Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“Dear Sir: Yours of May 2nd has been received and is somewhat of a surprise to me. I would say, however, at the outset that it is against my custom to make reply in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears, and if he permits himself to be influenced by them I find he will impair his usefulness for work, and it has been my rule to neither deny nor affirm such stories […]” -Booker T. Washington, “May 4, 1892″

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Of all the considerations persons fail to consider when they approach the President of Tuskegee Institute (University)-or any leader of a highly visible organization-is perhaps the most obvious of all: “[…] in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man [or woman] who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears […]”. And Mr. Washington’s assertion is one that all leaders and talebearers would do well to take heed to. For talebearers, such an omission does not injure the public figure, but injures the bearer of the “tales” designed to “put into his ears.” Unknown to many, the role of President or CEO grants access to a great many details that most persons are not-nor ever will be-privy to.  And those who approach a leader with information that he or she is likely already familiar with will generally find that their information is likely-partial at best or faulty at worst. For if a leader allowed himself or herself to be “influenced” by partial or faulty information, it would “impair his [or her] usefulness for work.” And, in the end, it would be the leader-not the talebearer-who would be standing alone to explain why he or she relied on “floating” tales as opposed to facts.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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2015 Rankings of Best Historically Black Colleges & Universities | College Choice

2015 Rankings of Best Historically Black Colleges & Universities | College Choice.

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TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY NO. 1 2015 Rankings of Best Historically Black Colleges & Universities | College Choice

2015 Rankings of Best Historically Black Colleges & Universities | College Choice.

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“Before going to Tuskegee I had expected to find there a building and all the necessary apparatus ready for me to begin teaching. To my disappointment, I found nothing of the kind. I did find, though, that which no costly building and apparatus can supply, -hundreds of hungry, earnest souls who wanted to secure knowledge.” -Booker T. Washington, “Up From Slavery,” (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

To be sure, a surplus of resources-material, monetary, human or property (land)-are necessary for the building of a great institution of higher education. Nevertheless, all of these resources would be wasted if there were not students who are “hungry,” “earnest” and desire “knowledge.” It is roundly true that Mr. Washington’s “Tuskegee Machine” was one of the wealthiest institutions in the nation during the late 19th and early 20th century (and beyond), yet it was equally true that the real strength of the institution was its people-namely the many students and subsequent graduates of Tuskegee (Institute) University who have gone forth as the ‘sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee’. For this collective body of students-past, present and future-are the living “building” and “apparatus” of Tuskegee University and the spring from which all of its resources have and must continue to flow. And these students not only represent the strongest indicator of its wealth but these students represent where Tuskegee University’s resources will continue to be invested.

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 found that strict business methods go a long way in the securing the interest of rich people. It has been my constant aim at Tuskegee to carry out, in our financial and other operations, such business methods as would be approved of by any New York banking house.” – Booker T. Washington, _Up From Slavery_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

One of the surest indicators of how an organization might manage another’s resources-fiscal or otherwise-is to consider how this same organization manages its own, and Mr. Washington’s desire to manage Tuskegee Institute in a manner that “would be approved of by any New York banking house” is quite telling. In both its “financial and other operations,” Mr. Washington wanted to ensure that the practices of Tuskegee Institute (University) were such that it would appeal to the persons who could help fiscally advance and develop the University the fastest-“rich people”. While it is true that Mr. Washington received a great many gifts from persons who were not wealthy-make no mistake-many of the most pivotal and significant gifts came from persons with wealth. For the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) well understood that if he was going to attract the “interest” of persons with means then he would have to follow the very practices that were used in managing–and most importantly–achieving such means.

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] stuck to my old line of argument, urging the education of the hand, the head and the heart.”  – Booker T. Washington, “My Larger Education,” (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

While there is significant historic disagreement with Mr. Washington’s philosophical orientation toward ‘vocational’ education, what is often omitted in such discussions is his overarching sense of the term “vocation”. The word is derived from its Latin origin, ‘vocare,’ and it means “to call”.  Between the 16th to 19th centuries, ‘vocation’ within a given profession was commonly understood as “calling”. “Vocation” or “Calling” is inclusive of much more than work involving the “the education of the hand,” which undoubtedly was a Washingtonian emphasis in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Notwithstanding, a “heart” enflamed with a personal sense of passion and integrity toward one’s work, a “head” filled with the requisite knowledge for one’s field and, lastly, “hands” that are ready and willing to translate both “heart” and “head” into practical experience within a specified field are the sum whole of Mr. Washington’s notion of “heart,” “head” and “hands”. Thus, Heart (Character) + Head (Competence) + Hands (Capability) = (W)holistic Calling.

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 made up my mind definitely on one or two fundamental points. I determined: First, that I should at all times be perfectly frank and honest in dealing with each of the three classes of people that I have mentioned; Second, that I should not depend upon any “short-cuts” or expedients merely for the sake of gaining temporary popularity or advantage, whether for the time being such action brought me popularity or the reverse. With these two points clear before me as my creed, I began going forward.” -Booker T. Washington, “My Larger Education,” (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  
While one may have great difficulty in successfully appealing to multiple constituents and interests, the surest way to fail at doing so is pandering to the opinions of all. And there is no better blueprint for negotiating the pitfalls of paltry politics and partisanship than to follow Booker T. Washington’s two-part course of action throughout his 34-year Presidency (1881-1915): 1. Speak clearly, frankly and honestly at all times. 2. Though laborious-and often painstaking-let your work speak for itself. “Integrity,” the single greatest 9-letter word, speaks to the former. Consistency in communication across constituencies produces confidence. (For conversations spoken in one arena are bound to be communicated to other arenas, and multiple constituencies will quickly discover inconsistencies and inequity when conversations are compared to one another.) “Purpose,” the single greatest 7-letter word, speaks to Washington’s latter formulation. Persons consumed with purpose have little time for pandering and cronyism because they are consumed with performance. (For, in the end, performance and accomplishment-not political expediency-is the primary currency needed in communication across constituent groups.) Mr. Washington’s signal accomplishments-best evidenced in the past, present and future testament of Tuskegee University-provides the clearest telltale signs of his philosophy’s success. And it was no “short cut.”

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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