Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“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 

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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/

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“[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 

 

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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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“The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance.” – “Substance vs. Shadow: A Sunday Evening Talk,” Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

Shortly after beginning his presidency, Booker T. Washington began a series of “Sunday Evening Talks” to students and teachers. When compiling these in a book for compilation in 1901, he wrote in his preface: “These addresses were always delivered in a conversational tone and much in the same manner that I would speak to my own children around my fireside.” Unlike a well-prepared lecture or speech that any might be able to prepare, Mr. Washington allowed his hearers to engage him directly in a “conversational” manner to learn who he was as opposed to who he appeared to be. And few other quotations excerpted from one of these talks demonstrate that he was a man of purpose, not pretension, than the one found here: “The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance.” It would have been all too easy for Mr. Washington to rely upon his fame and renown to fully justify his not appearing before students in such an informal manner. (For he gave speeches across the nation, wrote books read 100 years since his passing and was the force behind what came to be regarded as the “Tuskegee Machine.”) Rather-as a man of both words and works indeed-Mr. Washington wanted to fully demonstrate that he was a tangible person whose life embodied what he proverbially preached. He did not simply possess a title, which permitted him to perpetually parade in pomp and circumstance because of it. His work and achievements could be readily deduced and substantively emulated and followed by those he led. In sum, he was the real thing-not the “shadow” but the “substance.” And in hindsight these Sunday evening talks are what likely lent even more power to his reputation. For Mr. Washington would have them to understand that he was no pretender but a man of purpose. And in the end, it was the person of Washington that men and women of Tuskegee could follow not the position of Washington-the principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (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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“[New York City Nov. 10, 1915] [To Alexander Robert Stewart] Be sure my yard is well cleaned.” -Booker T. Washington

 
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     
 
In all likelihood, this was the final letter written by the eminent founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). (For Booker T. Washington died on Sunday morning November 14, 1915-not 5 days later-after requesting to return to Tuskegee, Alabama to spend his final days.) Until his death, Mr. Washington wrote several short letters with instructions to his colleagues in Tuskegee with the above being the last: “Be sure my yard is well cleaned.” While one may regard this final communiqué as someone who regarded his yard more important than his soul, this is not so. For this final writing was a reflection of his soul indeed-a soul devoted to his work. Tales abound in the Tuskegee community about Mr. Washington’s intense devotion to work, and there is no greater joy for a man or woman than to be engaged in a line of work that honors both the souls of others as well as their own.  Mr. Washington spent countless hours in the yard and in the garden working, when time and travels permitted.  Mr. Washington took great pride in the now world-renowned “Oaks,”-the president’s home at the time, located on the Tuskegee University campus, the only national park on a fully functioning college campus. Annually, thousands of visitors trek across the nation and the world to visit the home site of Tuskegee’s founding principal and president. So perhaps Mr. Washington’s final concern for his yard being cleaned was not only for that generation but also for the many future generations that would follow in the 100 years since his death.  
 
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

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Tuskegee University: Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“I said I would take living men and women for my study, and I would give the closest attention possible to everything that was going on in the world about me [...] I said to myself that I would try to learn something from every man I met; make him my text-book, read him, study him and learn something from him. So I began deliberately to try to learn from men. I learned something from big men and something from little men, from the man with prejudice and the man without prejudice. As I studied and understood them, I found that I began to like men better; even those who treated me badly did not cause me to lose my temper or patience, as soon as I found that I could learn something from them.” -Booker T. Washington,My Larger Education (1911)
    

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

 
Of his many writings demonstrating the magnanimity of Tuskegee Institute’s (University) founding principal and president, this sits on top. For the most learned men and women are those who continue to learn, and there is no greater “text-book” to learn from than the lives of men and women. And Mr. Washington not only learned from great men and women-those who have achieved fame deservedly or not-but he learned “from big men and something from little men.” He even learned from his enemies. Any man or woman “with prejudice” is an enemy to humanity because this person has predetermined expectations of what a person within a racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious or organizational group is capable of without regard to examining the merit and makeup of the singular individual. Even in this, Mr. Washington was able to “learn something from them.” When one learns about people, you learn about yourself. And this understanding leads to one of the most important facets in leadership and service to others: All people understand and show favor to the leader who recognizes that his or her condition is very much like their own.  
 
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

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