As the nation commemorates Presidents Day on the third Monday of February, SER National joins the celebration, recognizing it as a tribute to our highest elected leaders’ leadership, sacrifice, and service. This federal holiday, officially named Washington’s Birthday, holds a special place in our hearts as it pays homage to the first President of the United States, George Washington, and all who have kept the esteemed office.
Presidents Day, often regarded as a day to honor the nation’s chief executives, reminds us of the courage and commitment demonstrated by our leaders. Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO of SER National, reflects on the significance of this day, stating, “SER National celebrates the meaning of Presidents Day as a moment when we pay tribute to the courage of our nation’s highest elected leaders. Moreover, we are reminded of the true meaning of this role, which is to exemplify leadership through service and sacrifice for the greater good of others. This quality extends to each of us where we work and find our purpose daily.”
Governments, schools, museums, and historical sites throughout the United States observe Presidents Day with various events and activities. Parades, educational programs, historical reenactments, and exhibitions foster a connection between residents and the rich heritage of our country. In Washington, D.C., a wreath-laying ceremony at the Washington Monument adds a poignant touch to the day’s historical significance.
George Washington’s legacy, marked by his universal respect and selfless act of relinquishing power after two terms, set a precedent for his successors. His leadership during the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and his choice to return to private life at Mount Vernon underscored the principles of service and sacrifice.
Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809, faced and navigated the nation through a profound constitutional, military, and moral crisis during the American Civil War. His Emancipation Proclamation played a pivotal role in transforming the war’s aims from a conflict over states’ rights to a battle for the destruction of slavery. Lincoln’s unwavering commitment to ending slavery culminated in the support for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in December 1865. His tragic assassination on April 9, 1865, marked the end of a transformative era in American history.
“SER National believes strongly in the traits required for effective leadership in the workplace,” says Salazar. “Also, those who are asked to undertake the task of leadership throughout the SER Network of Affiliates display several important traits in service to their organization or program. This includes the ability to direct with compassion and humility, share a vision, and inspire those entrusted to them to accomplish their best with dignity and respect. A successful leader requires creating motivation, which comes when a person communicates effectively and fosters a collaborative environment. May this Presidents Day remind us that the strength of truly effective leaders comes from empowering those around them and providing an example that others look up to and wish to support wholeheartedly. As we celebrate Presidents Day, let us reflect on the enduring principles of leadership, service, and sacrifice that have shaped our nation’s history and continue to inspire us today,” he concludes.
SER National proudly joins the nation in celebrating Black History Month. This month-long observance is a testament to the creative and artistic contributions made by African Americans that enrich the cultural fabric of our nation.
Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO of SER National, expressed his appreciation for the profound impact of African Americans on the United States, stating, “SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates proudly join in the month-long acknowledgment and appreciation for the creative and artistic contributions made to our nation by African Americans.” Salazar continued, “In every aspect of our society and every walk of life, our experience as a country savors foods, music, and pop culture inspired by the Black experience. Indeed, our nation is more beautiful because of the God-given talent, love, and labor expressed for centuries through the works of Blacks in the United States.”
From Harlem to Hollywood, Black artists have played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape. Their creative expressions harmonize with the beats of progress, uplifting the race, speaking truth to power, and inspiring a nation. As we pay homage to Black History Month, let us celebrate the achievements of the past and acknowledge the work that lies ahead.
Salazar emphasized the diversity reflected within SER affiliates, stating, “SER affiliates reflect this same grace from their richly diverse leadership and staffs that warmly welcome all who walk through our doors daily irrespective of race, more than one million people annually.”
As we delve into the significance of Black History Month, it is essential to recognize its historical roots. Originating in the 1920s, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) founded a national Negro History Week. This week was strategically placed in the second week of February, aligning with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Over time, the celebration evolved, and by the late 60s, it transitioned into Black History Month. In 1976, President Ford officially designated February as Black History Month, solidifying a tradition that endures to this day.
Beyond the festivities, Black History Month serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges related to race-related harassment and discrimination. Businesses celebrating Black History Month present a unique opportunity to initiate conversations about race, fostering awareness for Black and minority voices. SER National recognizes the importance of addressing these issues in society and the workplace.
Salazar concluded with a poignant call to action: “The greatest tribute we can pay to the many Black artists and professionals in America is to emulate their example through our daily works in our jobs, careers, and dealings with each other. In this way, our work transcends what we do as more than tasks and activities. Indeed, Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect and appreciate our greater purpose each day. Working together, our greatest collective art is the very strength of our labor diversity. May we then celebrate the shared benefits when we apply our skills and knowledge through the use of our minds and bodies in service to others for the betterment of our world. Bravo, Black History Month!”
SER National is proud to join the global community in honoring the life and impact of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The King holiday observance provides us unique opportunities to unite in reflection and celebration on the meaning of equity and equality of America’s founding promise. MLK Day’s theme is, ‘Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Nonviolence,” as did Dr. King throughout his life’s work.
“The theme of MLK Day is especially significant to us this year because it embodies what SER National has seen as its mission for 60 years,” says Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO. “Our more than one million plus participants we touch every year understand and are committed to the belief of self-help and initiative and come in a collaborative spirit to seek their pathway toward a future of self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. We are dedicated, as was Dr. King, to the improvement and transformation of our communities, one life, one person at a time,” says Salazar.
