Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“In order to be successful in any kind of undertaking, I think the main thing is for one to grow to the point where he completely forgets himself; that is, to lose himself in a great cause. In proportion as one loses himself in the way, in the same degree does he get the highest happiness out of his work.” -Booker T. Washington, “Up From Slavery,” 1901

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

One can find no greater joy than to serve a cause higher than one’s self-particularly when the cause is associated with one’s work. And it would be very difficult to find a historic figure whose life and work better embodies this notion than Booker T. Washington and the work of building Tuskegee Institute (University). Consider the circumstances of his arrival in Tuskegee from Hampton Institute. An abandoned hen house served as his first classroom; His students possessed varying levels of literacy, and above all, he had few resources to purchase additional property for the institute’s growth-pawning his own watch in repayment of an early loan. And while he might have easily thought of himself and abandoned the entire enterprise, he did precisely the opposite. Mr. Washington “completely [forgot] himself” to serve a “great cause.” Serving a cause greater than personal preference often leads to the kind of success that benefits not only a singular person but both people and purposes. For careers fill pockets; Careers linked to callings fulfill people; and fulfilled people achieve great purposes.

 

 

 

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 have thought of you many times, but my spare moments are few. The school is full. I have a little more time for writing now since we have added another teacher.”  -Booker T. Washington, March 31, 1883  

   

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

Herein lies a glimpse into the daily life of Tuskegee University’s founding Principal and President and the absolute necessity of his having competent and capable hands to come along to assist him. It is simply not true that Mr. Washington-nor any President of an academic institution-is the sole reason for the success or failure of an institution. To be sure, Mr. Washington was the person credited for much of the university’s success; however, without the aid of individuals performing important work such as teaching, administering, managing and even serving as a liaison to external constituencies on behalf of the institution, it would have been impossible for him to perform the most essential functions of his office. Mr. Washington’s many tasks included lecturing, writing, travelling to meet important donors, engaging the community and, most importantly, monitoring the fiscal state of the university. (All of this was in addition to his responsibilities to his family.) Thus, it would have been impossible for him to accomplish his many significant feats if he were also expected to teach and manage every aspect of the Tuskegee Institute. For the role and function of a President/CEO of an organization is a separate and distinct function that encompasses many things except performing the functions of those who are there to assist.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University

#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“Dear Gen: [James Fowle Baldwin Marshall]. Your letter containing a check for $200 from Mr. Pierce, is received. We had scarcely dared to hope for such a surprise. Our thanks are more than I can express…I thank you for your advice in regard to keeping a strict record of everything and I shall follow it closely.”
-Booker T. Washington, November 18,1881

   

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

 
Among the many signal accomplishments that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University is recognized globally for, fundraising, advancing and developing his institution was perhaps his chief preoccupation. Yet, it was the scrupulous and meticulous regard he had in “stewarding” the gifts of others that is often unrecognized. Washington’s personal letters, correspondence and writings are littered with the care, attention and detail paid to gifts received to support Tuskegee Institute (University). And, far more importantly, he personally accounted for how each gift was utilized. For Mr. Washington was well aware that men and women do not give to positions but the persons and purposes behind the positions.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University

#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
 
 
“[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

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header

“It is not argument, nor criticism, nor hatred, but work in constructive effort that gets hold of men and binds them together in a way to make them rally to the support of a common cause.”

- “My Larger Education,” (1911) Booker T.Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

When seeking resolution to a difficult, challenging and complex issue involving others, perhaps the most difficult course to take between “argument,” “criticism,” “hatred” and “constructive effort” is that of “constructive effort.” For this last action requires a person to do much more than recognize, identify and express an opinion about a problem. This person must also be willing to marshal together often competing perspectives to fashion a singular course that all voices are willing to pursue-even if such a course comes at the expense of his or her own self-interest.

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

 

“The more experience one has in the world and the more he studies and comes in contact with those about him the more he learns that the people who live the happiest lives in the world are those who are continually striving, whether seen or unseen, to make the world happy or better by the opportunity given them for having lived in it.”

-Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee, Alabama [Feb. 8, 1891]

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Consider our first principal and president’s emphasis upon the happiness of those who are “continually striving, whether seen or UNSEEN [emphasis mine].” While each of us-whether administrator, staff member or student-take great joy in formally serving ‘on stage’ before supervisors, peers/colleagues and/or students, Washington beckons us to consider a secondary question: Does happiness attached to our service proceed simply from external approbation or from our own personal sense of excellence, integrity and satisfaction in serving others-namely our common institutional cause? If the latter, we will be driven to perform on-stage or off; Moreover, we will collectively never have to ‘get ready’ because we are ‘always ready’-’whether seen or unseen.’

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized