There seem to be two extremes in the nature of many of us — either we think far too highly of ourselves or we are so self-effacing that we are nauseating.
Henry Ford firmly fitted into the former category.
His use of mass production in manufacturing the Model T automobile shaped not only the economy and industry, but the values of 20th century Americans.
Ford was a man who achieved incredible fame and fortune, but as one observer said, ‘‘this gifted man was undone by his own success’’.
Ford loved the ordinary people and they loved him back. By 1920, half of all the cars on the road in the United States were Fords.
But it was not just the car Ford was selling.
He preached a new gospel to a public raised on Puritan ideals of delayed gratification and self-control: Ford believed money was for spending, and the workers should use their income to buy products that would improve their lives — products such as his Model T.
Seen as a hero for making it possible for the average family to own a car, Ford’s opinion was sought out regarding every area of life, from world peace to marriages and child care.
The adulation of others ultimately convinced him that he was infallible and led him to ruinously bad decisions.
It blinded him to his own hypocrisy as he preached family values and old-fashioned virtue and yet kept a mistress.
It may have also driven him to destroy his only child.
The older Ford, offended by his son’s gentle style and superior education, ruthlessly undercut him at every turn, only then to mourn grievously when Edsel died as a young man.
Henry Ford’s last days were sorrowful.
On a visit to the house where he had lived as a newlywed, he told his chauffeur, ‘‘I’ve got a lot of money, and I’d give every cent of it right now just to be here with Mrs Ford.’’
The Bible urges: ‘‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.’’
Henry Ford was a gifted man — but with sober judgement he could have also been a contented man.
- George Deeble, Euroa Christian Fellowship