"WHAT IS AMERICA'S ANSWER?"
An Address by JOSEPH THOMAS
Director, Secretary and General Counsel, The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio
Thursday, November 1st, 1951
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. D. H. Gibson.
MR. GIBSON: It is a signal honour to welcome Mr. Joseph Thomas, Director of and General Counsel to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, a Company to which all are delighted to pay tribute for its marvellous tradition and career.
Mr. Thomas holds many honours from his University of Akron and from the Ohio State University, and is President of the Akron Law School.
How keenly attentive we will be as our distinguished friend opens up to us his subject "What is America's Answer?".
All of us in these times would like very much to forget, even for brief periods, the terrible events which surround us in the world in which we are living. We lift our eyes to the future with uncertainty and our thoughts travel the pathway of the nations of the world with great anxiety. However, in all seriousness we must not close our eyes--we dare not--but rather through the gracious message of our visitor, may our vision be clearer and the objectives of our mind set on that standard of achievement for the free peoples of the world, which will cause us willingly to devote our lives and sacrifice much, so that we may bring to pass for our own and future generations better days than the world in which we now live.
It is with great pleasure I introduce to you and extend a warm welcome to Mr. Joseph Thomas.
MR. THOMAS: Please understand, I appear today as a plain, average American citizen, who has a deep and sincere conviction that our good neighbour Canada--your country--is the true friend of The United States of America; that Canada and our mother country of Great Britain have been our devoted allies. We have planned, fought and bled as one for the preservation of our mutual ideals.
I pay due respect to Great Britain which gave birth to the doctrine of "natural liberty", which when transplanted to the colonies, took on even more vigorous growth. I give proper credit to Adam Smith whose great economic classic--"Wealth of Nations"--explained with great care the economic logic of the system of free enterprise as he preached it and as the colonies and our young republic practised it. His explanation became the brief for the doctrine of "laissez faire". By a curious coincidence, our American Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were brought forth in the same year in which Adam Smith's book was published.
I am only one of millions of Americans who holds great admiration for the genius, industry and tremendous accomplishments of you-the Canadian people. It is my impression that Canadian business is no brash offspring of a British and American union, but rather is a wise and circumspect offshoot of the experience of both-watching developments closely and profiting immediately from the mistakes of both. We recognize your great wealth in natural resources and your untapped treasures in the form of minerals. We recognize that you are on the threshold of even greater industrial development. Your future is so outstanding and so inviting that we in the United States could in all sincerity say in the words of a modern Horace Greeley "Go North, young man, go North."
Having a Welsh ancestry, I, like millions of Americans, hold in very high esteem the Royal Family of Great Britain. I will always remember the great ovation that the King and Queen received while visiting the United States in 1939. I am sure that Mr. Winston Churchill will go down in history as the greatest, strongest and most dynamic character of this century. He truly represents the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson that "An institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man".
I want to make it crystal clear that everything I know about Canada is good. So in developing my subject "What is America's Answer?", any thoughts that I may voice, apply only to my own country and are not by inference or otherwise to be interpreted as an effort on my part to pass judgment on your accomplishments.
The greatest hoax that has been perpetrated upon the American people in my lifetime is the insidious phrase "the privileged few". It has been repeated over and over again and it has become the basis for more perverted thinking than any other phrase. Many people have swallowed this misstatement hook, line and sinker-people who sincerely believe that the great industrial enterprises of America are owned and controlled by a handful of wealthy people, and that these selfish, privileged few split up, among themselves, the fabulous profits of giant corporations.
There are approximately half a million corporations in the United States, and each of these is owned exclusively by its stockholders. Not one of those stockholders, however, possesses any "privileges" that are not available to every other person in our nation. The truth is that ownership of a share in American enterprise lies within the financial ability of virtually every family in our country. If all of the dividend-paying stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange at the close of last year had been rolled up into one composite issue, a single share in this average American industry would have cost the investor exactly $33, and would have paid him a dividend of $2.21 during the year. That is hardly an unreasonable profit, but nevertheless it represents a good return as dividends go--a return of 6.7 percent on the investment. Anyone who possesses a few dollars and who is willing to invest them in the plants and tools and furnaces and machines that make production possible can become one of the owners of a corporation.
There are approximately fifteen million industrial corporate stockholders in the United States. The American Telephone & Telegraph Company is owned by more than a million stockholders. General Motors is owned by nearly a half million. U. S. Steel has 238,966 individual stockholders and not one of them owns as much as three-tenths of one percent of the U. S. Steel stock. Of the 50 largest manufacturing corporations in the United States in 1948, 45 of them show that they had two million eight hundred thousand stockholders, whereas they had only two million five hundred thousand employees.
Many people fail to understand that big business is good for small business. In 1870, America had 427,000 independent commercial and industrial enterprises which equal one for each 91 persons. In 1947, America had 2,280,000 businesses, one for each 63 people. So in spite of our big businesses, we have today a larger number of small businesses even . in proportion to our population than ever before. It is interesting to note that 50,000 of the U. S. Steel Corporation's 54,000 suppliers are small businesses and that 90,000 of its 110,000 customers are classified as small businesses. For the first four years after World War II, new businesses started up at the rate of 30,000 per month.
I have used the hoax statement "the privileged few" as an example of the false propaganda that is being cleverly and insidiously planted in the minds of many of our unsuspecting people. Who is responsible for such propaganda and what is the motive? I must confess that much of the fault must be placed at the door of the millions of average American citizens such as myself who are too complacent -we are neither hot nor cold--just lukewarm and smug! We are comfortably fixed in material things but quite miserable in spiritual things. We must recognize that the greatest treasures of our land are those which our generation did not invent, did not procure and some of which we have not been able to preserve.
