“The education that I received at Hampton out of the text-books was but a small part of what I learned there. One of the things that impressed itself upon me deeply, the second year, was the unselfishness of the teachers. It was hard for me to understand how any individual could bring themselves to the point where they could be so happy in working for others. Before the end of the year, I think I began learning that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. This lesson I have tried to carry with me ever since.” -Booker T. Washington Up from Slavery (1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
One single pound of “passion”-one of the (3) greatest 7-Letter words-is farweightier than the one single pound of pessimism. This is particularly true for professors who desire to impart “knowledge”-the second greatest 9-Letter word-to palpable pupils. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University makes this point quite powerfully about the professors he encountered at Mother Tuskegee’s sister institution, Hampton University. Mr. Washington’s observation is one whereby all university-trained men and women can attest to. (One might hardly remember a professor’s pedigree, pedantic idiosyncrasies or pedagogy, but you will always remember the professor’s passion.) Passion proceeds from a right sense of a person’s “purpose”-the greatest 7-Letter word-and there is no more passionate person than a professor who has the daily opportunity to impart their hard-won “knowledge”-the second greatest 9-letter word-to students. (Hear again, the complete cycle of education is first learn, apply and demonstrate repeated mastery for one’s self-then and only then-do you teach others.) These people are not only “happy”; they are healthy because they daily receive the reward and return from their students that all persons receive “who do the most for others.” “Unselfishness” lies at the core of this life-long lesson Booker T. Washington, formerly unknown enslaved boy who grew into a well-known globally-renowned leader based on the training he received at the hand of his professors. Though a 19th and early 20th century principal and president of the very highest order, Mr. Washington properly understood a recently recovered 21st century servant-leadership principle pertaining to leadership and power-power primarily should be used for empowering others.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University