The Heritage of Leadership


By FRANK E. MULLEN, Vice-President and General Manager, National Broadcasting Company

Delivered at the Annual Convention of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, Chicago Towers Club, August 28, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 56-60.

MR. President and Brothers in Alpha Gamma Rho: I deeply appreciate the honor you do me in inviting me to participate in this convention, and for this opportunity to address you. We are meeting in grave and significant days. In the midst of a global war with nation aligned against nation in a fight between freedom and slavery, these fraternity sessions may seem of small importance. Yet, I do not hold it so. Our fraternal principles are identical with the world principles at stake, for it is a larger world brotherhood that must emerge from the epic struggle in which we are engaged. It is not only a brotherhood of arms in which we are linked with our Allies, it is a brotherhood of spirit, of ideals, and of purpose that must be victorious lest we all perish.

We must not only win the war, we must also win the peace. We must insure to ourselves, our children and our children's children, a world in which the dark forces ravaging civilization today cannot rise again to threaten the ideals for which man has striven since the beginning of time.

I am not going to talk to you men today about careers or about personal success. It would be an insult to your intelligence for me to mouth glib phrases and cliches about getting on in the world. All of you are facing a future in which the immediate prospect is life or death; a future in which there can be no success for anyone, no life nor future for anyone, until we have won the war.

But there will be a day after the victory when you will be able once more to turn your thoughts to normal life, when you can contemplate a future in which you can build for security and happiness, for personal honor and achievement, for recognition among your fellow men. I would like to direct your thoughts beyond your immediate futurewith its dangers and uncertainties, to the future of victory for our country and for ourselves as human beings.

This fraternity of ours has for its purpose the making of better men. We are unique in that our organization is a professional as well as a social fraternity. Two influences work continuously on Alpha Gamma Rho men to make them leaders—the college influence which trains us in agriculture, and therefore gives us a head start on the untrained man; and the fraternal influence which operates to make us socially minded in our communities.

All you men are used to thinking in terms of community leadership. But are you training your sights on questions of national leadership? Have Alpha Gamma Rho men who have left college, and gone into adult life advanced beyond community leadership in their thinking?

I wonder. I believe agriculturalists as a class, and this must necessarily include some Alpha Gamma Rho men, tend to stay provincial, to think in terms of class interest. Many farmers are still as hostile to labor as businessmen; they have all the hostility to big business that labor has. Many subscribe to the theory that because the farmer is vital to the country's welfare, the government can, should and will take care of him.

I say this is not the way to achieve national unity. I urge you potential leaders in your communities not to make the mistake of those who went before you; who shut their eyes to the overall picture of the United States as a country because they were looking too closely at their own class-interest and their own personal interests. The United States is only as strong as its weakest part. If too many communities in this great nation of ours think only in terms of their own interests, they will one day find themselves without any interests at all. The United States of America is not an abstract government in Washington. It is the collection and sum total of all the communities in all the forty-eight states. The country is dependent on its segments for its continuance as a nation; the segments must do their job in taking responsibility outside their own borders, in being awake to national problems, alert to national dangers, and willing to combine, one with another, for the good of the whole, since the good of the whole is the only guarantee of the good of its parts.

I do not subscribe to the defeatist theory that we have no leaders in this country. I maintain that we have leadership, but that leadership is not exercised to its fullest potentialities. We have leaders in all fields—science, invention, industry, religion, medicine, the arts. Somehow, though, when we turn our thoughts to leaders in national affairs, in the management of our national life and its relations with other countries, we don't think of those top-flight men in the professions and in industry and business.

We confer the title of leader on, and give responsibility for our governmental well being only, to the men we have elected to be our city, county and state representatives, our voices in the Senate and the House; and the man we have chosen out of 138,000,000 to be President of the United States. Those are our rightful government and political leaders. But it is a grimly ironical circumstance that so much of the leadership on which our present and future security depends is not being utilized in this crisis of war which may mean the life or death of this nation.

We must stop thinking in terms of our own little centers of interest and spheres of influence. We must stop thinking of ourselves as farmers, doctors, businessmen first, and American citizens only accidentally and incidentally.

We must think first as citizens of the republic of the United States of America, and so thinking, willingly take on adult responsibilities of citizenship; and after that, as members of a particular profession or business, and a member of a particular town or community.

We all prate about democracy, the democratic way of life, the American way of life. What do we really know about it? Who really professes democracy? Democracy calls for spiritual as well as mental enlightenment, a sense of responsibility and obligation to all, not just our own groups and strata of society. Because many fail in their personal responsibility to make self-government work efficiently, we must not come to the conclusion that we have no leaders who are able to make it work properly.

Many of our citizens feel that the prime ambition of most politicians is to keep their jobs indefinitely, to get reelected over and over. It was not that way when men regarded public office as a sacred trust for which they prepared themselves earnestly and honestly; a trust which carried such honor and esteem that the voters were willing to bestow that trust only on men who had proved themselves worthy of it. We—the voters of the United States—through the kind of indifference which has become cynical disregard for our own real values, and a blindness to our own safety and security, have destroyed that fine early conception of public office to which we must return.

Today, the principal desire of every American must be to aid his country. I was too humble a member of the AEF in the last war to be a military strategist with a plan to win the present war. I am not a statesman with a formula for winning the peace. Nor do I know how to win the battle of production without the inevitable mistakes and miscarriages which must mark the gigantic efforts of a nation that only eight months ago turned from an uneasy peace to total war. Yet none of us can escape the omnipresentconsciousness that the most somber fact of our time is that the world is locked in a titanic struggle which must determine the life or death of our nation, and whether we as individuals shall remain free men or be strangled in the slavery of a vile and decadent "new order."

The cry in this, the crisis of the war, is for a second front. Thinking men everywhere believe we must divide the atrocious power which Germany has hurled at Russia. The Nazis are approaching the gateway to Asia, and the next few weeks may decide whether the surviving democracies will face a fusion of white and yellow barbarians determined to drag the world back into the dark ages, or whether the cruel power of our enemies will be broken once and for all. I, for one, am for leaving the when, where and how of the second front to our leaders who know, and who must balance up the abilities of the United Nations to create that second front, to maintain it and to use it to crush our enemies by this diversion of force. It is a military question which must be settled on the basis of military decision.

But on the question of a third front I have no doubt. We have not been attacked with guns and planes and tanks alone. We are being attacked with another weapon as destructive as any physical weapon of war; one that has cracked the morale, destroyed the resistance and led to the defeat of those unprepared to meet the enemy's offensive on the third front—the psychological front.

On such a front we must turn the searchlight of truth on the blind spots in our national war effort. On this front we must forge a more powerful weapon that will destroy the enemy's morale. On this front we must attack apathy, sloth-fulness and selfishness in our midst. The people of dictator nations are driven to perform. We must match, and exceed, the enemy's vast mobilization of power and force by our united will, united sacrifice and united toil. We must make ourselves see that the war can be lost. We must build on this third front a series of defenses that will protect us from the illusions of invulnerable might that gave us the Pearl Harbor disaster. It was a cruel, treacherous and determined enemy that rose out of the Pacific that dawn of December 7, 1941. We were dealt a kick in the spine that for a long time made it difficult for us to sit back on our complacency without saying "Ouch"! And those who dealt it, we know now, did not sail papier-mache ships, fly in wooden crates or fire wildly because their squint eyes couldn't focus on a target.

The task we face in the greatest struggle in which humankind has ever been engaged is not only to win the war. We must also win the peace.

It is not necessarily true that after war comes peace. It is not necessarily so that death and destruction, sacrifice and fear end with the armistice. Peace that is merely a political truce is continuance of war in another form. Those who die of hunger because of political obstruction or economic sabotage among nations are as much the victims of war as those who die on the battlefield. Children whose health has been broken by malnutrition are as much the victims of savagery as those who are torn by bombs.

I believe that the problems posed by peace will be even more challenging than those posed by war. I believe the blue-print of a better world will gradually evolve from the restoration of good will among men. In the meantime, each of us can be but a part in the intricate pattern of the future. That future must solve the problem of economic justice, not merely on a national but on a world scale. Its solution will involve many adjustments and many opportunities. There will be vast destruction to be repaired and vast wastage to be made good. In the new world to come I believe that many of the fixed distinctions in our minds between intellectualand mental work, on one side, and technical and mechanical work on the other, must disappear. Men will have to be prepared to work with their hands as well as their heads. The mind will have to come down from its ivory tower and roll up its sleeves. In our political life, it will have to shed its inherent timidity, and fight for the principles in which it believes.

