“I do not say you should not use them, should not possess them, should not crave them, but do not make the mistake of feeling that titles are going to help you, unless you have got strength aside from the title. No amount of titles will put brains into a person’s head if the brains are not there before.” – Booker T. Washington, “A Sunday Evening Talk,” January 10, 1909

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Hear this again and again: Positional and titular authority is the lowest form of authority. If a man or woman cannot nor does not command the respect of his supervisors, peers, colleagues and subordinates independent of a position or title, this man or woman is no greater than the man or woman who has no such position and title. Positions change, and the only permanence one can possess is that found in one’s own person in back of the position.

This is why the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University constantly impressed upon his students the need to constantly improve their own persons. Note the following: It is but half the task to secure the title or position. The most significant half is what one does with the title or position. (One must not only plan how to get the position or title, but what to do with the position and title when one gets it.) And the attention paid to one’s own person helps towards this end. Aside from acquiring credentials and competence, the comprehensive development of one’s CHARACTER is a third facet that can never be taken from the person in back of a position. (Character is not your highest moment or your lowest moment. Character is your most consistent moment.)

More importantly, Character easily transferable from position to position, unit to unit or organization-to-organization, which is why the singular, solitary focus upon a position and title (as opposed to the development of one’s own person) is unwise. For the man or woman who has “strength aside from the title” and who has “brains” in their “heads” will always possess these attributes without regards to a position or a title. (And they will always be desired and in demand.) And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University who we celebrate in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015) was not only such a man, but he also offered these wise “words” and set forth the accompanying “works” in his 34-year long presidency at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University (1881-1915).

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