Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“He is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops.” -Booker T. Washington, “My Larger Education (1911)”

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson      

There is nothing more painstaking to endure than one who talks simply for the sake of talking. For such a person rambles until-hopefully-someone picks up upon perhaps a word, a phrase or a sentiment that would justify the many other poorly thought or mis-spoken ideas that the rambler has already proffered. This is entirely unlike the man or woman that the founding principal president of Tuskegee Institute (University) describes when he states the following: “he is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops.” And this is the quality of a man or woman of “substance”.  Unlike a rambler, a person of substance stands pat, ready to answer-no substantiate-every word uttered or written. This is not so for the rambler. A rambler excuses every utterance he or she has offered except for the singular one or two statements–out of a great many-that have received approbation from one or two of his or her hearers. (Even in this, the substantiation is grounded in the nodding heads of others as opposed to deeds done or objective and impartial evidence.) Contrarily, going “straight to the point” requires past, present and future knowledge of what can be verified or plausibly deduced-without regard to the approbation of “nodding heads”. For all persons “like to listen to” one whose thoughts and opinions are supported by facts instead of feelings.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“Until late I have been trying to persuade Mr. J.D. McCall, who has had charge of our scientific work for some time, to transfer to the department of mathematics in lieu of the sciences, but he has not as yet consented to make the transfer. Of course I could make the change without his consent, but with a teacher who has been here for sometime and who is faithful in doing the best he can, I dislike to make a change that is not agreeable to Mr. McCall. We are pushing more and more our scientific work, and it has now gotten to the point where it is entirely too much for any one person to do acceptably. I have just had a talk with Mr. McCall about this, and he agrees with me thoroughly on this point.” -“May 1, 1894,” Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

It is sometimes with great difficulty that a chief executive officer-particularly a newly minted one-institutes change. For oftentimes, such change comes at the expense of substituting-even supplanting–long-standing practices (or culture) with innovation. This is precisely what the founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington, was doing in his communiqué to Mr. Hoffman concerning one of Mr. Washington’s faculty members-Mr. McCall. As Mr. Washington indicated, “of course I could make the change without his consent,” he thought it best not to for this was “a teacher who has been here for some time and who is faithful in doing the best he can.” Clearly, Mr. McCall’s works were well-regarded at Tuskegee Institute to be treated in such a manner to receive such treatment from Mr. Washington. (For Mr. Washington’s letters and correspondence are littered with terminations, replacements and administrative decisions made in the interests of the institution that held no similar regard to others as opposed to what he says about Mr. McCall.) All the same, Mr. Washington was clear in his suggestion that the institution was “pushing more and more our scientific work” and it was necessary for change to be had. And while in this communication Mr. Washington opted instead to employ another-Mr. Hoffman was being requested to come work for Tuskegee as a faculty member in the sciences where he taught in agriculture chemistry and biology from 1894 to 1896-he still exercised excellent management in the course of this decision. First, he evaluated Mr. McCall against his record at the institution and found it satisfactory enough to not demand any change. (Unlike his many other decisions, the decision was made to retain Mr. McCall in view of this assessment of his past record and its impact on the present direction in the sciences.) Second, he discussed it directly with Mr. McCall. (Mr. Washington was no “dark decision-maker”. He made the decision in the light. He dealt directly so there would be no second or third-guessing about his assessment of the matter and the employee.) Third-only after his assessment of Mr. McCall’s station and a discussion-he reached out to another for employ. Here again, Mr. Washington demonstrates that the “wizard of Tuskegee” was neither a mystic, magician nor a miracle-worker. He was simply a manager-all while being magnificent at the macro-during his 34-year long presidency of Tuskegee Institute (University). 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“I hope, for instance, that a large proportion of you-in fact all of you-will make it a practice to give something yearly to this institution. If you cannot give but twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or a dollar a year, I hope you will put it down as a thing that you will not forget, to give something to this institution every year. We want to show to our friends who have done so much for us, who have supported this school so generously, how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess. I hope that every senior, in particular, will keep this in mind. I am glad to say that we have many graduates who send us such sums, even if small, and one graduate who for the last eight or ten years has sent us ten dollars annually.”-“Sunday Evening Talk,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

When potential donors inquire with an institution concerning its alumni giving participation, the percentage of total alumni giving not the amount of alumni giving is the foremost consideration. Even if a single alumnus gives $1M per year, the following questions are immediately begged: What is the giving and interest level of the thousands of remaining alumni that the institution has graduated? Was this a single aberration? Is alumni giving limited to the eminently successful alumni? or does it extend from small to great-all of whom are recipients of Tuskegee Institute (University) baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees? And interest level goes well beyond public professions of love for one’s alma mater “our nourishing mother,” but the expression of this love in tangible gifts and donations. Mr. Washington, founding principal and president, understood this well when he spoke the following to students who would become future alumni during one of his Sunday evening talks: “We want to show to our friends…how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess.” Although the sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee are the institution’s most precious value claim to the world-its most precious commodity-the gifts of those interested, including alumni, in the advancement of the institution are what established-and continues to establish-Tuskegee Institute (University’s) reputation as one of the finest campuses and strongest academic destinations in the nation and the world. Friend-raising and fundraising begins at home. And if those who are most intimately familiar with and profess support or love for the institution will not give to it, why would a stranger who is not familiar with and professes no support or love for the institution give to it?  Thus consistent giving whether small or great, regularly (monthly or annually), from 100% of graduated students or as Mr. Washington pronounced, “all of you,” is the clearest indicator of alumni strength.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

