This I Believe

Motley, Arthur H. "Red"

  • Arthur Motley, president and publisher of Parade magazine, describes his expereince wathcing "Death of a Salesman" and his reaction ot the portrayal the negative portrayal of salesman and why he believes salesman and selling are synonymous with change, progress, action and is like life in miniature.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Arthur H. Motley is the president and publisher of Parade, the Sunday picture magazine which almost 15 million people read every week. He was raised and educated in Minnesota, and soon revealed his flair for showmanship when he ran a modernized medicine show--complete with calliope--to sell cough syrup. In 1928 he joined the Crowell-Collier Company and worked his way to the post of publisher of American Magazine. He is Chairman of the National Sales Executives, on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, and an adviser to the Commerce and State Department. Here are the personal beliefs of Red Motley.
I am a salesman. Even though I am a publisher, I am also a salesman. Several years ago, one of the most popular
plays on Broadway was Death Of A Salesman. I saw the play and watched the decay of its central figure, Willy Loman, a man whose personality and character eroded before one's eyes, supposedly because of the hollowness of a salesman's life. It was a searching play and a grim, even dismal, play. I knew what Arthur Miller, the playwright, was driving at, but as a salesman, I rejected--and I still reject--the belief that there was anything in Willy's profession that brought about his downfall. No, it was something else.
But before I explain my full meaning, let me state a few things simply. I believe in the active life. I believe in doing, in building, improving, trying to do better. I believe in change--change in institutions to improve them, change in manners to better them. I believe, finally, in selling--not just new products, but new ideas and new ways of looking at old things. I believe in new
approaches to old problems--political, social, economic, or just ordinary breakfast table disputes.
To me, these concepts of change, of action, of building and improving, are the most meaningful things in life. Not only do they bring expression and completion to the individual, but through most of history they have brought great benefit to other individuals and to society. It's been a long time since I looked at a college philosophy textbook. But I remember that when I did, I was always fascinated by how many philosophers, starting back with the old Greeks, were interested in the idea of the will, the power of the individual to do something on his own. It is an idea central to Christianity and to modern philosophy too.
Now to me, will is close to selling. The matching of values--intellectual, moral, or material, between two parties to see where the
most advantageous balance can be struck. Each side can take or leave what the other has to offer. But each side exercises its own will, and thus its own personality to the fullest. Thus I believe in selling as an act of will, and in competition as the best means of improving products, moral systems, governments, perhaps even religions. Was not St. Paul, in a certain crude sense, one of the greatest salesman of all time when he wandered through the marketplaces of the Near East, pitting the message of Jesus against the priests of the old religions?
But what about Willy Loman? In the play, he was a salesman, and his life suddenly fell about him in tatters. That to me was not at all because Willy happened to be cast as a businessman, but because he failed, through a flaw in his own character, to realize that selling is, in some ways, life in miniature. And that to master his territory and to sell his wares was
only the first step in coming to terms with other clients: the difficult customers of life, and growing age, and a wife who loved but failed to sympathize. Willy could sell others, but not himself.
One final word. I know that certain people find something crass in the idea of a salesman--something loud, pushy, and intolerable. I regret this but make no apologies. I also know well the satisfactions of a less hurried, less dynamic life. These I can appreciate. They are simply not for me.
I believe in action, in will, in change, and I am deeply convinced that the great advance our civilization has made since the time of Moses has been because many other people believe them too.
Those were the beliefs of Red Motley of Larchmont, New York, publisher of Parade Magazine.