Also, SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates are aligned with the Department of Labor’s workforce development policies reflected in Executive Order 13985. This vision focuses on the importance of addressing the needs of workers who come from historically underserved communities. It is vital to be inclusive of every sector of our country’s workforce, including low-paid workers, women of color workers, LGBTQ+ workers, workers with disabilities, veterans, and immigrant workers. SER’s ultimate goal is to ensure that all working people and those seeking employment have the tools, opportunity, and voice to thrive in our society.
“There is no greater calling for us right now than service to others in meaningful ways that help improve the daily lives of the individuals in our programs,” says Salazar. “MLK Day reminds us that we are overcoming the seemingly insurmountable odds. At times, it may seem that the benefits are incremental, but step back, and you will see the larger impact. Work and purpose transform how individuals feel about themselves, inspiring us to continue as we have for six decades.”
As we observe MLK Day 2024, let us all be motivated by the spirit and actions of Dr. King, working collaboratively towards a future marked by self-sufficiency and service to others. Even more extraordinary, may we appreciate that every person’s life is worthwhile, has value before God, and can for one another.
As we stand on the threshold of a new year, SER Jobs for Progress, Inc. is not just marking the advent of 2024; we are heralding the dawn of a new era of possibilities, potential, and progress. We now celebrate the 60th anniversary of our journey defined by service to others and look forward to the transformative impact we will continue to make in the years ahead.
In the tapestry of time, our sixty years of dedication and commitment have woven a narrative that transcends generations. Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO, expresses the historical significance of this moment: “As we celebrate sixty years of service, employment, and redevelopment, we are reminded that times have changed from generations past. The labor market now demands workers with higher levels of education and knowledge skills in technology.”
Our commitment to bridging the educational divide is unwavering. In response to the evolving demands of the workforce, we proudly offer comprehensive classroom and distance-based instruction through our Cisco Networking Academy and Amazon training programs—empowering men and women across the nation to embrace the power of innovation for the benefit of themselves, their families, and their communities.
Mr. Salazar emphasizes, “Looking forward, automation and artificial intelligence will replace 80 percent of the jobs where people make less than $20 per hour. The lack of mobility and employment opportunities has created a breeding ground for political hostility and social ills. We will be there with solutions and training opportunities that offer hope and new career opportunities.”
In an age where the rapid evolution of technology is reshaping the employment landscape, SER National recognizes the urgency of preparing individuals for the challenges ahead. Salazar asserts, “When jobs disappear, society falls apart. When a community truly disintegrates, knitting it back together becomes a herculean task. Virtue and cohesion—the stuff of civilization—are tough to restore. That is why we are doubling down on our training and retraining efforts.”
Understanding that investing in the future starts with nurturing our youth’s potential, we echo Frederick Douglass’s sentiments: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men and women.” With an emphasis on early childhood education and Head Start efforts, we are sowing the seeds of resilience, knowledge, and empowerment.
As we embark on the next decade of our journey in 2024, we affirm our commitment to innovation and adaptability. Salazar affirms, “We will continue to develop new programs and initiatives that meet the needs of an ever-changing workplace while addressing the needs of individuals with greater barriers to self-sufficiency.”
Salazar concludes, “Much remains to be done—but one thing remains clear: after 60 years, the need for SER is greater than ever. We stand at the cusp of a new chapter, where we reimagine the future and lead the way into a new era of discovery and accomplishments for the betterment of all.”
As we welcome 2024 with open arms, SER National invites all stakeholders—partners, collaborators, and the broader community—to join us on this path toward a future where education, employment, and redevelopment create a brighter and more brilliant future for all we touch. Happy New Year!
In the true spirit of the holiday season, SER National and the SER Network of Affiliates extend a warm invitation to all to join in the Christmas spirit of giving and receiving, love, and joy. For almost 60 years, SER Jobs for Progress and its network of affiliates have been committed to developing and nurturing diverse services and programs that make a meaningful impact in our communities. More than 1,000,000 individuals walk through our doors across over 200 locations nationwide annually, which is a testament to our dedication to fostering positive change.
“This milestone of six decades is a celebration of our ongoing commitment to economic equity and a better quality of life for those we touch,” remarked Ignacio Salazar, SER National President and CEO. “For us, it is not about where a person is starting that determines how we view their potential for the future. Instead, we see the blessing of opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives for them and their families. This is our spirit of giving year-round.”
SER has evolved to focus on a mission that contributes to advancing a better quality of life for all individuals. Our programs cater to diverse needs, ensuring participants learn the skills necessary to embark on small business ventures, transition from manual farm labor to other fulfilling careers, and provide seniors with opportunities to engage in meaningful service within their communities. We also recognize the importance of preparing men and women for the future by offering training in high-tech pathways, ensuring they are well-equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.
As we approach the end of the year, job gains have continued at an impressive pace, with Americans experiencing significant growth in employment opportunities. Our commitment is to encourage everyone to strive for their best purpose in life. “In this season of gratitude and celebration, may we reflect upon our blessings and share the good news with others,” said Salazar. “And may we count the gift of work and purpose among our many rich blessings this time of year. It’s when we reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead.”
This holiday season, SER National invites you to join hands with us in spreading joy, hope, and love. Together, let us celebrate the spirit of giving, embody the values of compassion and empathy, and look forward to a brighter and more prosperous future for all.