I hate to admit it, but I humbly believe that we are living today at the close of an era when the kind of world we have known is slipping away. What makes the picture so dark today is the fact that we are face to face with a new religion that is out to create a different kind of a world. Make no mistake about it, Communism is a religion. It is not mere economics. It is not mere sociology. It is not mere Russian nationalism on the war path like the insane nationalism of Hitler and Mussolini. It is a religion, zealous, fanatical, missionary. It knows no bounds of race or class or nationality. It is out to win the world.
This new religion was founded by a man who was first a Jew, then a Lutheran, finally an atheist. The personal pilgrimage of Karl Marx left a deep imprint on the new religion. From the Hebrew prophets, he took a vision of social justice and the belief that violent social change is inevitable. From Christianity, he took the conception of the Day of Judgment when all the sins and failures of our society would be punished and when the oppressed would at last be given their place in the sun. From atheism, he took the conviction that man and man alone would bring about the Day of Judgment through the revolution of the proletariat. In place of God, men would sit on the judge's bench. In a world where man's faith in God has already grown dim, this new religion is a mirage of hope for millions. Victims of all the evils of our western civilization find in it the promise of salvation. Industrial workers who feel they lack economic security-to many of these the new religion comes like a ray of hope. The followers of this new religion are not smug, easy-going and half-hearted. It is more important to them than life itself and they tell their potential converts "We are in this with you. We mean business. It is not mere talk with us. We are going to go right down into the firing line with you; to stick by you all the way. The future is with us. Nothing can stop us. The day of reckoning is almost here." I repeat, this is not mere economics. It is not any kind of nationalism. It is a religion--a new religion torn from Jewism, Christianity and atheism. We ask the question-how are we going to meet it? What do we have that will stand against it? The American way of life is the wide-spread answer in our country today. We will show the have-nothings all over the world how prosperous we are. We will show them how many comforts we have and how we govern ourselves. We will give them a blueprint of our well-fed way of life and let them copy it. Gentlemen, this answer alone, with nothing else, only makes many of the people that we want to win to our side, hate us for it. Some Americans think that the right answer requires more violent treatment. Those Americans have the idea that we ought to just drop a lot of atomic bombs on Moscow, in China, in the Balkans. We ought to just blow these people off the face of the earth and that we ought to start an endless chain of blowing people up. I ask a fair question--is this the only answer that we, a so-called Christian country, are prepared to give? Neither can we ever hope to buy peace in the world. Up to today, there have been one billion, twenty-five million, three hundred fifty-six thousand, three hundred and twenty minutes since the birth of Christ. This year our Federal budget will be approximately sixty-eight and one-half billions of dollars. Most of this is for armament and foreign aid. This represents approximately $68 a minute since the birth of Christ. The money we have spent in the past, are spending today and hope to spend in the future would be very graciously given by the rank and file of our American people if we only had a reasonable assurance that we would ultimately succeed in bringing peace and tranquility throughout the world. But it has got to be far more than this. It must be something that money cannot buy. It is something that a display of wealth and affluence cannot secure. The only way to obtain our goal is to fight the false religion of the followers of Karl Marx with a true religion. It cannot be the soft, easy-going, complacent thing which we have called Christianity for so long a time. It must be a new Christianity, more real and more intense than anything that most of us have ever known. Where do we start? Everywhere. In our personal lives, is the best place to start. Making our own personal lives a lot more in keeping with all that God expects them to mean. Deepening our prayer life. Trying to get something out of church that will make us nobler and stronger. We must no longer blink at the corruption in our Government. It means fighting against every form of meanness and bigotry, against all the corruption and wire pulling and cynicism that corrode our National life. It means the end of our type of paganism in America and the dawn of a new day. I think we are at our lowest ebb. Yet I sense the beginning of something far more intense and far more sincere than anything we have known in my lifetime. No matter how dark the present picture is, the great hope for the future of America is the fundamental goodness, integrity and spiritual depth of the great mass of our citizenry. I refer to the millions who attend the church of their choice and lead lives of temperance and struggle and strive to set the proper example in their home life and business activities. From this great group of American people will come an upsurge of wholesomeness and righteousness that will take charge. Our five percenters living by their wits must go. Our fixers and influence peddlars are being exposed. The time has arrived for a renaissance. Our great mass of people are fed up with the looseness in morals, government corruption and vice. They are aroused to action. They realize the time is at hand. They must take charge today. Tomorrow will be too late. I have faith in their sincerity of purpose, their courage and their will. This is America's answer. It is the greatest challenge that our young nation has ever faced but we will meet it with resolute courage. We will make the necessary changes and some of them are already in the process of being made. We must cease telling people how good we are in our business and industrial accomplishments. We must cease flaunting our wealth and affluence. We must work hard and earnestly at the task of strengthening ourselves spiritually, morally and economically. We must save our free American way of life, no matter what sacrifices are required. We must vote at every election for people who place the welfare of their country above their personal, political welfare. Surely in the face of three wars to save democratic freedoms, we owe it to ourselves and our associates to develop programmes aimed to interest the voters in the exercise of their right of franchise. We must pray for the wisdom and the courage to do our duty as good Americans, faithful to God and to our country. We must convince the people of the world that we are with them as God's children, extending to them the hand of human fellowship on a truly unselfish basis. As a humble American, I say, this must be America's answer!
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Arthur Slaght.