ELBERT HUBBARD penned his classic essay, "A Message to Garcia" in one hour after a dinnertime discussion with his family. At dinner, Hubbard's son, Bert, claimed that the true hero of the Spanish-American war was Rowan -- a messenger who braved death by carrying a note behind the lines to Garcia, the leader of the insurgents. Like Rowan we strive everyday to deliver your message to your target audience be they colleagues, prospects or customers.
The following is an abridged version.
n all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at Perihelion. When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do!
Someone said to the President, "There's a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.
The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- "Carry a message to Garcia!"
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.
No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.
I have carried a dinner pail and worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.
My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall 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 carry a message to Garcia.
- THE END -
The essay originally ran in Hubbard's magazine, The Philistine, in February, 1899. Inspired by its message, George Daniels of the New York Central Railroad asked permission to reprint and distribute 500,000 copies. Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railways, read one of Daniel's reprints and had it translated into Russian. A Message to Garcia was distributed to every one of his railroad employees.
The Russian military then picked up the ball: each Russian soldier sent to the Japanese front was given a copy. The Japanese found the essay in the possession of the Russian prisoners and subsequently had it translated into Japanese. On an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to each member of the Japanese government. And RETRO's copy, dated 1913, had been part of a distribution to members of the United States Navy at the brink of the First World War.
Ultimately, forty million copies of A Message To Garcia were published.