American Portraits

The Diligence of Henry Ford

In this lesson, students will learn about the diligence of Henry Ford and how they can use their own diligence to be successful.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.


Henry Ford was born an engineer. From an early age, he was interested in how things worked. He taught himself about machines by watching full-sized steam engines and repairing watches. While he worked for a short time as a farmer, Henry could not get machines off his mind. In 1891, he took a job with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company.  While working there, Ford began experimenting with developing his own gasoline engines….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can diligence help you to be successful?

Virtue Defined

Diligence is intrinsic energy for completing good work.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the diligence of Henry Ford and how they can use their own diligence to be successful.


  • Students will analyze the life of Henry Ford and examine his diligence.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of diligent behavior to their own lives.


Henry Ford has become a sort of mythological historic figure. Many people believe that he invented the assembly line or the first automobile, but he did neither. Ford improved upon both the automobile and the assembly line, making him a major industrial player at the turn of the twentieth century. Ford’s Model T brought the automobile into the driveways of many everyday Americans who could not have afforded cars before mass production techniques were developed.


  • Mythological
  • Industrial
  • Mass production
  • Engineer
  • Edison Electric Illuminating Company
  • Experimenting
  • Reliable
  • Model T
  • Clamber
  • Contribute
  • Turnover
  • Profit-sharing
  • Pacifist
  • Willow Run
  • Revolutionized
  • Standard of living

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was Henry Ford? What was his significance in American history?
  • What was Ford’s purpose in business?
  • How did Ford ensure that he met his goals?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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