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^actors Underlying the

Leadership of the
Railways of America


Factors Underlying the

Leadership of the
Railways of America

By John R. Mott

An Address given at the


JUNE 16, 1922



An Address Given at the Hotel Commo-
dore, New York, June 16, 1922

MR. CHAIRMAN, Gentlemen: I
value highly the privilege of
meeting in an intimate way with
this company of men of wide outlook, of
large achievement and of proved respon-
siveness to the highest ideals and pur-
poses. As the Chairman has indicated,
it has been my lot to devote much of my
life abroad as well as here in America
to traveling work. I find myself, there-
fore, always at home in the midst of
railway men, having spent now nearly
thirty-five years in almost incessant travel
among the nations. I am prepared to
appreciate sympathetically as well as with


my 'Whole 'rftiiidV assent' the finer aspects
of this work in honor of which we meet
today, and also lying back of that, the
work of the railways themselves. Every
time I come back from a foreign journey,
whether from the Orient, or from the
western nations, or from those that lie
south of us, I have a deepened sense of
appreciation of the unique and stupen-
dous service rendered by the railways of
America to the upbuilding of the life of
our nation.

It is due to the railways that we have
had the almostunbelievable development
of the vast material resources of the
American continent. It is due to the rail-
way service, and this is often overlooked,
that there has been facilitated so largely
the nation-wide dissemination of intelli-
gence as well as the physical and social
well-being of the American people.
Likewise, the railways have done more
than any other one factor to promote the
unity of the nation. Just as the Civil War
fused together forever the American


States politically, so the ceaseless shuttling
of the railways has made possible and
done much to realize the social unifica-
tion and the real spiritual solidarity of
our strongly sectional and markedly cos-
mopolitan population. How much that
means only those of us fully appreciate
who travel widely over the land. More-
over, the American people do not realize
the great contribution of our railways in
preventing some of the great ills and
perils that have well nigh undone other
nations and have actually brought on
some of the greatest calamities of man-

When on my recent visit to China I
heard of the terrible havoc and suffering
caused by the famine, I said, "How much
of this might have been prevented by an
adequate railway service." When in In-
dia I have found, even under the match-
less administration of Britain, how great
famines at times still obtain among the
three hundred millions of Hindustan, and
have said, "What would not be the situ-


ation were it not for the railways they
have, and what is not a widely extending
country saved by having an adequate rail-
way system?" When I was in Russia in
the summer of 1917 with my good friend
General Scott, sent by the President as
members of the Root Mission, and we
saw the crumbling of the Russian Army
and the rise of Bolshevism, we recognized
that the principal thing which made this
great catastrophe possible was the break-
down of the means of communication.
The reason why we have had to pour tens
of millions of dollars worth of provisions
into Russia this year to save them from
starvation, and the reason why the great
political distemper of Bolshevism, like
a malignant disease, still eats its way into
the heart of Russia, is because of insuf-
ficient transportation.

Think also of the great contribution of
American railways in opening in the rail-
way service boundless opportunity to suc-
cessive millions of men for useful work
and for advancement. Our railways con-


stitute one of the greatest, if not the great-
est, school of democracy we have.

Why is it that the American railways
hold the primacy among the railroad
systems of the nations? It is a fact fa-
miliar to those present that America has
practically one-half of the railway mile-
age of the entire world. That, however,
is not what impresses us so much as the
causes which have given the railways of
America their unique distinction and
great achieving power.

What are some of the factors which
have made the American railways great
and given them leadership among the
railway systems of the world? I may be
far afield -but I think one of the factors
has been the spaciousness of the oppor-
tunity. They had a vast continent thrust
upon them to be opened, settled, subdued
and developed. There was something
about this which appealed powerfully to
the imagination and also to the adven-
turous and heroic in strong men. It
served to call out the best that was in


them. Someone might say, "Is there not
a great continent in Africa? What about
Siberia which is nearly three times the
size of Canada or the United States?"
Yes, their day will come, and I predict
that the very spaciousness of those vast
areas, which grew upon me as I made my
long journeys over them, will yet chal-
lenge some of the greatest minds and re-
lease the latent energies not only of the
Russian people but also of other nations
whose cooperation they must have.

The admitted leadership of American
railways may also be explained by the
freedom which they have had to evolve
plans and project them through the dec-
ades, notwithstanding embarrassing and
harassing restrictive legislation legis-
lation which in its practical effects or
outworking has often proved to have been
unpatriotic. When we contrast the de-
velopments on this side of the Atlantic
with those in the European nations and
even more with those in Latin America
we recognize that we have had a measure

of libertythat has made possibleour show-
ing what railways can do and how they
can serve the interests of a great people.

