An Address by HENRY FORD II
President, Ford Motor Company
Joint meeting with The Canadian Club of Toronto
Thursday, January 24th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. D. H. Gibson.
MR. GIBSON: This assembly the largest to my memory of business leaders is a tribute to the worthy character and distinguished record of our illustrious guest and speaker today--Mr. Henry Ford II.
At thirty-four years of age, Mr. Ford is President of one of the greatest manufacturing businesses in the world. It would be difficult--I don't even know if it would be possible--to name a country among the free trading nations of the world, where the products of the many companies bearing his name, are not known up and down the highways around the globe.
The immensity of this great business empire is realized quickly when one considers that for example plans are under-way for an expenditure of fifty million dollars for research and engineering centres in Dearborn.
In an endeavour to render service to defence production, the Ford Company has made way for the building of planes, tanks, aircraft and other products, and now have, I understand, more than a billion dollars in defence orders, for which they are responsible.
Laying aside business matters for a moment, it is very impressive to learn that Mr. Ford also gives his time, as Chairman of the Trustees of the Ford Foundation. From other sources I am informed--in fact the United States News and World Report printed this statement in a recent issue--that this Ford Foundation is the largest gift organization in the world.
If only time permitted it would be a delight to review together his many honours, which takes the best part of two pages.
In this world in which peace is so precarious and the clouds hang heavy and persistent, may I say I am convinced this Ford organization with its able leadership holds within its power by its world flow of commerce among free trading nations, one of the finest avenues for the development of mutual understanding and goodwill among nations. These are fundamental principles essential for helpful cooperation between nations.
May I assure you, our distinguished guest, Canada rejoices in the amazing peace-seeking efforts of your great United States.
Gentlemen, it is a special pleasure to introduce to this assembly one truly great in stature, Mr. Henry Ford II.
MR. FORD: I am very, very happy to be here. Although I have looked forward to a visit of this kind, I must admit that I hesitated a long time before accepting the very warm invitation to address you.
In the first place, I have a conviction that if there's any one thing of which the world has a surplus right now, it's words. Action, not words, it seems to me, is the prescription for the many problems we face.
In the second place, it seemed to me to risk misunderstanding for any American to appear before such a distinguished gathering of Canadian leadership as a joint meeting of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club. You might very well interpret anything I might say either as an awkward effort to tell you how to run your business or as a veiled invitation to Canada to become the forty-ninth state of the United States of America.
In short, I found myself in somewhat of a hole when I tried to think of a proper subject for my remarks here. I certainly am not qualified to discuss the current political scene--either in your country or mine. Nor do I want to cry on your shoulders about the muddled state of automobile production in my home-town of Detroit. Perhaps you, too, have become a little tired of the constant complaining we hear on all sides about the troublesome and critically dangerous world in which we live. Perhaps you, too, find yourselves looking for hopeful things--evidence of progress and happiness. The doleful refrains about why the world and the people in it are just no good begin after a while, to put one's teeth on edge.
Perhaps also like you, I begin to feel comfortable in any situation only when the fears and prejudices we create in our own minds are set aside and the realities begin to emerge so one can come to grips with them.
Dealing with realities has long been the habit of the people of Canada and the United States in their relations with each other. For example, a hundred years or so ago it was found that, due to a surveyor's mistake, an American fort near Rouse's Point had been built on the wrong side of the line and was actually standing on Canadian territory. Now such a discovery in some parts of the world would undoubtedly have led to a great hue and cry, the beating of tom-toms, and maybe even organized shooting on a large scale. But what happened? You people merely moved the frontier back a bit so we wouldn't have to go to the expense of moving the building.
And perhaps the important part of the story is that so far as I know, there hasn't been a loaded gun in the fort for more than a century!
Now there are realities in the situation in which I find myself this afternoon. One of them is this: From the window of my home I can see Canada across the lake. And it never occurs to me that right over there is a foreign country.
You may remember Charles Lamb's comment to a friend: "See that man across the street?" he asked. "I hate him." "But," said the friend, "you don't even know him." "That's why I hate him," said Lamb.
A significant reality, then, is that I, like most Americans, feel I know you.
