History Station 3 – Community and Philanthropy

Every Sunday from September 1942 to July 1945 Charles F. Kettering could be heard the radio.  During the General Motors Symphony of the Air, Kettering, who was the Vice President of General Motors in charge of research, would give talks on Science and Invention during the five-minute intermission.   These talks ranged from topics on military and war to Freedoms that Americans have to inventions that he was involved with.  These five minute talks were found to be inspirational and informative by many people, especially teachers.  General Motors received many requests for the talks and eventually published a book with all of them in it. Listen to Charles F. Kettering’s radio addresses here:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGWWZVeHFIN0FrSU0; https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGbEFlS1RaUEt0SjQ; https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGeDl4YmU2V1FFd2c; https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGUTIyMU9kUFBkZDg; https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGOElSYWFEb0ljZGs

In addition to his radio addresses, Kettering was quite the philosopher and was often asked to speak at functions.  Kettering was inspirational, and at times funny when giving speeches.  While working for General Motors, he spent time working in Detroit.  Kettering’s home was in Dayton, Ohio, not Michigan, even though he worked there.  During one speech, Kettering tells a humorous story about living in Detroit and driving to Dayton in four hours and a half.  The speech shows Kettering’s sense of humor and his ability to poke fun at himself.  You can listen to part of the speech here, https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGbWNia09CWlVMa3c.

Other speeches Kettering gave were inspirational, rather than funny.  In one speech he talks about the difference between school aged children being evaluated or failing and compares it to inventors failing.  School aged children fail and it’s viewed as wrong, whereas when an inventor fails it is seen as a test and leads to further tries at the invention.

Listen here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGUHFkMERrMHJzdTQ – and he further explains how failure and inventors go hand and hand here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGVUxjbmhsdGoxOVk

Many of his speeches give an insight on Kettering’s philosophy and techniques – this speech perhaps gives us an idea that after trying and trying different options for something, the best thing to do is just close your eyes and hope for the best:   https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B36ktk05y8XGSk5Zc04yUWlnTjQ.

In 1927 Charles F. Kettering founded the Charles F. Kettering Foundation to sponsor and carry our scientific research for the advancement of human knowledge.  Kettering’s thought that ideas can best be developed through a team effort was applied to a wide variety of problems which were researched by the foundation.  Kettering wondered why grass is green or why we can see through glass and he wanted to understand how paint dried; these are some of the problems tackled by Kettering and later the foundation.  Also, included in the issues explored were social and political problems such as hunger and political instability.

In the 1970s the Kettering Foundation was reorganized as a private operating foundation, no longer making grants, but conducting its own research. Working with researchers from other institutions, the foundation staff began exploring education, urban affairs, science and technology, and international relations.  Researchers at the foundation began to believe that the world’s problems were more social and political than technical and scientific.  This led the foundation to focus on trying to understand how citizens and political systems can work together.  The foundation has researched how democracy can be strengthened and today is researching what it takes to make democracy work as it should.

The Kettering Foundation works with community organizations, communities, and institutions to exchange ideas and experiences around ways to strengthen democracy.  The Kettering Foundation provides insights that it has collected from past exchanges with other groups.  Most often these exchanges are done at the foundation, bringing together foundation staff and those who are experimenting to have a learning experience, not just an exchange of research.  These learning exchanges focus on solving particular problems with the objective of an exchange being to share what people are struggling with and to learn more about it.  The foundation also publishes books and periodicals and employs research fellows.

To learn more about the Kettering Foundation, visit their website: www.kettering.org