The snooty opinion that there is an essential superiority of intellectual over physical work, which is fundamentally undemocratic, will have to be abandoned. If I have learned anything from my business experience, it is that there is no monopoly of vision, understanding and initiative in the executive offices. Ideas are migratory; they are just as apt to alight in the shop as in the manager's office. The housekeeping of business has been conducted too often without this understanding. The real saboteurs of the future will be those who fail to understand the interdependence of management and labor. A new freedom of economic justice, as well as social equality, is in the making if we will but open our eyes.

Freedom is a recent thing. We in the United States of America have never known anything but freedom. Our ancestors fought and bled and died for it because they knew what it meant not to be free. They came to this country to find freedom, and having found it, they fought to keep it and pass it on to their children. We inherited the results of their sacrifices.

The manifestation of the pioneer spirit is, of course, not within the personal memory of you men. Surely, though, it is close to many of you here today through the stories of your fathers and your grandfathers, yes, and of your mothers and your grandmothers. We have moved so fast in the past few decades that our speed has almost obliterated the record of the few decades just before. Those of you who are today coming of age grew up with such inventions as the electric light, the radio, the automobile, the aeroplane already established in your lives, so that these things are a matter of course to you. They cannot, because of that, be the miracles to you that they are to your elders, who can remember when these inventions were born. A man who has never lived through kerosene lamps and gas light cannot be expected to be overcome by the mystery of pushing a button in the wall, and having an instantaneous flood of illumination through the miracle of electricity. A man who has always known the magic of simultaneous, instant communication of ideas and information by radio from one tip of this broad land to the other, cannot have the same thrilling feeling about it as his grandfather who depended on pony express to bring him news in the West of what happened in the East weeks earlier.

Radio and aeroplane have shrunk the boundaries of the world, and there are some who say that there are no more frontiers. Perhaps we have pushed our physical boundaries as far as they can go, but the frontiers of the mind and the spirit are limitless, and there is where we must go now for pioneering; there is where we must seek the answer to the problem of keeping and holding secure and free the land and the ideals our forefathers pioneered for.

They were leaders—those men. Every man was an individualist. He had to be. He was an individualist, but he also had the communal spirit. He was a brother to his neighbor. He had to cooperate with his fellows in the common fight for survival and for progress, but he wanted to cooperate, too, for there was room in men's hearts and minds in those days for fraternity in the truest sense of the word.

Never is the interdependence of human beings so manifest as in their common struggle for survival. It is onlywhen man moves too far and too fast that he loses touch with his fellow humans. Eventually he finds that his isolation from them is an empty gain. He may have all the power and the wealth in the world, but if he uses the power only to gain more, without sharing, without cooperation; and the wealth only to protect what he has or to gain more, he is soon a man alone. Where once he was indifferent to others because his power and money could buy him everything including companionship, he soon finds it can buy him nothing real, nothing lasting, and he ends his days in bitterness and loneliness, without friends and without remembrance.

You have all thought along these lines through your growing up—certainly profoundly and deeply since Pearl Harbor. But there are certain truths we learn the hard way, and I am speaking to you as one who has, of necessity, learned a number of things the hard way. I am speaking merely to clarify your thinking, bring it all together.

Today, the way of youth is hard enough. It may be that for you young men there will be no youth as you have been brought up to know it. For you will go from college into a man's job in the war, and in fulfilling your duties in the armed services you will have to lead lives that are abnormal. No one can say how long you will have to travel that road. But no one has a right to fool you into believing that it may be short. Better to take the hard way; better to go into this struggle with your eyes wide open, prepared for the worst; prepared to leave the years of your youth behind you on battlefields on the land, the sea, the air. For whatever length of time the war endures, you will not come back to peacetime pursuits as young or unmarked as you left them, even though your years still rest easily upon you.

Youth today is going to go through a forcing period that will mature it overnight. Young men today are being given responsibilities that are staggering. I am not going to say to you, "Young men, this is a challenge to you!" Youth today, I'm sure, is tired of being challenged by pontificating oldsters who forget that young men act, old ones argue. Youth doesn't need to be challenged or coddled. It needs merely to be told there's a job to do—here are the tools—do it! In today's youth are tomorrow's leaders.

Leadership is of two kinds—the kind that is so hypnotically impelling that men follow another man blindly and unreasoningly. That, to me, is a dangerous kind of leadership, for it can easily become debauched, and not only corrupt the leader but his followers as well. Hitler has that kind of leadership, and the subtle danger implicit in his brand is. that its temporary success blinds men, even thinking men, to its great dangers. That is not the kind of leadership I mean.