Far oftener than you have meetings of the Canadian Club or the Empire Club, I have to cross the River that separates us. I sometimes do this because I am in the business of making automobiles in Canada--along with some 14,500 other shareholders, 11,000 of whom are Canadian citizens.
Several times a month I ride the New York Central's "Detroiter" to New York and back again. That means that I spend about four-and-a-half hours each way in Canada. The simple reason that the New York Central tracks run through Canada from Buffalo to Windsor is because that is the shortest route between Detroit and New York. That's another reality.
For many, however, there is one inconvenience in this train ride. Canadian Customs seal the liquor closet just as soon as we leave Detroit, and it stays sealed until the train pulls into Buffalo. Thus, if you want a cocktail before dinner, you have to scramble to get one before the train pulls out of Detroit.
This, I may say, is a reality to which most Americans have adjusted themselves--very much as your forefathers did with the fort at Rouse's Point.
Perhaps the best thing I can do here today is, first, to give you at least one person's views about contemporary Canada; and, second, to discuss with you some aspects of the current scene in the United States which seem to me to need a particular emphasis.
Today your country is booming. Once largely an agricultural country, she has literally transformed herself in the last 30 years. Canada ranks seventh among all the nations of the world in manufacturing output. Your industry accounts for more than one-third of your national income.
In foreign trade, you are the world's third largest trader. Only the United States and Britain do a larger volume of business with other nations. We in the United States take two-thirds of all your exports, and you, in turn, are our best customer. The trade each way runs at more than two billion dollars a year.
Throughout the last war, you not only paid your own way, but, in addition, you contributed almost four billion dollars in supplies, food, and war materials to United Nations and liberated countries.
Your gross national product last year was around 21 billion dollars--nearly four times what it was in 1939--and a good measure of the healthy state of Canadian living standards.
What seems to me especially significant is that Canadian population has nearly tripled since 1900, and has gone up 25 percent in the last 10 years.
And I hope you will forgive my particular interest in the fact that one out of every seven Canadians drives his own automobile. I'm only sorry to have to report that all of these automobiles are not our products.
Statistics like these strike a responsive note in Americans like myself. Both Canadians and Americans, I think, have a feeling that the future is bubbling with promise. These figures show a country blessed with the rainbow of opportunity--a place which attracts people because here they are free to show vigor and initiative and imagination and courage as they follow their own individual dreams toward a better world for themselves and their fellow-men.
The discovery of oil in the western provinces, and of iron ore on the Quebec-Labrador border, are fabulous enough by any standard. However, natural resources don't amount to a hoot without initiative and imagination and freedom to develop them--and you people are demonstrating that you have what it takes.
I might add that we Yankees know a good thing when we see it. There are eight billion dollars of private U.S. investments up here in Canada--more than in any other area in the world.
To me, a very significant thing happened during the last year. For a great many years all of us--on both sides of the border--have been listening to a lot of talk about the St. Lawrence Seaway. For reasons I won't go into, this project got stalled in a political filibuster in the United States. Then suddenly you people put an end to the argument by saying that since we quite obviously didn't want to help you carry out the project you'd do the job yourselves.
This was initiative and imagination in action and, as well as anything else, typifies what I think of as the spirit of contemporary Canada.
Now let me turn your eyes southward to take a quick look at what is going on below our common border.
Perhaps I should make it clear that I am speaking only for myself this afternoon. No man should presume to speak for 155 million people. What I have to say here is therefore neither a Gallup poll of my countrymen nor a completely balanced and unbiased report.
There are some facts about present-day United States that I want to report to you with pride. They form a backdrop against which our current follies and arguments can be measured properly.
A most significant thing about my country today--a fact you might easily overlook because it is often obscured--is that, when viewed as a whole, the people are hard at work-in greater numbers than ever before, and with fewer interruptions. In 1951 employment hit an all-time peak of 61 million. Nearly 5 1/2 million were employed in defense or defense-related jobs. During the year, only one-fifth as many man-days of work were lost because of strikes as in 1946.
Perhaps of special significance, the amount of money and total man-hours of effort spent in research reached a new high. More men and women than ever before were at the job of scientific probing and experimentation in the constant search for new and better materials and combinations of materials; for new and better machines and techniques for making things better and more efficiently.
