The Washington Digest

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In honor of the legacy of Booker T. Washington during this centennial anniversary of his death on November 14, 2015, President Brian Johnson has expanded upon the August 21, 2014 edition of the Washington Word Digest, providing a more detailed understanding of the life, calling and influence of Tuskegee's founding principal/president. 

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"[New York City Nov. 10, 1915] [To Alexander Robert Stewart] Be sure my yard is well cleaned."  - Booker T. Washington

The Booker T. Washington Papers Volume 13 1914-1915, p.428. Editors Louis R. Harlan and Raymond W. Smock, University of Illinois Press: Urbana.

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In all likelihood, this was the final letter written by the eminent founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). (For Booker T. Washington died on Sunday morning November 14, 1915-not 5 days later-after requesting to return to Tuskegee, Alabama to spend his final days and after this letter was written to Alexander Robert Stewart.) Until his death, Mr. Washington wrote several short letters with instructions to his colleagues in Tuskegee with the above being the last: "Be sure my yard is well cleaned." While one may regard this final communiqué as someone who regarded his yard more important than his soul, this is not so. For this final writing was a reflection of his soul indeed-a soul devoted to his work. (And there are several lessons here to learn about Mr. Washington's sense of his vocation-his "calling"-as the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Normal School, Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee University.) In a book jointly published with W.E.B. Du Bois titled, The Negro in the South: His Economic Progress in Relation to His Moral Religious Development (1907), Washington writes, "I explained to them that there was a vast difference between being 'worked' and 'working'. I said to them that being 'worked' meant degradation, that 'working' meant civilization. We have gone on at Tuskegee from that day until this, emphasizing the difference between being 'worked' and 'working'." Mr. Washington's notion of "work" is exhibited quite poignantly in this historic personal correspondence noting both his public and private persona's devotion to "work."

First, tales abound in the Tuskegee community about Mr. Washington's intense devotion to work, and there is no greater joy for a man or woman than to be engaged in a line of work that honors both the souls of men and their own. Mr. Washington not only spent countless hours fundraising, administering, teaching, speaking and writing but even in his rest, he could be found in his yard and in the garden working.

Second, Mr. Washington not only took great pride in the university he led for some 34 years-including its architecture, landscape and scientific innovations made famous by Robert R. Taylor and George Washington Carver-but also in the now world-renowned "Oaks,"-his private home. Thomas Jefferson suggests the following about the marriage between one's personal and professional life: "When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property." What's striking about the public Principal and President Booker T. Washington is that there was a glaring consistency with the private person Booker T. Washington. (He not only cared for his public university but he cared for his private home.) There would be no glaring inconsistency between his meticulous attention to the university landscape without corresponding attention being paid to his private landscape. Albeit this might be insignificant to some, it is one of the clearest tell-tale signs of his character, credentials and competencies being applied to matters public and private.

