Amid Super Bowl commercials hawking their wares with hot girls, voodoo, and low-brow humor, a spot for Dodge Ram trucks stood out for its ode to the hardworking, God-fearing, American farmer.
In a two-minute commercial that debuted during the fourth quarter of the game, Chrysler Group overlaid conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech “So God Made a Farmer,” with photographs of farmers and scenes from the farm. The commercial won third place in USA Today’s ad meter, an annual poll of the year’s greatest Super Bowl ads. Despite it’s praise for conservative and family values, the ad earned universal praise.
The speech juxtaposed the compassionate and rugged qualities of a farmer: “somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’” Photos of small-town USA—churches, farmers, farm animals, a family praying around the dinner table—taken by world-famous photographers flowed across the screen.
The ad took its idea from a YouTube video for Farms.com, which used the same speech and had a slideshow of farmers, the only difference being the quality of the photos and the images of the truck. Chrysler Group teamed with Farms.com to raise $1 million to support National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, and its hunger relief efforts.
Harvey recorded the speech at a 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. Nearly a decade later, when the essay was printed in his syndicated newspaper column, he noted that he did not write the piece himself, but received it in his mailbox, unsigned. “I’ve tried but cannot trace its source,” he wrote. “A farmer, perhaps; more likely a farmer’s wife. I’ve embellished the essay in places and cropped it in others but I hope the sense of it remains intact.”
Harvey, who died in 2009, was known as “the voice of Middle America,” sharing his conservative commentaries and peppering his news reports with stories of everyday Americans. During his six decades on air, Harvey made his signature voice, with catchphrases like “Paul Harvey...good day,” and dramatic pauses familiar to the an estimated 22 million listeners.
It seems that more than forty years later, the sentiments of farming life are still relevant. Media from Slate to NPR to TIME Magazine praised the earnestness of the ad and its sense of patriotism.
“This is the first commercial that has blown me away. Stunning images in the “God made a farmer”/Paul Harvey commercial for Ram,” tweeted MSNBC’s Chris Jansing.
The scratchy audio ends with Harvey saying that God needed “somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’ So, God made a farmer.”