“I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver.” -Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
It is a wise and prudent man or woman indeed who does not readily accept-or seek-any and every invitation to speak. Although such restraint is uncommon, Mr. Washington’s recommendation is one that would serve us well to follow. For the best speakers-whether teacher, professor, lecturer or any number of itinerant persons-are those whose words proceed from the works that support them. Mr. Washington was known locally, regionally, nationally and globally for his oratorical prowess and was largely regarded as such for the work he was doing at Tuskegee University. And this work was no mere job for the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee University, but his life’s purpose “deep down in his heart.” When he spoke, men and women could feel the force of someone who was not pretentious but purposeful. And he was able to do so because he spoke concerning those things he was doing or had done. He did not theorize about how to lead an institution. He led one. He did not simply ask of those within his charge to persevere, endure and overcome. He himself had done these things. He did not simply speak about the “race problem” affecting newly freed and formerly enslaved men and women but was engaged in a work to solve this problem in a manner consistent with his beliefs. And all of these things were visible, tangible and remain so nearly 100 years since his passing (1915-2015). Audiences know immediately whether one has done or is doing the things that he or she speaks which is why one should never offer words without accompanying works.
7th President, Tuskegee University