Third and last, Mr. Washington's last letter reeks of selflessness. (There was no hint or mention in the writing about himself, his illness or his own person.) To be sure, he probably had intensely deep and private conversations with his wife Margaret Murray Washington and his secretary, Emmett J. Scott, in the waning moments of his consciousness; Nonetheless, true to his work and to the very end, his last official act placed in writing as president of one of the nation's greatest institutions was devoted to instructions about his "yard" being "well-cleaned." Annually, thousands of visitors trek across the nation and the world to visit the home site of Tuskegee's founding principal and president. (And at least a thousand persons were on campus on a November day in 1915 to attend his funeral only 5 days after he wrote this letter.) So perhaps Mr. Washington's final concern for his yard being cleaned was not only for that generation but also for the many future generations that would follow in the 100 years since his death. This concern contains an undercurrent of an intense devotion and commitment to the truest sense of both "vocation" and "work" which hails from its Latin origin, "calling." For Mr. Washington indeed fulfilled a personal and public calling as president of Tuskegee University from 1881 to 1915, and in this the centennial year since his passing we celebrate a man who embodies the following notion: Careers fill pockets. Callings fill people. And fulfilled people fulfill great purposes.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 13, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[I] stuck to my old line of argument, urging the education of the hand, the head and the heart." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education," (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While there is significant historic disagreement with Mr. Washington's philosophical orientation toward 'vocational' education, what is often omitted in such discussions is his overarching sense of the term "vocation". The word is derived from its Latin origin, 'vocare,' and it means "to call". Between the 16th to 19th centuries, 'vocation' within a given profession was commonly understood as "calling". "Vocation" or "Calling" is inclusive of much more than work involving the "the education of the hand," which undoubtedly was a Washingtonian emphasis in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Notwithstanding, a "heart" enflamed with a personal sense of passion and integrity toward one's work, a "head" filled with the requisite knowledge for one's field and, lastly, "hands" that are ready and willing to translate both "heart" and "head" into practical experience within a specified field are the sum whole of Mr. Washington's notion of "heart," "head" and "hands". Thus, Heart (Character) + Head (Competence) + Hands (Capability) = (W)holistic Calling.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 15, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Some people may say that it was Tuskegee's good luck that brought to us this gift of fifty thousand dollars. No, it was not luck. It was hard work. Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. When Mr. Huntington gave me the first two dollars, I did not blame him for not giving me more, but made up my mind that I was going to convince him by tangible results that we were worthy of large gifts. For a dozen years I made a strong effort to convince Mr. Huntington of the value of our work. I noted that just in proportion as the usefulness of the school grew, his donations increased." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Nothing is more disturbing to hear about individual or organizational success-especially if you have contributed to such success-than that such success should be attributed to "luck" and not "hard work". Hard work involves deliberate and persistent effort directed towards a designated end that is often easy to gloss over when witnessing the outcome and not the work preceding it. And such was Mr. Washington's work in the advancement and development efforts of Tuskegee Institute (University). Here was a man who did not scoff at any amount received into the coffers of Tuskegee whether great or small. Without regard to the amount, he "made up [his] mind" to be resolute about his pursuit for even larger ones with his chief aid being "tangible results." Or, as he wrote elsewhere, "Let[ting] Examples Answer." For when an organization's "examples answer," it becomes easier to proceed from strength to strength because past successes are often the surest indicators of future successes.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 12, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"To John Henry Washington [Booker T. Washington's older brother who also worked at Tuskegee Institute]. Mr. J.H. Washington, Supt Industries: As to the Barn I notice the plows, wagons &c under the barn are not kept in an orderly systematic manner. They are thrown here and there much as one would see them on an ordinary country farm. This should not be so." -Booker T. Washington, [Tuskegee, Ala.], August 31, 1891

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In the lore of Tuskegee Institute's illustrious history, there are scores of accounts, stories, and anecdotes about the meticulous management of its founding Principal and President Booker T. Washington. (This was all in addition to his visioning and planning at a macro level.) From his daily rounds around campus on his horse to his quick admonition of a student who was not properly attired, Mr. Washington's attention to all things Tuskegee is often unknown to persons beyond the Tuskegee Institute (University) family. And this piece of correspondence directed to his own older brother speaks volumes about how his management was without "respect of persons." Mr. John Henry Washington played a pivotal role in the founding and development of Tuskegee Institute (University). Moreover, he played an important role in the life of his little brother Booker. For it was he who assisted younger Booker's efforts to receive a formal education. All the same, Booker played no favorites in communicating with his brother-his older brother-concerning those matters that lie within his charge. And in order to provide such correction, Mr. Washington must have went out from his office and home to observe and inspect those things within his brother's charge. Imagine this, in addition to all of his activities, the founding Principal and President made time to visit and inspect both the barn and underneath the barn-even his own brother's barn. Such a tenacious commitment to consistency surely must have resonated with all other employees within Tuskegee Institute. For surely if the Tuskegee Institute (University) President found the time to inspect, correct and communicate with his own older brother about his area, he would surely make the time to inspect, correct and communicate with anyone else about their areas. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 11, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Among the most trying class of people with whom I come in contact are the persons who have been educated in books to the extent that they are able, upon every occasion, to quote a phrase or a sentiment from Shakespeare, Milton, Cicero, or some other great writer. Every time any problem arises they are on the spot with a phrase or a quotation. No problem is so difficult that they are not able, with a definition or abstraction of some kind, to solve it. I like phrases, and I frequently find them useful and convenient in conversation, but I have not found in them a solution for many of the actual problems of life." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

