Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“We frequently hear the word ‘lucky’ used with reference to a man’s life. Two boys start out in the world at the same time, having the same amount of education. When twenty years have passed, we find one of them wealthy and independent; we find him a successful professional man with an assured reputation, or perhaps at the head of a large commercial establishment employing many men, or perhaps a farmer owning and cultivating hundreds of acres of land. We find the second boy, grown now to be a man, working for perhaps a dollar or a dollar and a half a day, and living from hand to mouth in a rented house. When we remember that the boys started out in life equal-handed, we may be tempted to remark that the first boy has been fortunate, that fortune has smiled on him; and that the second has been unfortunate. There is no such nonsense as that. When the first boy saw a thing that he knew he ought to do, he did it; and he kept rising from one position to another until he became independent. The second boy was an eye-servant who was afraid that he would do more than he was paid to do-he was afraid that he would give fifty cents’ worth of labour for twenty-five cents […]The first boy did a dollar’s worth of work for fifty cents. He was always ready to be at the store before time; and then, when the bell rang to stop work, he would go to his employer and ask him if there was not something more that ought to be done that night before he went home. It was this quality in the first boy that made him valuable and caused him to rise. Why should we call him ‘fortunate’ or ‘lucky’? I think it would be much more suitable to say of him: ‘He is responsible.” – “Individual Responsibility: A Sunday Evening Talk,”-Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

At the onset of receiving an entering incoming freshmen class into a university, one becomes awed and buoyed by the extraordinary sense of possibility that each student has in his or her future. Whether they were 4.0 student or 2.8 students in high school, the beginning of freshman year matriculation is a unique opportunity in their lives to start anew and afresh. And Mr. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), provides an example of two young boys who possessed the same opportunities, but had very different outcomes 20 years later. It is all too easy to pass off Mr. Washington’s telling as some moralizing tale designed to motivate his students during one of his Sunday evening talks. Yet, we must be inclined to think that either Mr. Washington himself experienced this so-called tale directly-his autobiographical narrative Up from Slavery (1901) suggests as much-or he observed this in the lives of two of his students in his 34-year long tenure at the helm of Tuskegee University. Washington’s telling of such a tale might also raise the ire and suspicion of those who might argue the following:”It is roundly unfair for Mr. Washington to ascribe lacking personal responsibility to the woes of the second boy’s life because he doesn’t know what happened to him.” Notwithstanding any such dismissals, what Mr. Washington seeks to convey in this talk was the sense of a very real distinction between two young men who approached life matters-whether in the classroom or beyond-quite differently. The first young man was likely accused of being too punctual, too exact or just plain too serious. He often heard the now common proverbial expression: “It doesn’t take all of that.” And in spite of all attempts to justify the many failures of the second boy, all such attempts are undergirded with a profound sense of irony. (The very individuals who defend or make excuse for the second lad will also not hire him nor give him any responsibility regarding that, which is their own.) Wholly consistent with his reputation for being frank, honest and giving ‘straight talk,” Mr. Washington would not allow any such misgivings about his impressions of the success-or relative lack thereof-of the two boys described here. For Mr. Washington believed that “it does take all of that” to reach any desirable outcome, and one will be subject to the envy and criticism of others while doing it. Yet, enduring the sort of suffering experienced by the first boy is far better than experiencing the suffering of the second. We all experience one form of suffering or another, and if one learns how to suffer-to truly know how to suffer well in the thing that is good-one will learn how to succeed.

