[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.