Of course, the full result of all such effort will not show itself for months--or even years. But important and significant results are immediately apparent. Total national production moved upward steadily through the year. During 1951 our national production was 327 billion dollars. Agricultural production was at or near the record levels of 1949. There was more steel produced than in any other year in history. With record new investments in additional steel-producing capacity, and with new processes just around the corner, there is a better than even chance that 1952 will be a bigger steel year in the United States than 1951.
American corporations earned, after taxes, about 4.7 billion dollars less in 1951 than in the previous year. Nevertheless, workers' pay envelopes were fatter than ever and corporate dividends held up well.
During 1951 more than one million young men and women were brought into our Armed Services. At the same time, American college and university enrollments totalled more than 2,650,000.
Standard-of-living indicators are tricky things to use. But any one you pick shows that the United States has kept on moving steadily forward toward higher levels for most of our people.
So far so good. Many of you may even now be asking yourselves why, in the face of facts such as these, there should appear to be so much commotion so much of the time below the border.
Probably every person in the United States would answer that question in a different way. In my opinion, the answer runs something like this:
Americans, I am sure, are by and large, united on what they want out of life. They want peace. They want a sense of personal dignity and a feeling of security. They want to live at least a little bit better every year than the did the year before. They want an open chance to get on in the world. They want just as much personal freedom as they can have in what is becoming a very complicated industrial society.
The confusion and commotion, then, does not arise from lack of common goals. It all arises from argument over method, from different points of view as to how those goals can best be achieved.
Let's look at it this way for a moment. Maybe the people of Russia have exactly the goals I have named. But the great difference is in method. The rulers of Russia inflict on its people, with an iron hand, their method for achieving a certain goal. We try out one method after another, discarding the ones that don't work, improving those that do. Meanwhile, we keep arguing and squabbling--because we know that all real progress grows out of the clash of opinion in a free market-place of ideas, just as we know that better products inevitably emerge from the clash of competition in the market-place of products.
Let me give you one instance. Washington officials decided on a certain method of allocating steel and other important materials. But I live and work in Detroit. Our job at Ford Motor Company is trying to get out defense production, automobiles and trucks and parts--and trying to keep one company in its proper place in a tough competitive business. Part of my job is also to keep men at work. Looked at from that point of view, the Washington method is hard for us to understand. And, in this case, I've added my own voice to the argument, because the Washington method has put thousands of men out of work and deprived people of essential transportation--without substituting new jobs in defense or suggesting how the nation's transportation needs are going to be met properly.
This kind of situation is, of course, related to another loud argument that is going on. This deals with the size and speed of the United States defense program. During the fiscal year ending June 30, the United States will have spent almost 47 billion dollars on its Armed Forces in military and economic aid to allies. And now the President is asking for a total Federal budget of more than 85 billion dollars.
That is a lot of money, and you certainly are not surprised that people are asking so many questions about it. One school of thought--or perhaps I should say school of method--argues that we are endangering our future in trying for too much too soon. Another says we cannot have enough too soon. But how much is enough? How much can we afford? How soon might it be needed? I don't know the answer. But I do know that strength is not only a matter of military might. It is basically a matter of economic health.
If, in fact, the same method is being applied to the whole defense effort as to the automobile industry, I would dispute it just as stubbornly as I have the method that has made life very hard indeed for people in Detroit. Even Mr. Reuther, with whom I don't always agree, sees eye-to-eye with me on this, I think.
There is so much commotion and argument about so many subjects in my country right now that I would not dare attempt this afternoon to spell it out. But since this is an election year in the United States, I can promise you that the commotion will reach a mighty roar before November 4th.
I do not want to be misunderstood here. I'm not complaining; I'm trying to explain. And I want to remind you that there are two most important things to observe about the current scene in the United States:
First, we accept this endless debate as a price we are very glad to pay for the privilege of living in a free country. This is the way we find fresh and workable solutions to problems that may be old to others but are new to us.
Second, like decent people everywhere, Americans loathe war. That is why we out-did ourselves in 1945 and 1946 in cutting down on our Armed Forces as fast as we could, and in getting rid of our arms and the plants and facilities for making them. All our hopes are hung around the dream of a world at peace, and if we made a mistake in hasty demobilization, it was a mistake of the head, not of the heart.
