Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“Dear sir: In further answer to your very kind letter of a few days ago making inquiry as to the work of our graduates and ex-students, I would say that one of our officers is employed almost continuously in visiting and inspecting the work being done by the men and women that we turn out, and he makes periodical reports to me of what he finds, and I take the liberty of enclosing to you a copy of the last report which he sent in. An analysis of this report will show that 57 cases are covered. Four are engaged wholly in teaching, 27 work wholly at their trades, 26 teach in connection with working at their trades. Yours truly,”-Booker T. Washington, “July 9, 1903″

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Nothing is more exhilarating-aside from reporting and conveying high rates of alumni giving percentages-for a president of a university to take delight in reporting about his or her alumni than reporting upon their individual successes in their fields of study. Make no mistake, the pride and strength of any institution is its students and its graduates for these individuals represent the core mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of any institution of higher learning. Long before the nomenclature of an “outcomes-oriented organization” became commonplace in American higher education, here you find the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University providing data-informed responses to inquiries with respect to his graduates. Note, there is not a single day in the life of a university president where he or she is not requested to provide documentable, evidence-based and outcomes-based responses regarding the successes of their institution. Though somewhat rudimentary in 1903, Mr. Washington, all the same, provided “facts” not “floating tales” in the form of a “periodical report” that he is able to readily provide to any would-be supporter or detractor concerning his work at Tuskegee (Institute) University. Here again, it is an extension of Mr. Washington’s often quoted maxim: “Let examples answer.” (It is simply unwise in any endeavor to offer words without accompanying and supporting works.) In this respect, Mr. Washington did not merely suggest that the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee were the very best and the brightest, he demonstrated it.
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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“[To William Edward Burghardt Du Bois] Mr. Booker T. Washington will be pleased to have you take dinner with him at his home, “The Oaks,” at 6:30 o’clock this evening.”-Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee, July 6, 1903

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

There are a handful of historic dinner-time conversations that the writer of this commentary would ever wish to be transported back in time to listen in upon. And this one, occurring on the evening of July 6, 1903, between the eminent and distinguished founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, and the eminent and distinguished, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois ranks near the very top. For in 1903, these two men were, arguably, at the very zenith of their spiritual (heart), intellectual (head) and physical (hands) strength. W.E.B. Du Bois would have published his signal work, The Souls of Black Folk in this same year, 1903, and Booker T. Washington would only be two years removed from publishing Up From Slavery in 1901. One can only imagine the earnestness, frankness and thoughtfulness of their discourse on that evening. (“Depth” and “breadth” is the greatest 5 and 7-letter word combination, and this conversation would have certainly fit this description-completely opposite of a conversation that is flat, flippant and frivolous.) All the same, one would be deeply mistaken to assume their ideological differences were so deep-seated that these two men could not come together for dinner and discussion. One would hardly ever invite someone to dinner who one disdains and distrusts into the confines of one’s home, particularly into one as auspicious as “The Oaks,” and amongst one’s family. These men likely expressed their differences with one another, but they assuredly did so honorably and respectfully in the presence of each other. In the end, one might never learn what the conversation was about; Yet, the singular invitation to invite one who has commonly been regarded as his chief adversary-possessing equal ability, stature and renown-speaks to the magnanimity of Tuskegee’s Booker T. Washington, who demonstrated one of his oft-quoted maxims: “I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him.”

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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“You cannot hope to succeed if you keep bad company. As far as possible try to form the habit of spending your nights at home.”-Booker T. Washington, “A Sunday Evening Talk: On Influencing by Example”

The adage that one is known by the company he or she keeps is an oft-expressed one, but the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, extends the adage even further both in the aforementioned passage and in another commonly quoted passage: “Associate yourself with people of good quality. It is better to be alone than in bad company.” Moreover, his additional suggestion to “try to form the habit of spending your nights at home” is a very practical one worth noting. Insofar as it is possible to discern from his autobiography, correspondence, letters, speeches-and more importantly his accomplishments-the man, Booker Washington, apparently did little else but read, write, work and stay at home with his family. And while it is easy to regard Tuskegee (Institute) University’s founding principal with an overwhelming sense of awe, one can begin to appreciate and understand him in view of his own self-discipline and self-sacrifice. (Everyone suffers but few suffer voluntarily. Yet, if one learns how to suffer, one will learn how to succeed.) One need not be reminded that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but how one spends those hours is what ultimately distinguishes men and women. (One would simply be amazed at how much more time can be committed to a meaningful mission or a purposeful project if time is not spent in (un)meaningful and (un)purposeful ones that do not result in progress.) Clearly, recreation, fun and leisure have their place but not if these things come at the expense of sustainable success. (Mr. Washington suggests that it is even better when one’s recreation, fun and leisure become part and parcel of one’s work.) For when an individual can transform his or her home into an extension of their workshop, these men and women have the advantage of continuing, doubling and multiplying their labors when others have ceased from theirs.

