A Message to Garcia

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 07, 2015

“How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success.”
Elbert Hubbard

Little did Evie and I know that a weekend trip to Buffalo, New York, would introduce us to Elbert Hubbard. We arrived there on Saturday afternoon anticipating a wonderful time with old and new friends at a church where I was speaking on Sunday and to a group of ministers on Monday. 

Pastor Jim and Mari-Lee Ruddy picked us up for dinner around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. After a short drive, we arrived in East Aurora, New York. Because it was a rainy, early evening, we could hardly see where they were taking us. But once inside the Roycroft Inn we knew that we had entered another world.

It was 1884 when Elbert Green Hubbard, a Larkin soap executive, and his wife Bertha Crawford, moved into a house on South Grove Street. In 1895, Hubbard founded his Roycroft Campus where he longed to develop a community of artists who worked with their “heads, hearts and hands,” as opposed to the gears and machines. 

A brochure there at the inn read: “Modeling his vision loosely upon the medieval guild-like organizations that had been established in England, Hubbard began to actively seek out skilled craftsmen. The men and women who believed in this movement desired the return of artistry and the return of the individual.”

First, printers and book designers came. Later, they were joined by painters, sculptors, furniture makers, metalsmiths, photographers, potters, leather-workers and writers. The brochure concludes, “Thanks to the Hubbard’s tireless efforts, the community became as famous as the objects it produced.”

As we stepped inside the Roycroft Inn restaurant, all of that history came at us from all directions. Yes, the food was delicious, but we also enjoyed a tour of the main building. We will never forget the exquisite sight of a stained-glass chandelier that is insured for $1.5 million. The furniture and décor were absolutely stunning.

Hubbard was a remarkable man. He was an American writer, publisher, salesman, lecturer, artist and philosopher. But it is his 1,495-word essay titled “A Message to Garcia” that really captured my attention. It is all about being responsible. Originally published as a filler in the March 1899 issue of the magazine Philistine, which Hubbard published, it was quickly reprinted as a pamphlet and later as a book that has reached a circulation of over 80 million copies in over 35 languages. 

“A Message to Garcia” is a short read, ​10 minutes or so. With growing tensions between the United States and Spain (which then ruled Cuba), President William McKinley needed to get in touch with the Cuban rebels whose leader was Garcia. He asked the military to recommend someone who could make that connection. They recommended Andrew Rowan. Somehow Rowan found Garcia in the mountains of Cuba and brought back valuable information to help the United States’ strategy with Spain.

From that story Hubbard shared the kind of leadership qualities that Rowan had, enabling him against all odds, to find Garcia and give him the message as he had been instructed to do. 

Hubbard ends his essay with the following challenging words:

“My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the ‘boss’ is away, as well as when he is home … Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks for will be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town, and village ​—in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he is needed, and needed badly — the man who can (like Andrew Rowan) ‘carry a message to Garcia.’”  

If you take 10 minutes to read Hubbard’s “Message to Garcia,” you cannot help but …

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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