We often deceive ourselves by assuming that a word fitly spoken, an opinion boldly proffered, an argument well-written or a critique loosely given is tantamount to leadership--particularly with respect to solving "the actual problems of life." And this is the idea that Booker T. Washington explained in his observations of men and women who offer words without any accompanying works. Thomas Edison suggested that "A vision without execution is a hallucination." To be clear, "vision"-the single greatest 6-letter word- requires words for articulating, reasoning, inspiring and motivating. Yet, this is only one half of the deal in leadership. The other half is transforming those words into works. Such works, unlike words, are never philosophical or theoretical "abstraction[s]". These works are "solution[s] for many of the actual problems" that visionary words propose to solve. Works are the evidentiary and documentable deeds done that substantiate the words of visionary leadership. Works are what can be touched, pointed to and-most importantly-verified, substantiated and authenticated precisely like the presence of Tuskegee (Institute) University that still stands a full century since Mr. Washington's death (1915-2015). Mr. Washington's late 19th and early 20th century demonstration of visionary leadership is the complete expression of a leader's love for "words" that he found "useful and convenient in conversation," as well as his "work" achieved and completed at Tuskegee. And witnessing such visionary leadership is akin to persons upon a ship viewing an iceberg in the middle of a frigid ocean. The "words" are what sit atop the iceberg's tip until the "works" of the impressive mass that lies beneath comes slowly into view.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 10, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I remember one young man in particular who graduated from Yale University and afterward took a post-graduate course at Harvard, and who began his career by delivering a series of lectures on "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington." It was not long, however, before he found that he could not live continuously on my mistakes. Then he discovered that in all his long schooling he had not fitted himself to perform any kind of useful and productive labour. After he had failed in several other directions he appealed to me, and I tried to find something for him to do. It is pretty hard, however, to help a young man who has started wrong." - Booker T. Washington, (1911) My Larger Education 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. offers the following concerning men and women whose actions are similar to the young man described in Booker T. Washington's aforementioned passage: "Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way - and the fools know it." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University provides several important lessons about both the young man-as well as all men and women of his ilk-who seek to establish their name and reputation on the basis of disparaging the name and reputation of others-particularly those whose accomplishments they will only be brought in close proximity to only upon the basis of "controversy." First, Mr. Washington never ever mentions this young man's name. While this unidentified young man knew full well that persons might give him a hearing-not upon the basis of his own person and accomplishments, but based upon the person and accomplishments of his topic, "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington,"-identifying or responding to this young man provided not a single, solitary benefit to Mr. Washington and Tuskegee. Second, Mr. Washington understood that the young man's premises were flawed from the onset, and it is the clearest telltale example of Mr. Washington's oft-repeated phrase, "Let examples answer." To be sure, the actions of no man or woman are all "good" or all "bad." (This is naïve, simplistic and child-like thinking.) Yet, in the face of the clear, overwhelming and documentable evidence that testify to the good that Mr. Washington had done locally, regionally and nationally, this young man titled his lecture series according to what he perceived were the mistakes of Mr. Washington. Here again, what one consistently reads and hears, one will consistently become. And this young man ought to have taken heed to how and to what he was hearing for it ultimately led to what he had become. (For this young man's attempt to categorize and confine a man of Booker T. Washington's eminence and accomplishments to a series of perceived mistakes that his limited training, limited knowledge and limited life experience identified did nothing but demonstrate his failure to understand the significance of the (2) greatest 9-letter words and the single, most dangerous 9-letter word: (1) "Integrity," (2) "Knowledge," and (3) "Ignorance.") Finally, we should consider Mr. Washington's demonstration of another one of his famous aphorisms: "I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him." The very same young man who sought to disparage and defame Mr. Washington later sought him for assistance, and Mr. Washington "tried to find something for him to do." (This dynamic needs no additional commentary.) Yet what is deserving of additional commentary is that this young man might have spent his time and work writing, lecturing and building his own legacy and life worth reading as opposed to seeking to denigrate another's whose legacy and life of building Tuskegee (Institute) University spanned 34 years (1881-1915) and remains and is read to this very day. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 9, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: "Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis's idea that "perfect humility dispenses with modesty" rejects such an accusation. ("Humility" is the greatest 8-letter word and "Fearless" is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington's conception of "education" encompasses those who have erred and failed because a "truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything" permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences "falsity [or failure] in anything" because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of "knowledge"-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing "success"-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real "falsity" or "failure" in the truest sense of the words. For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called "false" or a "failure" because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: "Humility" and "Fearless," which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 8, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[To Gilchrist Stewart]...I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less." - "November 9, 1897," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one's purpose and passion in connection with one's work: "It is not easy work rejoining soul and role." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of "heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable)," Mr. Washington wanted someone to "take hold in a whole souled way," and "whose soul is deeply in love with his work." 