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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Dear Gen’l [Armstrong]: Soon after our conversation in Phila.[delphia] I arrived here and found a letter announcing that the Misses Mason had given us $7000. Faith and hard work, I find, will accomplish anything. Yours &c” -B.T. Washington, November 26, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  
For some, “faith” is the single most important attribute for success-absent any personal diligence, integrity, work and sacrifice; (All of these things are critical to achievement and accomplishment in addition to faith.) And, for others, “hard work” is the all-encompassing characteristic that is sufficient for all things achieved in life. However, Mr. Washington suggests that both are required, and our daily lives suggest the same. There are a great many pursuits that we have diligently “worked hard” towards that have not yielded expected results. And there are those pursuits where “faith” exercised towards an expressed desire was all that one could do under the circumstances, and it produced unexpected success. (And the resulting success was more times than not unmerited.) All the same, the two qualities listed here in Mr. Washington’s letter-“faith” and “hard work”-are the highest ideals in daily accomplishment leading towards long-term success. For our words of sincere desire must always work together with our works of sincere effort because when daily difficulties push the one, the other stands ready to push back.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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“From the Projects to the President,” Al Benn Front Page _Montgomery Advertiser_ Friday, October 24, 2014

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http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/alabama/2014/10/24/johnson-journeyed-projects-top-university/17820019/

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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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“Dear Mr. Washington: Your favor of June 11th to my father enclosing check for $249 being the balance of his pledge authorizing the expenditure up to $34,000 for a boys dormitory, which balance you state was not required in the completion of the building, is received. My father is gratified to know that the building has been constructed so well within the estimated cost, the more so since it so frequently happens that the opposite is the case. He takes pleasure in returning the check for $249 desiring that the same be applied as you may see fit.”  -Very Truly, John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

In John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s follow up to Booker T. Washington, who on June 11, 1903 returned an extra $249 to his father, Mr. Rockefeller not only expressed his “gratitude” for Mr. Washington’s gesture, but he did something more. He confirms and affirms that the actions of the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University were atypical-even unusual-completely unlike what the Rockefellers had been used to:  “My father is gratified to know that the building has been constructed so well within the estimated cost, the more so since it so frequently happens that the opposite is the case.” Note, it was and continues to be no small matter to receive commendations and endorsements from major donors, significant external constituencies and foundations within the class and/or influence of the Rockefellers. These contributors are among a select group who are able to either offer transformative gifts to an institution to help further its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory-or who are able to recommend an institution to similarly situated persons and organizations. Mr. Rockefeller’s affirmation of both the manner and method of Tuskegee (Institute) University’s then-operating principles carried the kind of weight in the kinds of circles that institutions want to be well regarded in. Moreover, the senior Rockefeller went still further: “He takes pleasure in returning the check for $249 desiring that the same be applied as you [Booker T. Washington] may see fit.” Whether the founding principal of Tuskegee expected this gesture or no, it is clear that the Rockefellers held Washington in such regard that not only did they return the unspent funds but permitted him to use these funds in an “unrestricted” manner. Institutions will make use of all kinds of funds “restricted” or “unrestricted” but “unrestricted” use is particularly helpful for an institution and its president when granted this unique opportunity because it allows these funds to be used “as you see fit.” “Trust,” one of the greatest 5-letter words is a key component of institutional integrity. Like any strong relationship, it takes time to develop and it is often developed through stewarding smaller gifts until the donor trusts that the institution will steward larger gifts-“here a little, there a little.” Here, it is clear that the Rockefellers trusted that this man, Booker, would do what he said he would do, and that he would do no more or no less. And herein lies an object lesson for persons in the 19th, 20th, 21st century or any century. It is never the “quantity” of endorsements, affirmations and commendations received from signal constituent groups but the “quality” of the individuals and organizations that offer them.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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