“I used to picture the way that I would act under such circumstances; how I would begin at the bottom and keep rising until I reached the highest round of success.”– Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Robert Hedrick’s translation of Xenophon’s Cyrus The Great: The Arts of Leadership and War captures a rather profound and startling idea about the power of both the mind and imagination in one’s youth. This is particularly evidenced in Mr. Washington’s autobiographical telling of the time spent in his youth thinking of his future: “I created an empire in my thoughts long before I began to win an empire in reality.” The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, tells of not having many flesh-and-blood examples of “success” due to both his poverty and enslavement. Yet, while his “hands” might have been bound, his “heart” and his “head” were certainly not. Though he might have seen but dimly into what his future held, he “used to picture the way [he] would act under such circumstances.” (Note, one can hardly go where one cannot see one’s self beforehand going. And one can hardly do what one cannot see one’s self beforehand doing.) “Vision” is the greatest 6-letter word, and “leader” is the second greatest 6-letter word in this writer’s opinion. And Mr. Washington possessed “vision” enough for himself-without regard to what others might have seen-to see himself as a “leader,” which he later realized for some 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University.
Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University