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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“Dear Taylor: This letter may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I hope you can see your way clear to accede to our request. After deliberating for a good deal of time over the matter, we have determined to put some one of our graduates in the field in the North to collect money for the school; interest and instruct the people about our work, and we have settled on the conclusion that we can get no better person to represent us than yourself.” -Booker T. Washington, June 9th 1893

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“Dear Friend: your letter of recent date was the greatest surprise imaginable. I have thoroughly considered the offer made to me and have decided to off-set my ideas of going to school next term, so as to comply with your request. As you know Alma-Mater means nourishing Mother. From an intellectual stand-point I consider Tuskegee my mother-so I am perfectly willing to act in the capacity of a child.” -R.W.Taylor June 14th 1893

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  
Aside from her students, there is no more important constituent group for Mother Tuskegee than her students (alumni) who have graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University). And this correspondence between Booker T. Washington and Robert Wesley Taylor illustrates the strong ties and affinity within the Tuskegee University Family. Note, the Founding Principal “deliberated for a good deal of time” when considering who among “the Sons and Daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee” would best represent the institution. Among the many shining arrows in their quiver, Robert Wesley Taylor was preeminent among the family’s best and brightest. Although familial relations dictate equal filial love among siblings, when parents have a need it is not unusual for the strongest, most diligent, most generous and most capable son or daughter to respond. This describes the character of Mr. Taylor. Hearkening to the true spirit of Alma Mater, he regarded Tuskegee as his “intellectual nourishing mother.” For Mother Tuskegee had nourished his nascent personal, intellectual, social and spiritual appetite with the milk of George Washington Carver and Robert R. Taylor among countless numbers of eminent professors, scholars and staff members who are still nourishing students today. Mr. Taylor did not stop at child-like professions of love for his mother. He exhibited the attitude of a full-grown son who responded with a ready reply when he was called. And “while children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children,” a child does well when he or she has left home to help restore the nourishing ability of his or her mother so that mother is able to continue nurturing many, many more sons and daughters for years to come. And in this the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015), there is no greater time than the present for the sons and daughters (and supporters) of Mother Tuskegee to support both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee University.

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 tried to pursue the policy of acting in a business-like prompt way especially when we are able to pay. I wish you would take up all these small accounts that are overdue and settle them. It is doubly necessary that an institution that depends for its living on begging money should keep a good business reputation. It is much more necessary than for an institution doing a strictly commercial business. It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike and this hurts us in getting funds. For all these reasons it is very necessary that all the matters I am referring to in this letter be carefully, systematically and promptly attended to in your office. Some of the letters regarding the bills that I refer to I enclose.” -Booker T. Washington, “February 13, 1915″
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, repeatedly demonstrated during his 34-year long administration, the stewardship of one’s existing resources goes hand-in-hand with the petitioning of additional resources. And Mr. Washington here again describes, in what would be the last year of his life, an important philanthropic consideration between a non-profit institution like Tuskegee University-and similarly situated higher education institutions-as opposed to a for-profit “commercial business.” A non-profit institution seeks to serve a higher and greater good, and while profit and revenue are supremely important drivers in such institutions, its focus upon an area of societal need such as higher education makes profit generation only one of several considerations unlike “commercial business”. And this is why non-profit institutions rely upon philanthropic (fundraising) gifts to help support their efforts to serve the larger good. (In the case of Mother Tuskegee, the education and the comprehensive development of her students is the highest and larger good.) Notwithstanding, such a noble aim does not exempt a non-profit institution from “keep[ing] a good business reputation” particularly when it continuously seeks “funds” to support its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory. Without respect to an institution’s noble ambitions, if it does not manage its existing resources in a manner that demonstrates that it can manage additional resources, it “hurt[s]” itself “in [the] getting [of] funds.” And Mr. Washington tells us precisely why it becomes “difficult” for others to give to it: “It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike…” Moreover, if such a “rumor” is circulated in the kind of “community” that can actually provide a non-profit institution with major, transformational assistance in the pursuit of its noble aims then the hurt is extremely harmful. For no corporation, foundation, organization, entity or individual donor who has successfully stewarded its own fiscal resources will give them to another who has not successfully stewarded its own-however small or meager. These entities are also accountable to their own stakeholders, customers and constituents who rightly question where their gifts are directed, and stakeholder’s rest easier knowing that major gifts from entities they are vested in are going to non-profit institutions who will steward them appropriately. And Mr. Washington, who Tuskegee University celebrates in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), was the recipient of many such major, transformational gifts because he “carefully, systematically and promptly attend[ed]” to the stewardship of Mother Tuskegee’s resources from 1881-1915.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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Tuskegee University and 7th President Appears on Cover of Diverse Magazine

Tuskegee University.

