Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“The education that I received at Hampton out of the text-books was but a small part of what I learned there. One of the things that impressed itself upon me deeply, the second year, was the unselfishness of the teachers. It was hard for me to understand how any individual could bring themselves to the point where they could be so happy in working for others. Before the end of the year, I think I began learning that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. This lesson I have tried to carry with me ever since.” -Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

One single pound of “passion”-one of the (3) greatest 7-Letter words-is farweightier than the one single pound of pessimism. This is particularly true for professors who desire to impart “knowledge”-the second greatest 9-Letter word-to palpable pupils. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University makes this point quite powerfully about the professors he encountered at Mother Tuskegee’s sister institution, Hampton University. Mr. Washington’s observation is one whereby all university-trained men and women can attest to. (One might hardly remember a professor’s pedigree, pedantic idiosyncrasies or pedagogy, but you will always remember the professor’s passion.) Passion proceeds from a right sense of a person’s “purpose”-the greatest 7-Letter word-and there is no more passionate person than a professor who has the daily opportunity to impart their hard-won “knowledge”-the second greatest 9-letter word-to students. (Hear again, the complete cycle of education is first learn, apply and demonstrate repeated mastery for one’s self-then and only then-do you teach others.) These people are not only “happy”; they are healthy because they daily receive the reward and return from their students that all persons receive “who do the most for others.” “Unselfishness” lies at the core of this life-long lesson Booker T. Washington, formerly unknown enslaved boy who grew into a well-known globally-renowned leader based on the training he received at the hand of his professors. Though a 19th and early 20th century principal and president of the very highest order, Mr. Washington properly understood a recently recovered 21st century servant-leadership principle pertaining to leadership and power-power primarily should be used for empowering others.
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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“I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure.”– Booker T. Washington, “A Sunday Evening Talk”

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: “Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure.” Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis’s idea that “perfect humility dispenses with modesty” rejects such an accusation.  (“Humility” is the greatest 8-letter word and “Fearless” is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington’s conception of “education” encompasses those who have erred and failed because a “truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything” permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences “falsity [or failure] in anything” because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of “knowledge”-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing “success”-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real “falsity” or “failure” in the truest sense of the words.  For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called “false” or a “failure” because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: “Humility” and “Fearless,” which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession.

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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“My dear Mr. President [Theodore Roosevelt]: If you have in mind the sending in of a special message bearing upon the lynching of Italians in Mississippi, I am wondering if you could not think it proper to enlarge a little on the general subject of lynching; I think it would do good. I think you could with perfect safety, give the Southern States praise, especially the Governors and the daily press, for assisting in reducing the number of lynchings. The subject is a very important and far reaching one and keeps many of our people constantly stirred up […].”

-Booker T. Washington, “January 5, 1902″

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Leo Tolstoy offers the following expression concerning men and women who live according to their conscience, as opposed to the dictates of popular sentiment: “He who lives not for the sake of his conscience, but for the sake of others’ praise, lives badly.” Although Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, might have expressed his views more diplomatically than most men and women of his era who were not situated at the helm of a major institution, he possessed his own methods to express his views nevertheless.  And the communication to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt suggests a great deal about how this institutional president operated in matters of national importance. First, he need not make a public announcement of his views. Booker T. Washington had direct access to the President of the United States. An advisor to President Roosevelt on a number of political matters, his letters reveal an ongoing stream of communication that suggests that his advice and opinion mattered to the President and would be weighed carefully. Second, he used the opportunity of President Roosevelt’s apparent willingness to discuss “the lynchings of Italians in Mississippi” to suggest that he broaden his discussion to encompass to one of his primary constituencies and concerns during the period-the lynching of African Americans. Finally, he alluded to the importance of the President addressing the subject: It was for the benefit of all Americans. He fittingly ascribed his concern to the well being of the country similar to Lyman Beecher Stowe’s sentiment when he penned the following: “Here in America, we are all, in the end, going up or down together.” Here again, the man Booker T. Washington might not have done what many desired him to do and in the precise manner they would have liked for him to do but he did do what he thought was right to do.

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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“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

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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 “Among the most trying class of people with whom I come in contact are the persons who have been educated in books to the extent that they are able, upon every occasion, to quote a phrase or a sentiment from Shakespeare, Milton, Cicero, or some other great writer. Every time any problem arises they are on the spot with a phrase or a quotation. No problem is so difficult that they are not able, with a definition or abstraction of some kind, to solve it. I like phrases, and I frequently find them useful and convenient in conversation, but I have not found in them a solution for many of the actual problems of life.”– Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

We often deceive ourselves by assuming that a word fitly spoken, an opinion boldly proffered, an argument well-written or a critique loosely given is tantamount to leadership–particularly with respect to solving “the actual problems of life.” And this is the idea that Booker T. Washington explained in his observations of men and women who offer words without any accompanying works. Thomas Edison suggested that “A vision without execution is a hallucination.” To be clear, “vision”-the single greatest 6-letter word- requires words for articulating, reasoning, inspiring and motivating. Yet, this is only one half of the deal in leadership. The other half is transforming those words into works. Such works, unlike words, are never philosophical or theoretical “abstraction[s]”. These works are “solution[s] for many of the actual problems” that visionary words propose to solve. Works are the evidentiary and documentable deeds done that substantiate the words of visionary leadership. Works are what can be touched, pointed to and-most importantly-verified, substantiated and authenticated precisely like the presence of Tuskegee (Institute) University that still stands a full century since Mr. Washington’s death (1915-2015). Mr. Washington’s late 19th and early 20th century demonstration of visionary leadership is the complete expression of a leader’s love for “words” that he found “useful and convenient in conversation,” as well as his “work” achieved and completed at Tuskegee. And witnessing such visionary leadership is akin to persons upon a ship viewing an iceberg in the middle of a frigid ocean. The “words” are what sit atop the iceberg’s tip until the “works” of the impressive mass that lies beneath comes slowly into view.

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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“Some people may say that it was Tuskegee’s good luck that brought to us this gift of fifty thousand dollars. No, it was not luck. It was hard work. Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. When Mr. Huntington gave me the first two dollars, I did not blame him for not giving me more, but made up my mind that I was going to convince him by tangible results that we were worthy of large gifts. For a dozen years I made a strong effort to convince Mr. Huntington of the value of our work. I noted that just in proportion as the usefulness of the school grew, his donations increased.” -Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_ (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Nothing is more disturbing to hear about individual or organizational success-especially if you have contributed to such success-than that such success should be attributed to “luck” and not “hard work”. Hard work involves deliberate and persistent effort directed towards a designated end that is often easy to gloss over when witnessing the outcome and not the work preceding it. And such was Mr.Washington’s work in the advancement and development efforts of Tuskegee Institute (University). Here was a man who did not scoff at any amount received into the coffers of Tuskegee whether great or small. Without regard to the amount, he “made up [his] mind” to be resolute about his pursuit for even larger ones with his chief aid being “tangible results.” Or, as he wrote elsewhere, “Let[ting] Examples Answer.” For when an organization’s “examples answer,” it becomes easier to proceed from strength to strength because past successes are often the surest indicators of future successes.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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