Keynote Speech at Gardner High School, Gardner Mass Jun 2006
Keynote address at Gardner High School Graduation, Gardner Mass, June 3, 2006
Ray Carey is the author of Democratic Capitalism, The Way to a World of Peace and Plenty.
Principal Baldassarre, Mayor St. Hilaire, Superintendent Dr Daring, committee, parents, friends, teachers, and grads to be
It’s a great pleasure for me to be with you today. The last time I clutched this podium I was president of the class of ’44. Now is my opportunity to share lessons learned since with you. This is your night to celebrate, however, I’ll keep it short.
Gardner is described in my book as: “ a perfect place to grow up… good education…good people… a pervasive work ethic… a sense of being part of a whole...a feeling of responsibility to contribute… egalitarian with the emphasis on equal opportunity.” I have wonderful feelings about GHS and its great teachers like Miss Baron in Latin, Miss Cobliegh in Math, and Miss Fairbanks in English who not only taught me and my sister Ann but also my mother and dad, class of 1916.
You are entering a stage in your life in which as citizens of the world’s most powerful nation you have new responsibilities. Begin with the question: why is the world full of misery, violence, and folly? The record shows that. 1/3 of the world’s people try to live on $2 a day and 160 million people were killed by governments during the 20th century.
My experience as Plant Manager of Electro Dynamic an unprofitable motor company in Bayonne NJ, in the late 1950s began to give me answers to that vital question. Simply by freeing the people to contribute and by building team spirit first learned as a co-captain of the GHS football team, the company became a profitable industry leader. The other co-Captain Reggie Boone scored five touchdowns against Leominster that year which has nothing to do with your graduation but is a wonderful memory.
I first discovered from the Electro dynamic experiences that in every human association performance improves with trust and cooperation. My appreciation of the power of economic freedom was later confirmed by countries like China and India who used economic freedom to take ½ billion people out of extreme poverty in the last decade.
Electro Dynamic prospered but in 1963 a fire started in a nearby plastic factory and driven by 50-knot winds across Newark Bay destroyed the jobs and dreams of 800 people and their families. We watched late into a Saturday night when all 14 buildings burned down including the one where President Kennedy’s PT 109 was built. I was then president and the following morning 15 managers met at my home to discuss how to rebuild ED. Others said that it was mission impossible. We rebuilt in a new facility and kept all but ten employees. This experience taught me that people united in economic common purpose can accomplish extraordinary goals. I came to believe that united people could stop the violence in a wonderful inversion in which. the standard of living goes up and the violence goes down. This was later demonstrated by the European Union when the Europeans decided after centuries of killing millions of their young men in senseless wars that they would unite in economic common purpose and stop the killing, and they did.
Fast forward to the 1970s when I was CEO and Chairman of ADT, Inc a large, old company. We were located in the World Trade Center at my office was where the first plane hit in the 9/11 tragedy but we had moved out a few years earlier. Like ED many talented people were at ADT eager to participate and they built profitable momentum that provided an opportunity for a plan in which associates become part owners from payroll deductions matched by the company as performance improves. A contest to name the plan was won by a lady in the Detroit office who suggested that the more people cared the more they would have to share, hence Care and Share. Ten years later associates owned 13% of the company and some of the lowest paid took home six figure checks to their surprised spouses.
I had learned the stark differences from short-term and greedy capitalism that pays the CEO 300 times the average worker while maximizing profits by suppressing wages and benefits in an environment of fear and intimidation, in contrast to democratic capitalism, that maximizes profits by motivating and rewarding people for their innovation and productivity in an environment of trust and cooperation.
From experience and study I had two of the answers to that hard question: there is noreason for misery as economic freedom can feed, clothe, shelter, educate and provide good health for all, and there is no reason for violence because economic common purpose can stop the violence. Terrorists will lose their funding and, in time, young people in all cultures will demand the good life.
Folly continues, however, because big mistakes are made by a few people. We have abandoned the ideal of our Founders who believed that government must reflect the “will and wisdom:” of the people filtered by an “aristocracy of talent and virtue.” Thus the egregious mistakes by the few, like George III and Louis XVI at that time, would be avoided by the wisdom of educated citizens.
For example, I believe that you as a group could design an economic system based on trust and cooperation that did not concentrate wealth in record amounts, and a foreign policy based on trust and cooperation in which America was a strong team player. You could start at the economic, not the political end; believe in the inevitability of peace, not war; and find new leadership, whether Republican or Democrat is not important as both need a reform agenda. Perhaps new leadership, the “aristocracy of talent and virtue” is here in this room, getting ready to graduate. Why not? You have been given a wonderful start by your good fortune of growing up in Gardner.
My book, Democratic Capitalism, The Way to a World of Peace and Plenty, is in your libraries but can be read and downloaded from my website www.democratic-capitalism.com. I would welcome your email communication.
At the end of my book I present my vision of a world in which countries compete on improving the lives of their people based on the U N Human Development Index which “ will shine a bright light on any nation that is not improving lives, and an even brighter light of stardom on every nation that is leading the way. Future generations will benefit from this self-perpetuating momentum towards the realization of full human potential but will wonder why it took so long because it will seem so essentially human, so reasonable!”
Such a beautiful world is a pragmatic opportunity during your lifetime. Please use your powers of reason to understand the way, and then use your political power to make it happen. Congratulations on your accomplishments, and good luck with your new responsibilities.