They Only Can Who Think They Can, December 4, 1915



Editorial Caldwell (N.J.) Progress
December 4.


"Out of the trenches on Christmas day, never to return."

This is Henry Ford's slogan.

Can he bring it about?

Can he start in motion an irresistible force that will put an end to the great European war? This is a question that is agitating the people all over this land, and one that doubtless will be repeated over the entire world.

The first statement of Ford's purpose has brought forth a storm of criticism and ridicule -- only here and there was found a man or woman who could grasp the tremendous proposition. After having had their fling, however, the tide has begun to turn and to the credit of the cynical ones be it said that they are beginning to see that Mr. Ford is not after self-advertising for he does not need it. He does not want fame, for he is already famous, and he is not after money, for he has more than he knows what to do with. These things being settled, cynics are beginning to ask what can he really want, and are coming to appreciate to some extent the scope of his idea. They are also coming to know the man and to grasp something of his indomitable spirit.

There are some who choose to believe that Mr. Ford will accomplish his plan in whole or in part and that he will set in force a movement for world's peace that cannot be stayed. But assuming for the sake of argument that this plan fails the effort will not by any possibility have been wasted.

It might be well to remind Mr. Ford's critics that he is under no obligation whatever to prove to them the soundness of his idea. He is going to spend his own money and he is risking everything that he has gained of fame and fortune to back up his convictions.

Here are some of the reasons for the faith in the man and his plan. First, Mr. Ford while a poor man conceived the idea of a vehicle that could be made at a popular price and so well constructed that it would serve the millions, and he produced it. Second, he conceived the idea of enormous factories that should produce these machines almost faultless in their construction, and his factory is the wonder of the mechanical world. Third, he has met the united opposition of other automobile makers but has overcome great obstacles. Fourth, he has believed that men who were outcasts could make good if they were given an opportunity, and his Welfare Department is full of evidence of the truth of his belief. All these things existed in Mr. Ford's mind before they became actualities. He conceived these ideals just as truly as the architect does the plans of a building; or as did Colonel Goethals with the Panama Canal; or Edison with his electric light; or Marconi with his wireless; or Bell with his telephone.

A few years ago men were unable to grasp the thought of the telephone or of the wireless and yet we are now daily using these forces that we cannot comprehend. It would seem to be the height of absurdity to say positively that Mr. Ford's plan is impossible. It may freely be granted that it is incomprehensible to most people, but it is a psychological truth that has become almost an axiom, "They only can who think they can." This truth, too, is applied in daily business life, for no man is sent out to accomplish a piece of work unless he believes that he has within himself the power to accomplish that work. This attitude of mind is essential to the proper approach of many lines of business accomplishment. It is held by many psychologists that any sane man who is capable of conceiving an idea amounting to a conviction is also capable of executing his idea. In our judgment, if Mr. Ford should stifle his conviction he would violate his conscience.

He stated in his interview with the newspaper men on Thanksgiving night that he believes in the success of his plan, because the work that he essays to do is right and that the psychological moment for its accomplishment has come. He modestly disclaimed any special ability as a leader.

Mr. Ford apparently does not believe that war is a great impersonal monster but that it is a spirit kept alive by a small group of very human human beings who are at present blinded with passion. These leaders are so blind that they are really crazy. Others are blinded in their judgment by hope of gain.

Remembering that at the last Christmas season it was said that the war would be ended if there could be another Christmas celebration within a few weeks. Mr. Ford is apparently convinced that the desire for peace is many times greater now than it was then, and if hostilities could be suspended, even for a brief time, thereby permitting cooler judgment to rule, and that if the one universal sentiment that sways all men everywhere throughout Christendom is given an opportunity for expression it will in some way work out the solution of the problem of this World War. As to just how, he does not pretend to know; he is honest enough to say so, and it is just here that he is most misunderstood.

Elbert Hubbard's story of the man who carried a "Message to Garcia" illustrates a spirit which seems to have taken possession of Mr. Ford. He seems to be imbued with the idea that he has a divine mission to fulfill and that no power on earth can stop him. Already he has stirred into activity many men and women who have the spark of faith and a willingness to attempt the seemingly impossible, and the newspapers are now beginning to bristle with reports of peace efforts all over the world. Now that some of the newspaper writers have had their laugh and have [perpetuated] their jokes, let us hope that a new and sober conception of the situation will be given to the people generally.

All history, sacred and profane, is filled with instances of the performance of wonderful duties and noble undertakings, -- David with his shepherd's sling, Gideon with his noble band with their lamps and pitchers, Washington leading his forlorn hope, Lincoln bearing the burdens of the nation. These men had implicit faith in their own powers or they had [implicit] faith in humanity, and so has Mr. Ford.

Mr. Ford said on Monday: "I don't care what the critics say. I believe this is possible. I have believed other things possible and they were, and I have all the faith in the world in humanity." It was precisely this sentiment that Mr. Ford uttered to the writer on July 6th in an interview with him at his home. On the day before Mr. Ford had conducted exercises for the 20,000 workmen, foreigners, in his employ, where they had been instructed as to the meaning of Independence Day and their duty as citizens of this country. They had marched through the city of Detroit with bands of music playing patriotic airs and had gone to Bell Isle Park for picnic exercises in their own way, but had heard in their own tongue from their own leaders what citizenship in America stands for.

A man with a hydraulic jack who claims that he could throw down a church steeple might easily be accounted as irrational by those who had never seen or heard of such an implement, but that would not disprove the fact that he could do it.

This World War has passed beyond the ken of any living man; no one can say how or what the end will be. Is it not then the height of folly for any one to say that Mr. Ford's idea is not worth a trial?

"Those who say 'it can't be done' are constantly being interrupted by somebody doing it."

As the "Peace Ship" shall move out of New York Harbor this afternoon let it not be with sneers and jeers from us, but with cheers and tears and with an earnest prayer to the Heavenly Father for the success that He alone can give. Let us strive to gain the Christmas Day spirit NOW.

Editor The Caldwell Progress

Caldwell, New Jersey