Deliver Your Message to Garcia

Deliver Your Message to Garcia[originally published in KCN, January 2014]

“Deliver your message to Garcia” is hardly what you’d expect to read on a bathroom wall, but it is precisely what was scribed above the faculty toilet at the Palmer School of Chiropractic a century ago.  BJ Palmer, our profession’s developer, was known for making the walls of his learning institution “speak” — even if the wall happened to be in the bathroom.  No square inch was safe from his sign-like display of painted epigrams.  The school was covered with thousands of these short, pithy, thought-provoking sayings. They were designed to not only spark interest, but reflection, and over time, action.

While many were self-explanatory, like “Keep Smiling,” some were not. “Deliver your message to Garcia” may be nonsensical to us today, but it had great meaning and cultural popularity in the first part of the twentieth century.

With some internet sleuthing I soon discovered the quote was attributed to American writer, publisher, artist, philosopher, and — not surprisingly — friend and mentor to Palmer, Elbert Hubbard. It was from an essay Hubbard had penned one evening to act as filler for the latest edition of his magazine. It would be this essay, “A Message to Garcia,” that would sweep the world, selling over 40 million copies with translations into all written languages.

Hubbard’s story told of an obscure but important event surrounding the 1898 Spanish-American War.  With tensions mounting between the United States and Spain (which ruled Cuba at the time), President McKinley saw strategic value in establishing rapport with Cuban rebels should war with Spain ensue.  Communication needed to be established posthaste.  As such, the president called for someone to quickly deliver a message to Insurgent General Garcia whose post was somewhere deep in the jungled mountains of the foreign land.  Captain Andrew Rowan was recommended for the task: “…Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”  And so the Commander-in-Chief of our powerful nation handed this army officer a letter with instruction for it to be “delivered to Garcia.”

Bottom line: Rowan delivered the letter against all odds and did not ask “Where is he at?”

“It is not book-learning young men need,” Hubbard exhorted, “nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; [to] do the thing – ‘carry a message to Garcia!’”

The message this literary classic “delivered” over a century ago, more than ever, still rings true today.  In a world where  “slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule,” we need “Rowans” that are willing to “do the thing” … to stand up, take initiative, “Just Do It!” and “Git-R-Done!” with loyalty to themselves, their bosses, and their organizations.

And so as Palmer’s instructors invariably found themselves taking time out in the lavatory each and everyday, there before them, inscribed on the wall, was the message to “do the thing”:

To “do the thing” to perpetuate in their students the principle and practice of chiropractic “unadulterated and unmixed.”
To “do the thing” to teach their students to “better serve mankind…. relieving suffering and adding millions of years to the lives of millions of people.”
To “do the thing” to implore their students to  “guard well…. the sacred trust placed in their possession.”

What message are you delivering?


Dr. Thomas R. Lamar is a chiropractor at Anchor Chiropractic (a licensed 100-Year-Lifestyle affiliate) in the Health Services Center and hosts the Internet radio program Lamar can be reached at (360) 297-8111.


source used for this article:
Hubbard, E. “A Message to Garcia.” Philistine. March. 1899.
Read more regarding Elbert Hubbard and his influence on BJ Palmer’s Epigrams.
Listen to Dr. Lamar talk about this special epigram and read Hubbard’s essay on Spinal Column Radio 169 (2:33:53 mark).
Explore posts in the same categories: chiropractic history, chiropractic philosophy, inspirational

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