[To George Washington Carver]…I can see no reason why we cannot get some results from the geese and ducks. With the large number of geese and ducks on hand we ought to have two or three hundred young ones of each kind, but as it is we have almost nothing. Certainly we are not being troubled with the sore head, neither should there be any trouble about the eggs of the geese and ducks. I think what is most needed is for you to make an earnest effort to master the incubators so as to get some young fowls out of the eggs. Nobody in the South has such an excellent chance to show what can be done in raising poultry as you have right now at Tuskegee, and I hope that you can bring about results. The weather is unusually cool, and I am sure that you can with safety use the incubators up until the 20th or 25th of June.
You will remember that it was at your request that we stopped buying eggs from a distance. A good many people have the idea that we are not able to put in practice what is taught in the classroom in the agricultural teaching. Here is an excellent chance for you to show that you cannot only give instruction in the class room in poultry-raising, but you can actually get results in the poultry yard…I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed. Yours truly, -Booker T. Washington, May 2, 1909
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Even world-renowned Tuskegee (Institute) University professor, George Washington Carver, was not beyond the founding principal and president’s reach when it came to his preoccupation with “success” and “results.” And Mr. Washington offered the following prescription for the age-old malady of explaining why something could not be done: “I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed.” Although the above excerpt is taken from a rather lengthy correspondence from Washington to Carver, Mr. Washington essentially encourages Professor Carver to spend less time reporting, explaining and contemplating the reasons why the “geese” and “ducks” are not producing sufficient offspring. Rather, he wrote the following to Professor Carver: “I confess that the report does not interest me over-much. What I want you to do is to devise some means by which you can get fowls. These reports which simply discuss matters pro and con do not help your getting of young fowl.” To be sure, contemplation and analysis has its place. (This is especially evidenced in the extraordinary accomplishments of Professor Carver, which were largely done here on the campus of Tuskegee.) Notwithstanding, there is a great deal to learn from Washington’s administrative suggestion, which is akin to Andrew Jackson’s adage: “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” The professor-turned-president (Washington) offered this proverbial piece of administrative wisdom to the professor (Carver) who elected to remain a professor after rebuffing several overtures from Washington to join administration through their long tenure working together. In the end, we now are able to celebrate in this the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015)-not one or the other but both the accomplishments of President Washington and Professor Carver here at Tuskegee University.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University