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Tue., Oct. 6
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POTSDAM — Amid weekend festivities here, Clarkson University’s alumni reunion brought additional hundreds to Potsdam, and a major attraction was Saturday keynote speaker John Ratzenberger of “Cheers” fame, who encouraged a revival of manufacturing in the United States.

Mr. Ratzenberger, the Bridgeport, Conn., actor known for his role as Cliff Clavin on the popular sitcom, was also a voice actor in Pixar animated films, including the part of Hamm the piggy bank in the “Toy Story” movies.

But Mr. Ratzenberger is also known for his documentary series, “Made in America,” in which he visits manufacturers around the country.

Ronald J. Ayers, a member of Clarkson’s Alumni Council, led the search for Saturday’s speaker and was pleased with the results.

“He’s talking about manufacturing and jobs and we have so many people up here who are running companies or have done these things in the past,” he said. “Hopefully they’re excited about it.”

Laughter filled Clarkson’s Student Center for more than an hour as the crowd listened to Mr. Ratzenberger talk about his life from childhood to being a carpenter, living overseas and becoming an actor.

However, the room quieted on a serious note when Mr. Ratzenberger explained his concern for modern America. He said children don’t learn to build things like they used to, and as they grow into adults they become more dependent on other people for everyday things.

“I think everybody thinks these thoughts about this inflated sense of self-esteem that kids have and the fact that hands-on skills are disappearing,” he said. “Self-esteem needs to be earned …. You have a right to air; the rest is up to you.”

Mr. Ratzenberger said he believes high schools and universities should require at least one course where students focus on building something such as a boat or a car.

“Manufacturing is the strength of America,” he said. “That’s who we are; we’re engineers.”

Mr. Ratzenberger said he spent a few days in Potsdam before his speech Saturday, allowing him time to enjoy some of the Potsdam Summer Festival.

While he was at a fundraiser for area emergency medical technician volunteers, Mr. Ratzenberger discovered an interesting way of raising extra money for them. He said some people recognized him and wanted their pictures taken with him.

“I said I would take pictures with them if they donated $5 to the EMTs,” he said.

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