“Mr. Lee: I wish you would arrange so that from time to time all of the students in the higher classes can visit the poultry yard. I very much fear that many of our students come here and go away without really seeing much of the work of the school. I fear that we have students on the grounds who do not know as much about what is going on as some of our visitors. Of course they might get information which they might work into their composition writing. Just now it is especially interesting and valuable for the students to go to the poultry yard. I only mention this as one example.”-Booker T. Washington, “April 1, 1911”
It would be a singular travesty for any person who has either attended or worked at Tuskegee (Institute) University to leave without being fully versed in the institution’s tradition. And this was the founding principal and president’s sentiment when he remarked the following: “I very much fear that many of our students come here and go away without really seeing much of the work of the school. I fear that we have students on the grounds who do not know as much about what is going on as some of our visitors.” To be sure, Tuskegee (Institute) University was still building its legacy nearly 30 years since its founding date on July 4, 1881, and Mr. Washington was likely referring to students not knowing about the diversity of disciplines that were offered at the university at the time. In 1911, the university would not have been the destination of visitors, organizations, corporations, foundations and distinguished visitors that it is today. Nonetheless, although daily mundane tasks preoccupy both students and employees alike with the urgency of the present, one would be remiss if he or she did not ever take time to appreciate-and most importantly-learn about both the past significance of this great university. Here again, one cannot walk upon the grounds of Tuskegee without an overwhelming sense of both the sacredness and the great feats of yesteryear. Of course, most are remotely familiar with the feats of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver; however, the names of Robert R. Taylor, General Daniel “Chappie” James, Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis and countless men and women whose efforts were associated with the university or the renowned Tuskegee Airmen can give one great pause for reflection when one reads about their achievements. An appreciation and awareness of Tuskegee’s great tradition is not reserved for students and employees but for anyone-including “visitors”-who take the time to understand how a great tradition can fuel a great trajectory.