“Dear Sir: Your kind favor of May 2nd, asking if I could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College is received. I am pleased to know that you should think of me in this connection, and of course feel complimented in the highest degree, but I think it best to say in the beginning that I do not think I could be induced to give up my present position. The salary you name is much larger than I am present receiving but I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere, and for the further reason that there are a number of individuals throughout the North who have given and are giving rather large sums of money to this work, based on their faith in my devotion to this work […]”– “May 9, 1894,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Highly successful men and women of character, competence and credentials are rarely without suitors for their services. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) was no exception. Mr. W.B. Murdock of Alcorn College approached Mr. Washington hoping that he “could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College.” And what is most remarkable in Mr. Washington’s reply was not his gracious recognition of the “compliment,” but rather his reasons for not acquiescing to the offer and to remain at Tuskegee Institute (University): “[…] I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere…”. Imagine that. A person electing to remain at an institution on the basis of the GOOD he or she might be able to do as opposed to having a larger salary? Perhaps this is an old-fashioned 19th Century notion or perhaps Mr. Washington and men and women of his ilk-unlike many in the present century-were men and women of purpose. And “purpose” is the single greatest 7-letter word.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.