DEARBORN - When Ford Motor Company was facing difficult times, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally says he and the senior leadership team combed through the company’s history looking for something special that would inspire everyone at Ford to move forward toward a profitable future.
Mulally found that inspiration in a Ford advertisement printed Jan. 24, 1925, in the Saturday Evening Post titled “Opening the Highways to All Mankind,” and on Monday evening he unveiled the newly restored original painting featured in that symbolic advertisement during a special ceremony held at The Henry Ford Museum.
“In the ad Henry Ford described what he believed Ford was going to be for everybody, and it was going to be dedicated to opening up the highways to all mankind, providing great cars and trucks and making them affordable so that everybody could appreciate the freedom of travel,” said Mulally. “When you think about it, we are now accelerating the implementation of Henry Ford’s original vision. How cool is that?”
The restoration of the painting – titled “Visions of Tomorrow” – along with a paper print of the ad was led by The Henry Ford and supported by a grant from the Ford Fund. Both artifacts will be featured in the museum’s “Driving America” exhibit.
“It is pretty special,” said Mulally. “It almost makes my eyes water because this painting symbolizes everything that we established as the foundation of Ford.”
Monday night’s ceremony – attended by nearly 200 members of the media – served as the kick-off for the third annual Go Further with Ford Trend Conference to be held in Dearborn this week.
Making a special appearance at The Henry Ford was Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers and a speaker at the conference, who talked about the importance of making innovation relevant to people’s lives, whether it be in the auto or computer industry.
“When we were starting personal computers … we started talking about what it was going to mean to people, not what kind of technology meant what and at certain speeds or how much of a computer it had,” he said. “It was how it was going to affect your life and open up streams of communication.”
A group of nearly 20 communication coaches from Ford manufacturing plants throughout the country attended the event at The Henry Ford, and they were impressed by what they saw and heard.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” said Madeline Lassing, who is a communications coach for the Chicago Stamping and Assembly Plants. “I think the historical background of the painting is very interesting and I think the message behind Alan’s talk tonight was very inspiring.”
Cindy Wood, communications coach at the Lima Engine Plant, also appreciated Mulally’s words.
“I thought he was very forthcoming talking about the future of Ford and going further,” she said.
John Fossen, communications coach for the Michigan Assembly Plant, says he was struck by the similarities between Ford in 1925 and today.
“I thought it was interesting to see the parallel between that painting and the words that were used by Ford Motor Company in that advertisement all those years ago and the company’s direction today,” he said. “They are virtually the same.”
Danny Shaw, communications coach for the Flat Rock Assembly and Woodhaven Stamping Plants, agreed.
“The idea resonated almost 90 years ago and it resonates just as much now – especially when you look at it and you see that it showed such a promising future,” he said. “And then you see someone like Steve Wozniak who really speaks to the technological highway merging with our physical highway. It’s two ideas that were meant to be married together.”
Mulally says that if Henry Ford were alive today to witness the restoration of the painting and the enactment of the plan he proposed all those many years ago he would be pleased.
“Henry Ford would say thank you, thank you, thank you for accelerating the implementation of my original compelling vision of making great cars and trucks and making them affordable to everybody so that life could be easier, pleasanter and more worthwhile,” said Mulally.
Special Note: To celebrate the restoration of the painting used to create the Opening the Highways ad as well as the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford, employees are invited to sign the Opening the Highways print, which is located at Ford World Headquarters on the wall just opposite the cafeteria.