The Four-Way Test
Darrell Thompson is a member of the Rotary Club of Morro Bay, California. This article is adapted from a speech given by Darrell, with contributions from Rotarians Douglas W. Vincent of Woodstock-Oxford, Ontario, Canada, and Myron Taylor.
More than 60 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, a U.S. Rotarian devised a simple, four-part ethical guideline that helped him rescue a beleaguered business. The statement and the principles it embodied also helped many others find their own ethical compass. Soon embraced and popularized by Rotary International, The Four-Way Test today stands as one of the organization's hallmarks. It may very well be one of the most famous statements of our century.
Herbert J. Taylor, author of the Test, was a mover, a doer, a consummate salesman and a leader of men. He was a man of action, faith and high moral principle. Born in Michigan, USA, in 1893, he worked his way through Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
After graduation, Herb went to France on a mission for the YMCA and the British Army welfare service and served in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps in World War I. In 1919, he married Gloria Forbrich, and the couple set up housekeeping in Oklahoma, USA, where he worked for the Sinclair Oil Company. After a year, he resigned and went into insurance, real estate and oil lease brokerage.
With some prosperous years behind him, Herb returned to Chicago, Illinois, in 1925 and began a swift rise within the Jewel Tea Company. He soon joined the Rotary Club of Chicago. In line for the presidency of Jewel in 1932, Herb was asked to help revive the near-bankrupt Club Aluminum Company of Chicago. The cookware manufacturing company owed $400,000 more than its total assets and was barely staying afloat. Herb responded to the challenge and decided to cast his lot with this troubled firm. He resigned from Jewel Tea, taking an 80 percent pay cut to become president of Club Aluminum. He even invested $6,100 of his own money in the company to give it some operating capital.
Looking for a way to resuscitate the company and caught in the Depression's doldrums, Herb, deeply religious, prayed for inspiration to craft a short measuring stick of ethics for the staff to use.
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