Another factor that explains the great-
ness of our railways has been the emi-
nent leadership which these enterprises-
have had. I make bold to say that there
is no work in America or in any other
country which has called out among men
more power of vision, more capacity for
initiative, more organizing ability, that
is, the ability to wield and combine men,
than has the leadership of the railway
systems of this country.

Undoubtedly another cause has been
not only the power of mentality and per-
sonality to which I have called attention,
but likewise the money power. What
undertaking in America or in any other
nation has had so largely poured out
upon it the great energies of capital, not
only of the rich but also of what we
might call associated poverty. What
project have we today that is more truly

Then I like to add another factor that
has made us forge to the front. That has
been our power to cooperate. I remem-
ber the discerning remark of Senator
Root, u You may judge the degree of ad-
vancement of a nation's civilization by
its ability to cooperate with other
nations." This is just as true of com-
panies as it is of nations. Judging by
this test, the railway companies of this
country have evolved into a high stage
of advancement and present an example
of which we may be proud. We all re-
member the days of keen and remorse-
less competition, even unto warfare. It
sometimes had its advantages in calling
out the latent capacities of men and
companies; but we have evolved, I re-
peat, into that state where railways, not-
withstanding centrifugal energies, have
shown their ability to cooperate with one
another, and, what I sometimes think is
even more striking, have developed un-
usual capacities of cooperation inter-
nally. When we think of troubles between


companies and men we may at times feel
depressed, and wonder whether or not
this point is true, but if we contrast what
we have here with what they have in
certain other nations, we shall find abun-
dant ground for encouragement and hope.

Were I to mention another factor, it
would be to emphasize the general char-
acter and spirit of the men in the service
from top to bottom. I do not wonder
that you are proud of this service. Nor
do I wonder that the thing that causes us
most solicitude is the fact that at times
we are conscious that there is not the
desired solidarity, or the sense of the
solidarity that does exist. This leads us
right into the heart of what has brought
us here today.

Among the influences that have made
possible the remarkable personnel of the
American railway systems is the work of
the Railroad Young Men's Christian
Association. It deserves to be ranked
very high indeed if we may judge by the
testimony of the railway officials. What

agency has begun to do as much to pro-
mote right character, right relationships,
and right spirit among the men in the
varied services as has the Young Men's
Christian Association?

The word that I suppose we heard most
frequently in the war was the word
"morale." You will remember the dic-
tum of Napoleon that morale is to other
factors in war as three to one. The World
War was a war of morales. You will
recall that Hindenburg in the early days
of the war said that the victory would
ultimately be achieved by the nation that
had the strongest nerves. I do not like
that word as well as I like the word
"morale" which represents, as I see it,
the spirit of the men.

It will be interesting to remind our-
selves of what it was that at times tended
to destroy the morale of men in the
armies. War-tiredness in some cases was
the cause; again it was idleness; at other
times it was uncertainty or doubt; and
not infrequently it was what we called


enemy propaganda. These were among
the principal influences. On the other
hand, what were the causes that contrib-
uted most powerfully to the building up
and maintaining of high morale? As I
answer this question my answer will con-
stitute in some respects the best outline I
could give of the work of the Railroad
Young Men's Christian Association, be-
cause what this organization is striving
to do along railway lines of the country
is to promote the right morale, that is the
right character, attitude and spirit of the
men. I would, therefore, ask the ques-
tion again : What were the factors in the
war that did most to maintain and
strengthen morale? One of them un-
doubtedly was the promotion of the phys-
ical comfort of the men. I do not need
to fill in what you will find in these pages
[referring to a pamphlet on the table].
That is one of the great objects of the
Railroad Association. When you think
what it does with its dormitories, restau-
rants, rest rooms, athletic features, its


homelike lounges, you understand what
we mean by the physical comfort of the
men. A second factor that contributed
to morale was the mental and heart con-
tentment of the men. Again you will re-
call vividly the entertainments, the lec-
tures, the reading rooms of the army Y.
huts and of the Railroad Y. buildings at
terminal and division points, and you rec-
ognize the full force of this point.

The right use of the leisure hours had
very much to do with preserving and
strengthening morale. I trace nineteen-
twentieths of the troubles among young
men to unaccounted-for hours some-
times an evening off, sometimes a day,
sometimes a week-end. It is to these va-
cant hours that I trace the lapses and falls
of men. We cannot well overstate the
importance of a program such as that of
the Association to occupy usefully the
vacant spaces in the time of men.

