple message. The Bay State delegation is staying at Aloft Beachwood, a hotel about 17 miles away from downtown Cleveland.

Ratzenberger’s appearance was timed with the second-day theme of Donald Trump’s convention: “Make America Work Again.”

“What we’re headed toward really, is an industrial tsunami. One of the reasons I like Donald Trump is because he builds things,” Ratzenberger said.

The actor also said the idea of a “one world government” is not a “crack-pot theory anymore,” which he suggested has contributed to the glut of jobs moving out of America and going overseas.

The problem, according to Ratzenberger, is that the average age in America of people who “know how to use tools” is 58.

“We’re running out of people who know how to use tools,” he said. He urged delegates to pressure local boards to bring back “shop class” and expand access to vocational and technical high schools.

MassGOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes introduced the beloved Cheers star as “one of the iconic TV workers who we all know and love.” But even before Ratzenberger was an actor, the 69-year-old Bridgeport, Connecticut native worked as a carpenter and a house framer, and said he even built several homes in Massachusetts.

“I’m pretty sure they’re still standing,” he said.

Ratzenberger shared a storied of a business owner he met at JFK Airport in New York who had to fly to Argentina to hire welders.

“We did that to ourselves,” he said. “You know, everybody’s got to go to college, everybody’s got to go to college. Well, you see those films of spring break down there in Fort Lauderdale. There’s a lot of them that don’t need to go to college.”

Though Ratzenberger said many of his friends and family from Bridgeport used to vote Democrat, times have changed.

“This is not the Democratic Party of Tip O’Neill and John F. Kennedy. You can imagine Tip O’Neill in his garage Saturday afternoon fixing his lawnmower. Try to imagine Nancy Pelosi doing that. It’s a completely different ballgame,” he said.

He also dismissed the idea of free college tuition, which has been espoused by both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and to some degree presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Bernie and his ilk go to work on a unicorn. They really live in a make believe world,” Ratzenberger said, questioning who would pay the professors and the landscapers that manicure the grounds of the country’s college campuses.

Though Ratzenberger went to college and so did his children, he said he was proud when his son came to him three years ago after getting a degree in English literature and told him he was going to become a plumber.

“I said God bless you son because you’re going to be making so much money you can repay me for college tuition,” Ratzenberger said.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service