“In order to be successful in any kind of undertaking, I think the main thing is for one to grow to the point where he completely forgets himself; that is, to lose himself in a great cause. In proportion as one loses himself in the way, in the same degree does he get the highest happiness out of his work.” -Booker T. Washington, “Up From Slavery,” 1901
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
One can find no greater joy than to serve a cause higher than one’s self-particularly when the cause is associated with one’s work. And it would be very difficult to find a historic figure whose life and work better embodies this notion than Booker T. Washington and the work of building Tuskegee Institute (University). Consider the circumstances of his arrival in Tuskegee from Hampton Institute. An abandoned hen house served as his first classroom; His students possessed varying levels of literacy, and above all, he had few resources to purchase additional property for the institute’s growth-pawning his own watch in repayment of an early loan. And while he might have easily thought of himself and abandoned the entire enterprise, he did precisely the opposite. Mr. Washington “completely [forgot] himself” to serve a “great cause.” Serving a cause greater than personal preference often leads to the kind of success that benefits not only a singular person but both people and purposes. For careers fill pockets; Careers linked to callings fulfill people; and fulfilled people achieve great purposes.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University