Another thing that contributed much
to feeding the morale of men in the war
was the opportunity the Association af-

forded them to change their minds. After
spending long days and nights in the
trenches, or after being on the battlefield
where they witnessed scenes and had ex-
periences which they would fain forget,
or after the irksome routine of camp life,
to be able to go into a bright and cheerful
room and mingle with their fellows and
converse with the men and women work-
ers in charge and enjoy the diverting
games and uplifting ministries to mind
and spirit, was the means of transform-
ing their whole mental outlook.

Another influence that made for morale
was the consciousness the men had that
they were not forgotten, that the people
back at home the citizens of their native
land believed in them, were indeed in-
terested in them, and followed them there,
not simply through government taxes but
through such welfare organizations as the
Young Men's Christian Association.
Tens of millions were contributed for Y.
huts, equipment and facilities. The
same influence is exerted by the Railroad


Y. with its generous backing from the
companies and their stockholders and

The secretarial leadership of this work
has also had a profound influence. I
can speak freely on this point because I
am not known technically as a Railroad
Secretary. But I know these secretaries
and how they have spent themselves and
how they count it a high honor to be of
service to the railway men. They have
helped immeasurably, in my judgment, to
keep alive the ideals that have done so
much to feed the spirit and maintain the
morale of the men.

Let me emphasize as a chief factor the
ministry of pure religion, the religion
that St. James spoke of, pure and unde-
filed, which is being exemplified, lived
and communicated in the religious pro-
gram of these Associations. What did
this not mean to men going into battles;
what has it not meant to men since in the
more difficult period following the Ar-
mistice; what has it meant to millions


of men in the railroad service, who
through these Associations have come
under the wonderful, superhuman influ-
ence of Jesus Christ.

Well, therefore, may we today, on the
turning of the fiftieth milestone of the
work of the Railroad Young Men's
Christian Association, pay our tribute to
this nation-wide, beneficent, efficient and
fruitful organization. It has accom-
plished a great work. With its hundreds
of Associations, with its scores of thou-
sands of members, with its large property
interests of many millions, with the back-
ing of nearly every railway company of
importance in the land, with the wide
outreach of its influence to other lands, it
is on the threshold of vastly greater

If I were to mention another great re-
sult that has been achieved and is being
increasingly achieved, next to its influ-
ence on the character and spirit of the
men, I would speak of the unifying power
of the Railroad Young Men's Christian


Association. In these recent fateful and
tragic years we have witnessed an alarm-
ing development and manifestation of the
divisive forces of mankind. I sometimes
think the greatest problem before us for
the next fifteen years is the racial prob-
lem. Not only the divisive tendencies
among the races but among the nations.
Nor would I overlook another great di-
visive tendency that in the social and
industrial order. The conflict is on.
What does it not mean that we have an
organization which for fifty years has
shown its ability, as no other society with
which I am familiar, to unite in one
membership, one program, and one ob-
jective, the employers and employes, and
this in a voluntary and not an obligatory
way, with the largest possible freedom of
expression and action, and, therefore, en-
suring the finest and most effective co-
operation? What has it not meant? I
am not surprised that the other great
industries of the world have finally been
convinced after watching for years this


practice game of the Railroad Y., and
now we cannot keep up with their de-
mand for the extension of the Young
Men's Christian Association work on the
railway Association model to their in-
dustries. Nor should we wonder that
industrial leaders in Europe and in Asia
have requested that we send experts to
study their fields at first hand, and to plan
agencies and facilities for their service.
Discerning observers recognize afresh the
stabilizing and steady guiding power of
this great work.

In a time of strain like the present, it
assumes added meaning and importance.
To my mind, we are summoned at a mo-
ment like this to expand greatly our plans.
There are some things on which we have
to call time, but this is not one of them.
This is one of the projects from the na-
ture of the case that should be expanded
until the helpful network of the organi-
zation is spread much more intimately
over all classes of men throughout all the
railways of America. We want to keep


in mind what the French call "grand
strategy." By grand strategy they mean
that which takes in the whole map all
the fronts. As I look over our great
American republic and notice the spaces
that are without these facilities and with-
out the helpful working of these vital
and steadying processes, I say let us have
grand strategy that takes in every railway
system in its entirety. To this end we
must expand greatly the resources for this
work. So far as I can see there is no
more highly multiplying use of money
right now than that of relating it to these
plans, to influence aright the ideals, the
character, the spirit, the efficiency, the
relationships, the output of the men to
whom we commit such unparalleled in-
terests of property and of human life.


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Online LibraryJohn Raleigh MottFactors underlying the leadership of the railways of America → online text (page 1 of 1)