I'd rather illustrate the kind I mean, which I choose to think is the American brand, by reminding you of Washington at Valley Forge, Lincoln in the dark days of '64, MacArthur at Bataan, and Stillwell, that great, gaunt general who, at 65, led an army out of Burma and said afterwards, "I claim we got a hell of a beating—that we should find out what caused it, and then go back and lick them!"

That's the kind of leadership that is a combination of the qualities of strength, courage, sincerity, inspiration and good old-fashioned personal honor poured into a man in such measure that they flow out and inspire other men to follow him. America used to breed leaders like that by the hundreds.

Now what is it that gives men strength and courage and sincerity? It isn't just a good education, good breeding, good food and warm clothing in winter. Leaders don't necessarily come from the so-called best families and the best schools. They don't all come from prairie shacks and city tenements either.

No, what gives a man strength and courage and the inspiration to other men to follow him no matter where he comes from, is plain, old-fashioned integrity, so shining an attribute that it glows in the dark. Many rich men have it, and poor ones, too. I know you'll come back again to Hitler and ask me where's the integrity in that power-hungry monster? And again I'll remind you that I'm talking about real leadership, true leadership that has in it first of all a desire above and beyond one's own gains, a desire to help one's fellowmen.

There was a period in our country's history when, as I have just said, men leaned on each other in their common fight for survival. And then, mark you, came the phenomenon that often arises when the fight is over, and existence is peaceful and secure. Men grew lazy, not in physical and mental endeavor, necessarily, but in spiritual endeavor. The deterioration was helped along by the compression of so much of our population into large cities where competition for power, money and position was so fierce that it made men's souls sterile. It was no longer just a fight for survival of all against a common enemy. Instead of all men working together for the common good, there arose a philosophy of every man for himself. Now that is contrary to nature, contrary to the gregarious makeup of human beings, and when one goes contrary to nature, nature exacts a toll. We found that our highly mechanized individualistic society brought us money and power, but it made us vulnerable, and it corroded our moral and spiritual strength. More and more men pushing up ruthlessly in a forced growth crowded out the less hardy, the less forceful, the less selfish, and we came to a dislocation of values, of economy, of life itself. That must not happen again.

After the war, responsibility for the continuation of our free enterprise system in America will rest with those who can exercise the leadership of which I have been speaking. It is a matter of private enterprise taking note of social as well as economic factors. It is a matter, also, of developing governmental and political leaders of equal vision and integrity. Business and industry must realize that in developing mass production methods and a society founded on machines, we have undertaken social responsibilities. In the last analysis, it is a matter of private enterprise providing employment for a majority of the workers when the war is over.

If government is forced to do the job private enterprise should do, then the people of this country, like the people who listened to Hitler, will give up a lot of their fundamental liberties. I am indebted to Mr. Eric A. Johnston, the new president of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, for some parallel thoughts on the subject. He says, and I quote:

"After this war, we will have the greatest plant capacity in history; we will have a greater source of raw materials, both natural and synthetic, than we have ever had; we will have the greatest number of skilled mechanics and technicians ever available to any nation; we will have the greatest backlog of accumulated demands for all kinds of commodities; and accumulated savings with which to buy this backlog of accumulated demands. "To use this store of machine power and manpower, wemust have a new order of cooperation among government,management, labor and agriculture."

This war is going to revise upward some of our calloused moral values. For one thing, we are never going back to a laissez-faire economic policy.

The new system which we're going to have will call for controls. And we may as well face facts. If the people won't put the controls on themselves, government will do it for them. I am for policing ourselves. I say we can do it.

I insist that the inherent fairness in the American people's make-up is not dead, just sleeping, from too much of a good thing too easily secured.

Abundance—enough for all—is the answer to the problems of the world. When there are no haves and have-nots but only haves; when there is no such thing as an ill-fed, ill-housed one-third of a nation—one-third of a world even—then we can look forward to man's greatest development as a man, and to a world where peace will be a reality, not just a breathing spell, an illusion between wars.

That is where science steps in to create an abundance which is the answer to our ills, for where there is abundance for all there is not the necessity for war to adjust economic balances.

In estimating the probable economic condition of the United States when peace comes, we can foresee a domestic demand for consumer goods unprecedented in the nation's history. For several years, we shall have had no automobiles, no refrigerators, tractors, tires, washing machines, typewriters, stoves, heating equipment, radios—to which may be added a list yards long of other items. There will have been no building and virtually no improvements to dwellings and business property. There will be an accumulation of public works, highway construction and railway improvement that was halted by the war. There will be a demand for civilian clothes for millions of returning troops. There will be a tremendous need for heavy machinery and small tools as factories return to the production of peace-time products.

