Elbert Hubbard

A Message to Garcia

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A Message to Garcia Summary

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“A Message to Garcia” was written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard, and has enjoyed much success as a notable piece of creative nonfiction since its initial reception. The story itself centers on the universal themes of determination and hard work. The essay is actually based on the true story of a young lieutenant during the Spanish-American War. The lieutenant, Andrew Summers Rowan, was sent to Cuba alone with an extremely important mission: to carry a message to Garcia.

Hubbard’s essay reveals the context of Rowan’s reason for delivering the message. As it turns out, Garcia was the leader of the Cuban insurgents. The president of the United States at the time, William McKinley, needed Garcia’s help for the war effort. Not knowing how to win over the insurgent, it was suggested that someone deliver a message to Garcia personally. Rowan was the individual suggested to deliver the important message.

All President McKinley and his advisors knew was that Garcia was stationed somewhere in the Cuban mountains. But Garcia’s assistance was vital, and so with this scant information, Rowan accepted the task without question. He took the letter personally from President McKinley and headed to Cuba in an attempt to deliver the president’s message. Rowan journeyed alone, took a boat to the coast and trekked through jungles, intent on his mission. In time, he found Garcia’s hideout in the mountains and delivered the president’s letter.

Rowan’s sheer determination and seemingly superhero drive to get the president’s message to Garcia no matter the cost is the central thrust of Hubbard’s essay. Hubbard depicts Rowan as a model for all men, and on a global scale, for all of mankind. Rowan’s acceptance of his task without question, his attention to his duty and his desire to carry out the mission without faltering are traits that Hubbard says all young men should follow and/or strive for.

Despite his youth, and the uncertainties of traveling during wartime, Rowan knew the value of hard work and did not shirk from the task at hand. This trustworthiness on the part of Rowan is one of the virtues that makes Hubbard’s essay so relevant even in modern times. Rowan’s actions can be transplanted from the battlefield to modern-day duties and responsibilities, from school and schoolwork to work and social responsibilities. Hubbard’s essay argues that there is virtue in hard work and commitment, and that these virtues make young men into responsible men, and as such, into responsible members of society.

Hubbard’s message also takes a good look at initiative. As many critics have noted, there has been a lot written on leadership and what it takes to be a great leader. There has been a lot less written, however, on what it takes to be a hardworking follower. Rowan’s initiative is the stuff of dreams for many an employer in modern times, and so Hubbard’s essay is enigmatic of the type of initiative that a healthy workforce values and can certainly make use of, and ultimately needs more of, especially in this day and age.

Given the distractions of social media, the ability to connect to others without really knowing them, Hubbard’s essay sheds a well-needed light on contemporary society by revealing how a genuine approach to duty can not only connect one to a greater cause, but how this attention to initiative and hard work can ultimately transform one into a beacon of positive self-worth and identity, with the ability to affect change in others, as well as affect situations for the betterment of others.