So now, as the American people turn again to the difficult and thankless task of preparing to defend themselves and of helping their friends to defend themselves, it may be worthwhile to remind you of a few things that I think are important about my country today.
First, the United States has traditionally been a nation of people who wanted to avoid getting involved with other nations unless it seemed absolutely necessary. We are a people who have wanted to be left alone. We had a great idea, and vast frontiers of natural resources in which to develop it. It is an idea you share with us. It is the idea that the most important thing in the world is the human individual; that every man should be given as much freedom and incentive as society can possibly give him to work out his own dreams in his own way.
Now we think it has been demonstrated that this great idea is also a very practical one. It works. It pays off. When you set free the creative energies of millions of individuals, you release an explosive force that performs miracles for all mankind. You can't plan them or forecast them. They often come from the most unexpected places, and in the oddest circumstances. An uneducated boy peddling newspapers and chewing gum on trains invented the electric light. A couple of lads in an Ohio bicycle shop who didn't have the money to go to college built and flew the first aeroplane. A Michigan farm boy set to work the principle of mass production that gave inexpensive transportation to hundreds of millions of people.
We still have faith and enthusiasm for our idea. To keep it alive and working in the affairs of men we have pledged "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." We think the development of the idea should be the goal of all mankind.
Second, we have learned--as have free men the world over--that being permitted to work out our destiny today is a luxury for which we have to pay a price--the price of being strong. Only the strong can be free, and those who value their freedom have got to pool their strength. We have learned that we can be left alone only in a world of peace, for peace is only another name for being left alone. And we have learned that we will have peace only to the extent that we are strong enough to make attempts at aggression a forbidding risk--far too dangerous to undertake.
Third, we Americans are convinced that we must achieve military might without destroying the economic health on which real strength depends. That is why we insist on continuing high-level production for civilian use--more and better and lower-priced refrigerators and telephones and oil burners and automobiles and electric irons and the thousands of other items that help to lift human life out of an endless routine of drudgery and give it new meaning.
Fourth, we know also that our national strength is measured not only by what our military might happens to be at the moment, nor even by the current state of our economic health, but by our steadily increasing capacity. The free men of the world can stay free and be strong and keep the peace of the world only to the extent' that they maintain the long-term capacity to do these things.
Fifth, we feel very strongly that all our hopes for progress rest, in the last analysis, on the resourcefulness of our people. For, as we see it, the very purpose of freedom is the opportunity it gives to develop individual resourcefulness as man tries to make the most of himself. That is why we keep insisting on the maximum freedom from restraints and controls--particularly the restraints and controls of government bureaucracy.
This is not a matter of theory with us. Wars and national emergencies, which require centralized coordination and control over the economy, have given us some experience. We have learned something of the waste and inefficiency that always goes along with it. We have learned a little about its frustrations--the roadblocks it throws in the way of initiative. We know how control inhibits the free play of imaginative mind that very often adds up to great achievement. As the opportunity and incentives for individual initiative and resourcefulness disappear, people tend more and more to turn to others for the solution of their problems.
So, while we realize that the tremendous job facing us as a people over the years ahead is one which requires a degree of managed cooperation, we want no more government control than is absolutely essential. Even then we are going to demand constant public audits to make sure that public monkeyshines, waste and inefficiency are kept to the minimum.
Perhaps this sketch of the situation in the United States today sounds familiar to you. It should. In many of its aspects, it is a situation common to all hard-working people who believe in freedom. You, here in Canada, share our determination to see to it that free men shall continue to have opportunity to work out their destinies. Your great strength, too, as Canada's history demonstrates, lies in the resourcefulness of your people. And your great capacity as a nation is producing economic health and ability to aid the military might of the free world.
It seems clear today that people everywhere are turning for leadership to the New World-to the dynamic potential and the example of the free people of North America. That trust is not misplaced.
We share a great idea.
We know the benefits of cooperation and friendship.
I am certain that together we will meet this challenge--each in his own way.
Our way may seem unorthodox to older nations. But it's a good way. For getting everybody into the act and letting him speak his piece is a far, far better way than trusting our destines to a man--or group of men--who may get the notion that they know what is best for the rest of us.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. John C. Porter, a Vice-President of The Canadian Club of Toronto.