While Mr. Washington's passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone "who gives [work] his thought night and day." Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone "who looks so closely after every detail of his work...whom orders will not have to be continually repeated...[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work." Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, "it does take all of that" to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of "continuous improvement." It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after "purpose" and "passion.") Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee (Institute) University. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 5, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_headerPersonal and Private

"Dear Sir: I am not active in politics and do not expect to be, and have no claim upon your time or attention. I simply write to assure you that I am doing in a rather quiet way whatever I can in connection with our mutual friend, Mr. Clarkson, to bring about your nomination for the presidency at St. Louis Convention [...]." - April 10, 1896," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington possessed many detractors who railed against the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University for not being "active in politics." In spite of this, we repeatedly find in his letters and correspondence that he was simply not "active" in the precise manner at the precise time that persons wanted him to be. Such was the case in his communication to William Boyd Allison. Although Mr. Washington was not loud, boisterous nor public in communicating the whole of his ideas and activities, he moved "in a rather quiet way" as demonstrated in this letter marked "personal and private." Unlike those without such responsibilities, many leaders of large and vast organizations like Booker T. Washington are not at liberty to publicly communicate all of their opinions or activities directed towards particular ends. Whether in the 19th century where leaders communicated through pen and paper or in the 21st century where men and women communicate via email or social media, you will rarely find the most effective leaders revealing the whole of their minds and the whole of their undertakings upon a matter. (The weightier their position, the weightier their word.) It is a small and insignificant thing for a person who possesses no public reputation or great authority to offer opinion on highly charged political matters. Yet for a man in Booker T. Washington's position, every move and word was scrutinized because of the eminence of his role and institution. For some 34 years, he was not simply Booker Washington; He was Booker Washington, principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University. As such, prudence dictated that he move "in a rather quiet way" on a great majority of matters for a great majority of his 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 4, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I hope that each of you as you go out for the summer, whether you go out with the view of returning here to finish your course of study, or whether you go out as graduates of the institution, I want each of you to remember that you are going to go backward or you are going to go forward. It will be impossible for you to stand still. You will either go upward or you will go downward, and as you go upward, you will take others up with you, or as you go downward, you will take others with you." - "Sunday Evening Talk," "May 13, 1900," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In life, leadership and a host of other endeavors, one can hardly expect to move "forward" or "upward" while "stand[ing] still". As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University eloquently articulates in one of his "Sunday Evening Talks" with students, "you are going to go backward or you are going to go forward." To be sure, Mr. Washington's idea of moving "forward," "backward," "upwards," or "downwards" is not an absolute formula. There are a great many occasions where perceived "backward" movements propel individuals and organizations "forward," and perceived "upward" movements move individuals and organizations "downward." Notwithstanding, the idea contained in Mr. Washington's aforementioned formulation speaks most precisely to "activity" or "inactivity," which is otherwise known as, "stand[ing] still". History and contemporary society are replete with examples of men, women and organizations whose constant activity have led to a single monumental success after many repeated failures. Yet, what is constant in both the successes and failures is "activity." Mr. Washington has also described it as, "going". And while it is true that busyness is not the same as effectiveness, it is equally true that the man, woman or organization that is busy "going" is more likely to become successful as opposed to those who are "standing still." 