Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary (RESUMES JANUARY 5)

The Daily Washington Word with Presidential Commentary will Resume on January 5. For a complete catalog of the Washington Word, please click here where you can also sign up to receive via email: http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/administration/the_washington_digest.aspx

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Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“For example, not very long ago I had a conversation with a young coloured man who is a graduate of one of the prominent universities of this country. The father of this man is comparatively ignorant, but by hard work and the exercise of common sense he has become the owner of two thousand acres of land. He owns more than a score of horses, cows, and mules and swine in large numbers, and is considered a prosperous farmer. In college the son of this farmer has studied chemistry, botany, zoölogy, surveying, and political economy. In my conversation I asked this young man how many acres his father cultivated in cotton and how many in corn. With a far-off gaze up into the heavens he answered that he did not know. When I asked him the classification of the soils on his father’s farm, he did not know. He did not know how many horses or cows his father owned nor of what breeds they were, and seemed surprised that he should be asked such questions. It never seemed to have entered his mind that on his father’s farm was the place to make his chemistry, his mathematics, and his literature penetrate and reflect itself in every acre of land, every bushel of corn, every cow, and every pig.”- Booker T. Washington, (1899) The Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

There is perhaps no better example of possessing what many in the older generation referred to as “book sense but no common sense” than what Booker T.Washington describes in the above passage. To be crystal clear, it was an admirable accomplishment for a young man hailing from a destitute background to go on to achieve an education at a “prominent university.” Yet, what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University points out is a rather glaring omission in making his scholarship serviceable. This young man failed to apply this hard-won knowledge nor apparently think to, in his own backyard-namely-at his own father’s farm. Serviceable scholarship is that which translates theoretical abstractions of “knowledge” into practical application and dissemination in service to others beyond one’s self or esoteric guild. (Wisdom is but knowledge applied, and the wise man or woman is made wise for others.) And the clear and obvious corollary to Mr. Washington’s description of his encounter with this young man is as follows: the young man had not made his scholarship serviceable to his closest and most intimate constituent group-his farmer father who likely supported his pursuit of education. More than this, this young man-as do many similar young men and women of his ilk in both this and past generations-missed the opportunity for he, his father, his community and the surrounding region and nation to benefit. For “knowledge,” the second greatest 9-letter word, by design, should increase, reproduce and multiply. (Here again, the complete cycle of education is to first learn, apply for one’s self through repeated demonstrations of mastery and then-and only then-proceed to teach others.) This young man had not gone on teaching others at the time of his meeting Mr. Washington for he had not first applied for himself and demonstrated mastery for himself and his father-his own father who owned a fruitful farm that might have been made more fruitful with the assistance of his son’s proverbial “tree of knowledge.”

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 to me that there never was a time in the history of the country when those interested in education should the more earnestly consider to what extent the mere acquiring of the ability to read and write, the mere acquisition of a knowledge of literature and science, makes men producers, lovers of labour, independent, honest, unselfish, and, above all, good. Call education by what name you please, if it fails to bring about these results among the masses, it falls short of its highest end…How I wish that from the most cultured and highly endowed university in the great North to the humblest log cabin school-house in Alabama, we could burn, as it were, into the hearts and heads of all that usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education.”-Booker T. Washington, (1899) The Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Cornel West suggests the following about the “quantity” of educated persons in the present generation as opposed to the “quality” of the past generation in his best-selling work, (1994) Race Matters: “THERE has not been a time in the history of black people in this country when the quantity of politicians and intellectuals was so great, yet the quality of both groups has been so low…How do we account for the absence of the Frederick Douglasses, Sojourner Truths, Martin Luther King, Jrs., Malcolm Xs, and Fannie Lou Hamers in our time?” And perhaps the answer to Professor West’s rhetorical query resides in what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University wrote in the above passage: “…usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education.” (Here again, Washington’s Tuskegee idea was not one based solely upon the work of one’s “hands”. Rather, the complete configuration of his conception of education-as ought be for all of education-was that of Heart (Character)-Head (Competence)-Hands (Capable). And once again, the little-discussed and deeply personal notion of the individual “heart” in modern education from which the “service” of the head and hands flow is likely why the “quality…has been so low.” The heart (character) is the seat of all an individual’s ambitions, ideas, motives and foci, and if the heart is not rooted in the idea of genuine and authentic service to mankind without respect to color, then the number of degrees, the name of the universities or the notoriety of the career matters little. And this is precisely why the “education”-not simply degree-received at Tuskegee University revolves around the university’s motto: Knowledge-Leadership-Service.

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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“We have reached a period when educated Negroes should give more attention to the history of their race; should devote more time to finding out the true history of the race, and in collecting in some museum the relics that mark its progress. It is true of all races of culture and refinement and civilisation that they have gathered in some place the relics which mark the progress of their civilisation, which show how they lived from period to period. We should have so much pride that we would spend more time in looking into the history of the race, more effort and money in perpetuating in some durable form its achievements, so that from year to year, instead of looking back with regret, we can point to our children the rough path through which we grew strong and great.”-Booker T. Washington, (1899)  Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

John Lukacs suggests the following about the potential of the past coming to bear upon the future: “I saw the future and it was the past.” And Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University offers a similar advisement in his little-known work, The Future of the American Negro published in 1899. Now, the mere assembling of the “relics” of any people group’s history alone is not a sole predictor of its future. For it greatly depends upon what is being assembled as one paraphrased African proverb offers: “The hunter will always be the hero until the lion has his own historian.” And Mr. Washington recommends the assembling of those “relics [in particular], which mark the progress of their civilization” and “achievements” placed “in some durable form.” (Here again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) If one consistently reads a narrative or documentable history of a people characterized by its clear and documentable successes as opposed to failures documented for varying purposes, such histories will serve to shape not only the psyche of a single people group but also the psyche of all people groups who have a special relationship or closeness to this same group. Such is the history of Tuskegee (Institute) University where reading the narratives of the men and women (including students, supporters, community members, faculty, staff and administrators) provide a documentable, inspiring and motivating “tradition” (past) that can translate into a documentable, inspiring and motivating “trajectory” (future).

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 Gilchrist Stewart]…I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less.”-“November 9, 1897,” Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one’s purpose and passion in connection with one’s work: “It is not easy work rejoining soul and role.” And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of “heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable),” Mr. Washington wanted someone to “take hold in a whole souled way,” and “whose soul is deeply in love with his work.”  While Mr. Washington’s passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone “who gives [work] his thought night and day.” Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone “who looks so closely after every detail of his work…whom orders will not have to be continually repeated…[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work.” Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, “it does take all of that” to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of “continuous improvement.” It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after “purpose” and “passion.”) Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory 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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[From William Henry Baldwin, Jr. to Booker T. Washington]

“Dear Washington; Dinner: Xmas, at 6.15 Tuesday evening. Come early, and have an extra stocking to hang up. Yours” -WHBJr

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

While it is true that Booker T. Washington did not appear to do much more than work, he did find time-on the very rarest of occasions-to “recreate” within the confines of close friends and close associates particularly during the holiday and festive season. Though the communiqué was brief, one is able to deduce (3) qualities about Mr. Washington’s relations to a close friend and close associate like Mr. Baldwin. First, his salutation referred to him as “Washington.” (This salutation was not a prelude to a solicitation.) This invitation to dinner reeks of a genuine, mutually respectful gesture that carried not a single hint that it was to be used for selfish gain on Baldwin’s part. Second, the invitation was for both dinner and-much more-it was on the holiday. The breaking of bread is no small affair with persons situated as Mr. Washington was at the helm of Tuskegee. It is likely that the invitation for such a dinner was premised upon a mutually agreeable understanding that this dinner was among peers whose camaraderie and conversation would be held in confidence. (The weightier one’s role, the weightier one’s word.) It is simply unwise and imprudent for a man or woman situated as Mr. Washington to make himself or herself available for every single unsolicited invitation to dinner where free discourse often leads to professional entanglements that one need not concern one’s self with when surrounded by proven friends and associates.) Last, he bid “Washington” to “come early, and have an extra stocking to hang up.” Rest and repose around one’s family, friends and associates knows no time constraints. (One would like to be around them as long and as often as possible.) To “come early” indicates that the evening was more than mere dinner. It was not a time-dictated affair where the founding principal and president of Tuskegee would mind the clock to leave on the hour and exit at the conclusion of the hour. It speaks to the mutual relationship between two persons-and potentially other like-minded individuals who may have been in attendance-whose conversation would be joyful and stimulating without hidden distrust, covered agendas or ill-will.  It appears that Mr. Washington was not required to be there but that he perhaps genuinely desired to be there. (He was even requested to bring a stocking for perhaps token gifts to be received or given in the spirit of personal and familial relations.) While indeed the highest forms of productivity revolve around reading, writing, working and going home to family, there is another that occurs on the rarest of occasions: Dining during the holiday season with close friends and close associates.

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 my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls-with the great outside world. No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world.” -Booker T. Washington, (1901) Up From Slavery

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  

Try as we might, there is really no way to get around what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University suggests about parochial (narrow-minded), unlearned and partisan persons whose experiences and perspectives are limited to one race or another. “Breadth” and “Depth” is the greatest 5 and 7-Letter combination, and Booker T. Washington suggests that the most well-read men and women are also the most well-bred men and women-born again through the breadth and depth found in books. Now, “vision”-the greatest 6-letter word and perhaps the greatest in all of the English language-requires applicability that is neither “bounded” or constrained “by colour”. Men and women like Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.-even Cyrus “the Great,” the greatest historical leader this writer has read and studied-whose “vision” out of necessity could not be bound by a kind of narrowness and provincialism based upon color. These men and women needed, relied upon and facilitated a host of persons and organizations to unite to support a common vision ranging from Tuskegee University to the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, “leader,” in this writer’s opinion, is the second greatest 6-letter word, and a leader must articulate a “vision” so broad and deep that its applicability reaches far and wide and it’s dissemination not only cannot be confined but will increase and multiply. Everyone without respect of color can connect to such vision and cultivating such vision comes through both reading and reading well. (Hear this again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) And if a man or woman (or Tuskegee University student) would ever seek to become a “visionary leader,” then they need read no further than Tuskegee University’s founding principal and president-the man, Booker T. Washington.

 Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

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