Now, when we look abroad, conditions will be infinitely more acute. Hundreds of millions will need the essentials of life. Moreover, they will need food and foodstuffs desperately. America will no longer be the arsenal of democracy—it will have to be the larder of the world.

In the field of radio, I can see the outlines of this shape of abundance. Radio was born of the last war, and in only twenty years it made strides that surprised even its most ardent and hopeful followers. In this war, under the spur of necessity, we may see its progress accelerated beyond our most imaginative dreams. In the scientific laboratory today, and emerging from it are devices and processes that will provide new services, new products, new employment of both men and capital. And that is the real answer to world economics. The answer is not in redistribution of what we have, but in the creation of new products and services for mass consumption. Science can do it. Science will do it.

We are on the verge of new services and a new industry through the wider use of the ultra high frequencies in the fields of television, frequency modulation and facsimile which is the broadcasting of printed material. These new services are certain to exert a revolutionary influence upon our social and economic life in years to come.

Electric communication is going places in the next decade. Its changes may not be as rapid nor as radical as those of the broadcasting art, but those changes will be radical compared with what we have now. The day is coming when television will bring sight from any point in the world into your own home; a day when a man can sit in his living room here in Chicago, and see what is going on in New York, London, Bangkok, Manila.

Science must have the aid of men of vision who will ally themselves and their resources with it to enable the laboratory workers to carry their findings to their logical conclusions. You can see now what I mean when I say that leadership is all important, for it is in the national leaders only that we shall find the imagination and courage to turn science free to find the solution in abundance of the world's maldistribution.

This combination of science, art and sound business management has given to the public and American business a national broadcasting service without equal. It has made it possible for the voice of the President to reach the entire nation at the same instant. World-shaking events are told almost as they occur. The American people are united in a common objective as the progress of the nation's war effort is reported.

Now, with a nation at war, broadcasting provides an instrument of tremendous value in the fight to preserve our democratic freedoms. As a free instrument in a democracy, our American system of broadcasting is a vital force in the world conflict. A comparison of radio broadcasting in this country and in the Axis Nations establishes that the essence of our progress has been freedom of the air. A free radio, supported by private enterprise, free from government subsidy or ownership, is one of our democratic bulwarks. While the Axis Nations may for the moment exceed us in their total of guns, tanks and planes, they do not exceed us in the number of our radio tools and weapons.

Here are a few interesting radio facts: In all the world, there are 2,481 radio stations—and more than 108 million radio sets. In the Axis Nations, there are 271 radio stations and 33 million radio sets. In the United and Neutral Nations, there are 2,210 radio stations and 75 million radio sets—eight times as many sets as in the Axis Nations.

Thus we see that the United States alone has nearly four times as many radio stations as in all Axis Nations combined—and nearly twice as many radio sets. The United States total: 924 stations, 56 million radio sets.

In radio sets per thousand population, the United and Neutral Nations have 47 per thousand; the Axis Nations 62 per thousand; in the United States itself there are 425 sets for every thousand people. In other words, there are nearly seven times as many sets per thousand people in the

United States as in the Axis Nations. The United States has 37 per cent of the world's radio stations, 924 out of 2,481. In short, a total of 30,600,000 United States radio families depend upon the 924 stations of our country for entertainment, information and education.

When war came to the United States, radio's public service immediately became war service for our entire industry of 924 stations, four national networks and 25,000 employees.

When the President spoke on that December Tuesday, he reached the greatest audience ever assembled in all history. Almost 92 per cent of all our citizens heard him outline the nation's war duties.

Today broadcasting plays a major role in . . .

1. Selling the country that "This Is War."

2. Telling the nation of the progress of the war.

3. Improving international relations.

4. Mobilizing the nation's youth.

5. Gearing civilian life to a war economy.

6. Keeping the world informed of U. S. war aims and efforts.

The contribution of broadcasting in war will, of course, be quickly translated into a contribution for peace when victory is ours. It remains for us to make a virtue of necessity, to use the speed-up of the war's exigencies to separate the findings and inventions for giving abundance and life, from the labor going into instruments that must now find their chief mission in dealing destruction and death.

First victory! Then the social vision to create world abundance. With abundance we shall have freedom, real freedom, and in the words of the Scots, let us fight toward that for "we are not fighting for honor or power, or glory, or money, but for freedom, which no good man gives up except with his life."