“We can fill your heads with knowledge, and we can train your hands to work with skill, but unless all this training of head and hand is based upon high, upright character, upon a true heart, it will amount to nothing. You will be no better off than the most ignorant.” – Booker T. Washington, A Sunday Evening Talk

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

In this writer’s opinion, “integrity” is the greatest 9-letter word, “knowledge” is the second greatest, and “ignorance” is-by far-the worst and most dangerous. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, gives on this Sunday evening talk his oft-repeated conception of “heart-head-hands” to help his students avoid the dread of becoming “no better off than the most ignorant.” One can easily seek the help of professors to develop one’s “head”. (These men and women have as their primary purpose to fill the “heads” of students with “knowledge”.) Likewise, professors are able to help make a student’s “hands”-or their work-“skill”[ful]. (Through repeated instruction and correction a student will either become skillful at their work orthey will receive failing grades.) Yet, the matter of the “heart,” Mr. Washington suggests, is one matter where students must begin and complete this work largely alone. (Let no man or woman ever presume to become an expert on the subject of another’s heart.) Of all subject matters, it is the one that is deeply personal and unique to the individual. Whereas both the competencies of the “head” and the credentials of the “hands” lie in full view, the “heart” is always hidden from view. Yet, without it, all else “will amount to nothing.” For Mr. Washington’s complete configuration of Heart-Head-Hands in education is akin to the strength necessary to shoot arrows a great distance even as Tuskegee University has shot forth the sons and daughters of Booker into rewarding and meaningful careers of service for over 133 years. The heart is the unseen and invisible strength that determines how far one can bend the bow to make the arrow go.

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