Phillips Brooks gave expression to the sentiment: “One generation gathers the material, and the next generation builds the palaces.” As I understand it, he wished to inculcate the idea that one generation lays the foundation for succeeding generations. -Booker T. Washington, Future of the American Negro (1899)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Any institutional or organizational leader would be remiss–no fool hearted–if he or she did not first look to, then build upon and, finally, greatly improve upon the foundation of the past–particularly when that foundation is as solid and substantive as that which is found here at Tuskegee (Institute) University. (And this writer believes that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, was prescient enough to know that his was a foundation that any man or woman could build “palaces upon.”) Preparation, planning, purpose and performance are the hallmarks of sound management practices in any leadership and management paradigm, and a leader must not only prepare and plan on how to ascend to institutional leadership, but what to do with it once he or she gets it. One certain way of doing this is to return to the founder’s “foundation.” Booker T. Washington laid a rock-solid foundation based upon personal and organizational “integrity,” the greatest 9-letter word. In perusing through some 34 years of this man’s letters and correspondence, one finds that “integrity” is the most consistent and persistent attribute permeating within each writing or speech. Whether writing or speaking to persons small or great, he installed a vision on the basis of being truthful, honest and earnest in all his dealings, and such attributes appealed to both external and internal constituents alike-particularly when seeking major, transformational gifts like Booker T. Washington secured. (The best institutional leaders and organizations are “transparent,” “consistent,” “communicative,” and “collaborative”.) What the man, Booker Washington, spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in one arena was consistent with what he spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in another arena, thus forming an unbroken chain of integrity on which he built the foundation of Tuskegee. This integrity extended not only to the world-renowned bricks of Tuskegee’s oldest buildings, but also to the foundational philosophy of Tuskegee University and its founder.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University