“A person never gains anything in real power, in real lasting influence except as he remains always himself, always natural, always simple-and whenever he departs from that attitude, yielding to the temptation to imitate somebody else, of something else, to be that which he is not, in that same degree he loses his influence, he loses his power, and his strength.”-Booker T. Washington, “A SundayEvening Talk, “January 10, 1909
Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests in his essay, “The American Scholar,” the following concerning individuals and their originality: “Is it not the chief disgrace in the world…not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear [?]” And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, reminds students about this all too forgotten principle in one of hisSunday evening talks. In sum, Washington and Emerson both bid students the following: Be Organic. Like fruit and trees, individuals come in all sizes and shapes. Moreover, they all serve different purposes. Still further, individuals have been born in different soils of environment, culture, creed and ethnicity for the singular purpose of fulfilling the distinct function they were each designed to fulfill in the earth. Each person is designed “to yield that peculiar fruit which each man [or woman] was created to bear.” And when a person, like a particular tree that was designed to produce a particular “fruit,” “departs” from its central purpose in life, “in that same degree he loses his influence, he loses his power, and his strength.” Any student, like any fruit-bearing tree, that is not developed or cultivated to produce that which he or she alone can produce cannot fulfill their “purpose” and tap into the requisite “passion” to succeed in their given career or still better “calling.” And Tuskegee University students-and all students situated anywhere in this increasingly global and knowledge-based economy-need look no further than the example of Booker Taliaferro Washington who Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015). For this man’s life and work embodied and continues to embody the greatest 7-letter words in succession: Purpose, Passion and Calling.