Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“I do not say you should not use them, should not posses them, should not crave them, but do not make the mistake of feeling that titles are going to help you, unless you have got strength aside from the title. No amount of titles will put brains into a person’s head if the brains are not there before.”-Booker T. Washington, “A Sunday Evening Talk,” January 10, 1909

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Hear this again and again: Positional and titular authority is the lowest form of authority. If a man or woman cannot nor does not command the respect of his supervisors, peers, colleagues and subordinates independent of a position or title, this man or woman is no greater than the man or woman who has no such position and title. Positions change, and the only permanence one can possess is that found in one’s own person in back of the position. This is why the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University constantly impressed upon his students the need to constantly improve their own persons. Note the following: It is but half the task to secure the title or position. The most significant half is what one does with the title or position. (One must not only plan how to get the position or title but what to do with the position and title when one gets it.) And the attention paid to one’s own person helps towards this end. Aside from acquiring credentials and competence, the comprehensive development of one’s person is a third facet that can never be taken from the person in back of a position. More importantly, these facets are easily transferrable from position to position, unit to unit or organization-to-organization, which is why the singular, solitary focus upon a position and title as opposed to the development of one’s own person is unwise. For the man or woman who has “strength aside from the title” and who has “brains” in their “heads” will always possess these attributes without regards to a position or a title. (And they will always be desired and in demand.) And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University who we celebrate in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015) was not only such a man, but he also offered these wise “words” and set forth the accompanying “works” in his 34-year long presidency at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University (1881-1915).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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Tuskegee University Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Observance

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Booker T. Washington Centennial Kickoff Lecture (1915-2015) by Dr. Brian Johnson

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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Dear Mr. Logan: War now seems sure. Buy nothing except absolute necessities. Live on the farms in every way as far as you can. Yours sincerely. “April 5, 1898,” -Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Abigail Adams wrote the following: “Great necessities call forth great leaders.” And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington was such a leader.  Mr. Washington’s communications to his modern-day equivalent of a chief financial officer, Mr. Warren Logan, was likely in reference to America’s 3-month long war in 1898 with Spain. As evidenced in an earlier letter, Booker T. Washington’s far-reaching political connections into the halls of government, provided him a tip on the impending war, and Mr. Washington took immediate action to respond. Like a good leader, he prepared and planned, erring on the side of caution and prudence. He did not know that the war would last only 3 months, but prepared as if it would last for 3 years. He cut spending, and he urged Mr. Logan to rely upon Tuskegee University’s own resources-its own farms-“in every way as far as you can.” For Mr. Washington well understood that “great leaders” in times of “great necessities” focus upon “absolute necessities.”

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“I have great faith in the power and influence of facts.” -Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Men and women who possess leadership responsibilities beyond their own persons would be hard pressed to find any better ally or supporter than facts.  And men and women of the ilk of Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, marshaled both favorable or unfavorable facts to similar ends. It is simply not true that one should keep one’s eyes open to favorable facts while closing one’s eyes to unfavorable facts. Mr. Washington’s penchant for earnestness, frankness and directness in his communications to donors and external constituencies always commingled both favorable and unfavorable facts. As to favorable facts, one ought always communicate what the organization does well in a clear, documentable and evidentiary fashion. (An outcomes-oriented organization need not rely upon fables when facts are present.) On the other hand, communicating unfavorable facts is equally important. Whether one concedes it or not, everyone knows when something “is not right.” A plain statement and admission of an organization’s current environment is one of the clearest telltale signs of organizational integrity. (Hear again, “integrity” is the single greatest 9-letter word.) For Mr. Washington did not merely state that all things were always favorable. (Why would anyone seek outside help if all things, as they currently exist, are favorable? Any petition for aid immediately pronounces the opposite. For no one asks for help when there is no need for it.) Instead, he oft-times made a plain statement of the organization’s current environment while positively projecting its target environment. In this regard all successful outside entities have empathy towards such an organization because a right understanding of one’s current environment with a view towards its target environment necessitates a commingling of both facts that are favorable and unfavorable.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“Of course, not all men who go into politics are affected in the way that I have described. Let me add that I have known many public men and have studied them carefully, but the best and highest example of a man that was the same in political office that he was in private life is Col. Theodore Roosevelt. He is not the only example, but he is the most conspicuous one in this respect that I have ever known.“- Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

William Shakespeare offers the following observation of humanity: “Virtuous and villainous all men must be; Few in the extreme but all in the degree.” And it is the rarest and most “extreme” of cases indeed where one finds men and women whose professed words are consistently resembled in their lived works. In Booker T. Washington’s second observation of Theodore Roosevelt he speaks to the 2nd greatest 10-letter word: Consistent (Here again, character is nothing but consistency. It is not your highest moment nor your lowest moment but your most consistent moment.) The man Booker who met national and global leaders described Mr. Roosevelt as not only the “highest example of a man that was the same in political office that he was in private life” but he also says “he is the most conspicuous one in this respect I have ever known.” Repeatedly, men and women are often mistakenly preoccupied with the position as opposed to the person in back of the position. Any study of leadership fails in this regard if a suitable distinction is not made between the public position and the person. It is a rarity indeed when one can witness the passion of a person fully expressed in a position, which is what is repeatedly found in the annals of history about Roosevelt. (This man was a leader in public and in private without regard to the position. And the connection between the person, passion and position is the most ideal expression of power.) Men and women like Roosevelt were not pretending. They were men and women of purpose-the greatest 7-letter word. So was the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, who was a person of passion who served in a position of power that enabled him to fulfill a great purpose. Tuskegee University celebrates Mr. Washington in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“One of the most striking things about Mr. Roosevelt, both in private and public life, is his frankness. I have been often amazed at the absolute directness and candour of his speech. He does not seem to know how to hide anything. In fact, he seems to think aloud. Many people have referred to him as being impulsive and as acting without due consideration. From what I have seen of Mr. Roosevelt in this regard, I have reached the conclusion that what people describe as impulsiveness in him is nothing else but quickness of thought. While other people are thinking around a question, he thinks through it. He reaches his conclusions while other people are considering the preliminaries. He cuts across the field, as it were, in his methods of thinking.”- Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

One can be slow to act if one is quick to understand. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) describes this attribute of intelligence in one of the world’s most esteemed men: Theodore Roosevelt. Quick wittedness or (being quick to understand or know) is often unfavorably interpreted. Like a world class musician upon an instrument, a person in such a class as Roosevelt–and Mr. Washington who was able to recognize such a quality-might simply find it difficult to explain the attribute of “quickness of thought,” and others might find it difficult to believe that such an attribute of “quickness of thought” exists. And while it is true what C.S. Lewis writes, “education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil,” such was not the case with men like Roosevelt and Washington. For the works of these men-not merely their words-attest to the fact that the employment of their unique gifts were for the good of others. This is particularly true of Booker T. Washington who Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015). This man possessed not only the intellectual attribute of “quickness of thought” but also the following greatest 6-letter words: Vision-Leader-Genius.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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