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the “Tuskegee spirit”; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it.” “Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the “Tuskegee spirit.” (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the “Tuskegee Airmen” whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the “Tuskegee spirit” is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The “Tuskegee spirit” is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.
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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Phillips Brooks gave expression to the sentiment: “One generation gathers the material, and the next generation builds the palaces.” As I understand it, he wished to inculcate the idea that one generation lays the foundation for succeeding generations. -Booker T. Washington, Future of the American Negro (1899)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Any institutional or organizational leader would be remiss–no fool hearted–if he or she did not first look to, then build upon and, finally, greatly improve upon the foundation of the past–particularly when that foundation is as solid and substantive as that which is found here at Tuskegee (Institute) University. (And this writer believes that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, was prescient enough to know that his was a foundation that any man or woman could build “palaces upon.”) Preparation, planning, purpose and performance are the hallmarks of sound management practices in any leadership and management paradigm, and a leader must not only prepare and plan on how to ascend to institutional leadership, but what to do with it once he or she gets it. One certain way of doing this is to return to the founder’s “foundation.” Booker T. Washington laid a rock-solid foundation based upon personal and organizational “integrity,” the greatest 9-letter word. In perusing through some 34 years of this man’s letters and correspondence, one finds that “integrity” is the most consistent and persistent attribute permeating within each writing or speech. Whether writing or speaking to persons small or great, he installed a vision on the basis of being truthful, honest and earnest in all his dealings, and such attributes appealed to both external and internal constituents alike-particularly when seeking major, transformational gifts like Booker T. Washington secured. (The best institutional leaders and organizations are “transparent,” “consistent,” “communicative,” and “collaborative”.) What the man, Booker Washington, spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in one arena was consistent with what he spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in another arena, thus forming an unbroken chain of integrity on which he built the foundation of Tuskegee. This integrity extended not only to the world-renowned bricks of Tuskegee’s oldest buildings, but also to the foundational philosophy of Tuskegee University and its founder.

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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“My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given.” -Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Hear this repeatedly. Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University is world-renowned for his many signal accomplishments during his 34-year tenure. However, none were more significant to the mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of Tuskegee University than his accomplishments as a fundraiser. (The man Booker T. Washington was not merely a great President and fundraiser for a historically black university such as Tuskegee University. He exhibited the two greatest 9-letter words: integrity and knowledge.) Arguably, his documented successes recording his fundraising activities involving his direct leadership and involvement are comparable to the greatest presidents in the history of all American higher education. Among the many letters documenting how he accomplished this-including but not limited to–good business practices, speeches, writings, selecting competent personnel, personal and professional ethics, fiscal management and utilizing in the late 19th Century what we now term, “tuition discounting” or “work study” to assist deserving students who worked in exchange for these “scholarships,” he offers an additional stratagem for his success: “My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given.” Note the simplicity of Mr. Washington’s suggestion: Properly and effectively utilize the money for the purposes for which they were given. “Stewardship”-one of the greatest 11-words-is quite indispensable in fundraising. Booker T. Washington understood then what many are coming to understand now in 21st Century Philanthropic studies. Wealthy organizations, donors and corporations were made wealthy in part due to stewardship and contrary to popular-and often uninformed-sentiment about the work of university presidents and the work of fundraising, persons and entities are not required to give solely because they are asked. As successful stewards of their own resources and their own stakeholders themselves, they GIVE to what is GOOD. Further, those that give, first earned it to give it. For they have already learned the very principles of success, one of the greatest 7-letter words, that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University suggests here. These persons and organizations are successful and they give to organizations that will utilize these resources to contribute to the institution’s own on-going, continuous success and improvement. And in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since the passing of Booker T. Washington, there is no better university to give to than Tuskegee University and her students-the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee and the sons and daughters of Booker.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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