 

“When I speak of humbleness and simplicity, I do not mean that it is necessary for us to lose sight of what the world calls manhood and womanhood; that it is necessary to be cringing and unmanly; but you will find, in the long run, that the people who have the greatest influence in the world are the humble and simple ones.”-“The Virtue of Simplicity: A Sunday Evening Talk,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

Generally speaking, the smartest, wealthiest, strongest and most talented among a community of his and her fellows would hardly ever pronounce it. (For he and she already knows it.) And therein lies the “influence” generally found in the “humble and simple ones”-that Washington describes. In one of his earlier writings, Professor Cornel West writes: “To be humble is to be so sure of one’s self and one’s mission that one can forego calling excessive attention to one’s self and status.” Knowing with complete certainty one’s self and status is akin to knowing one’s name. Unless one is patently-even absurdly-insecure, a person would never enter into quarrels about his or her own name. On the other hand, the sense of absolute certainty that accompanies the sense of knowing one’s name and identity reeks of humility, sincerity and simplicity; Such a posture leads to the greatest influence among men and women because arrogance tends to repel and humility tends to invite. And men and women of humility and simplicity always invite others into their ever expanding circles–thus gaining influence that has no boundaries.

 Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Intellectuals and the Black Community: A Conversation with Dr. Brian Johnson and Sho Baraka

http://forthdistrict.com/dr-brian-johnson-president-tuskegee-ferguson-role-intellectuals-black-community-lasting-impact-dubois-booker-t-washington/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“[Mr. Hutt][...] I do not think that you are doing yourself justice here and I hope you will excuse me if I speak to you rather plainly. I very much hope that you will be able to remain here until the end of the year with credit to yourself and profit to the school. The main trouble is that you do not push ahead; you wait too much for somebody to direct and lead you. You ought to see, it seems to be me, the difference between your work and that of Mr. Taylor, who has had about the same course of training as yourself. Mr. Taylor is constantly leading in his work, working in season and out of season. Instead of having someone to lead him he is constantly making suggestions as to what should be done [...] You may think that I speak to you very plainly; but it is a good deal better to speak to you this way now than wait until the end of the term and say to you that we do not wish your services longer. I hope very much that we can keep you in the employ of the school, and shall do so if your prove worthy, but certainly if you do not, you cannot expect to be re-employed next term [...] I do hope that between now and that time you will put your department in shape to be inspected, but in order for you to do yourself justice it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before.” - “February 3, 1894,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

The “Tuskegee Machine” was no mere designation describing Booker T. Washington’s and Tuskegee University’s political and economic strength across the nation. Instead, it also referred to the systemic administrative and management philosophy of its founding principal and president, and his insistence upon the effectiveness and efficiency of every function within the organization. And this letter to Mr. Will Eugene Hutt is no exception. First, Mr. Washington-as he does so in all of his writings and speeches-“speaks…plainly.” All too often hearers attribute rudeness to plain speech, frankness and honesty when hearing truths that are unpleasant to the recipient. Second, Mr. Washington did not take the road most often travelled in leadership. Such leadership avoids difficult discussions and makes decisions in the dark. Mr. Washington might have easily hid his concerns-wait him out-and grant this employee no opportunity to correct the deficiencies within his department. What one expects, one must inspect, and it is clear that Mr. Washington was not sitting on the mountain top of “Tuskegee Machine.” Rather, he was a very real participant in the affairs of Tuskegee Institute (University) to make the pointed suggestions he offers to Mr. Hutt. Third, he provides an example of an employee who does not wait to be “push[ed] ahead” or “for somebody to direct and lead” them. To the contrary, Mr. Taylor, another employee in the same rank and class, was value-added to Mr. Washington. He took initiative “constantly making suggestions as to what should be done.” (One could rightly criticize Mr. Washington if he did not point to any employees who fulfilled his expectation but instead he provided an example to Mr. Hutt-one of his peers and colleagues-to demonstrate that the expectations he had for employees could not only be received but also achieved.) Lastly, he reminded Mr. Hutt that he had not exercised his right to remove him but instead was speaking plainly and frankly to encourage him, perhaps even to motivate him. And he did so with the understanding that Mr. Hutt might have never had such expectations, for he completed his correspondence with a parting admonition that “it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before.” Perhaps Mr. Hutt had never had such a supervisor provide such clear expectations? Perhaps Mr. Hutt’s previous supervisors merely discussed his poor performance with others as opposed to Mr. Hutt directly? Perhaps Mr. Hutt responded and eventually became one of the greatest employees in the annals of Tuskegee Institute (University)? Whatever Mr. Hutt’s response might have been, it is clear that he fully understood Mr. Washington’s expectations of him, which is what real leadership looks like: Transparent, Consistent, Communicative and Collaborative.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized