“Dear Gen’l [Armstrong]: Mr. [Albert] Howe stayed with us 4 days and no one’s visit has done us the real good that his has. His suggestions were valuable and criticisms frank. He has been especially helpful in his suggestions regarding our land and brick works.” Tuskegee, Alabama, April 29, 1885
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
The founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) offers here a noteworthy and rare commendation for one Mr. Albert Howe. While it is true what the Greek Historian Plutarch writes concerning friends and acquaintances-“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better”-it is equally true that simply offering a criticism does not make the criticism valuable. Of the many eminent visitors and well wishers-invited or not-that Mr. Washington received at Tuskegee Institute in the first four years of his Presidency, “no one has done [Tuskegee] the real good that [Howe] has.” Mr. Washington states unequivocally that unlike other suggestions that were offered, Mr. Howe’s were “valuable and criticisms frank.” To be sure, uttering a frank criticism was the not the sole characteristic of Howe’s suggestion when a man of Mr. Washington’s position assessed the value of Howe’s recommendations as compared to those of others. Instead, Howe’s suggestions came directly to bear upon how the institution managed two of its most important resources at the time-it’s “land and brick works.” One has to simply pause here to consider the regard Mr. Washington must have held for such a person who after spending “4 days” with him at Tuskegee, was able to be regarded as the single most helpful visit in his early four-year tenure. For it matters not whether the person offering a suggestion deems it valuable, but whether the person who receives the suggestion regards it as valuable.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University