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 3, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear Mr. Benner: Please tell Booker that I am to be here for a week, and that I should like to hear from him. He has a tendency, I have noticed, to stoop over when he sits, and to stand not at all erect when he walks. I hope you will do all that you can to correct this habit. Very truly yours." - "May 5, 1904," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was not only an affectionate father who wanted to hear from his sons, he was also a father that provided instruction to them as well. His namesake attended the Wellesley School for Boys in Wellesley, MA, and Mr. Edward Augustine Benner was principal of the school during young Booker's tenure. Similar to his stewardship over the affairs of Mother Tuskegee, he equally considered important the stewardship over his children as a father. A consummate educator, his letters, speeches and writings demonstrate that he used every incident occurring in the walls of the university to provide object lessons to his students for their betterment. Similarly, he used the opportunity to inquire of his son's well -being while simultaneously requesting that the principal make note of his recommendations concerning his son's posture. Like a good teacher, Mr. Washington well understood that paternal love is not constrained to a demonstration of empathy and concern, it also involves correction. For love, empathy and concern properly understood involves both.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
June 2, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[To Charles Winter Wood] Fear Booker still unwell. Go Wellesley at once and have full consultation with Mr. Brenner. If you and he think wise and necessary have good physician give Booker thorough examination and do whatever is best for him at any reasonable expense. Have all your dealings with Mr. Benner and do nothing he does not approve. Find out how Booker getting on in every way. Telegraph answer my expense after you have been to Wellesley." - "May 21, 1904," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In still another correspondence demonstrating the paternal regard he had for his son, Booker during his tenure at Wellesley school for the boys, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University once again demonstrates concern for his son yet without undermining the authority of Mr. Brenner, the principal and chief administrator of Wellesley. It is clear that a man of Booker T. Washington's eminence, renown, position and wealth might have easily sought to "go around" the principal to have his designate attend to his son. However, he did not do so. As a principal and president of an educational institution himself, he fully understood policy, process and protocol. (How could he have otherwise expected others to respect his authority and process as principal of Tuskegee Institute if he did not respect the authority and process of Mr. Benner, principal of Wellesley?) He did not seek advantage upon the grounds of patronage, parentage, position or prominence with respect to young Booker. Instead, he instructed his designate, one Mr. Charles Winter Wood, as follows: "Have all your dealings with Mr. Benner and do nothing he does not approve." Here again, "integrity" is the greatest 9-letter word, and one's words ought to necessarily be synonymous with one's works. What Mr. Washington expected from others during his tenure at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University is in turn what he expected of himself.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 1, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I hope, for instance, that a large proportion of you-in fact all of you-will make it a practice to give something yearly to this institution. If you cannot give but twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or a dollar a year, I hope you will put it down as a thing that you will not forget, to give something to this institution every year. We want to show to our friends who have done so much for us, who have supported this school so generously, how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess. I hope that every senior, in particular, will keep this in mind. I am glad to say that we have many graduates who send us such sums, even if small, and one graduate who for the last eight or ten years has sent us ten dollars annually." -"Sunday Evening Talk," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

When potential donors inquire with an institution concerning its alumni giving participation, the percentage of total alumni giving, not the amount of alumni giving, is the foremost consideration. Even if a single alumnus gives $1M per year, the following questions are immediately begged: What is the giving and interest level of the thousands of remaining alumni that the institution has graduated? Was this a single aberration? Is giving limited to the eminently successful alumni? Or does it extend from small to great-all of whom are recipients of Tuskegee Institute (University) baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees? And interest level goes well beyond public professions of love for one's alma mater "our nourishing mother," but the expression of this love in tangible gifts and donations. Mr. Washington, founding principal and president, understood this well when he spoke the following to students who would become future alumni during one of his Sunday evening talks: "We want to show to our friends...how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess." Although the sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee are the institution's most precious value claim to the world-its most precious commodity-the gifts of those interested, including alumni, in the advancement of the institution are what established-and continues to establish-Tuskegee Institute (University's) reputation as one of the finest campuses and strongest academic destinations in the nation and the world. Friend-raising and fundraising begins at home. And if those who are most intimately familiar with and profess support or love for the institution will not give to it, why would a stranger who is not familiar with and professes no support or love for the institution give to it? Thus consistent giving whether small or great, regularly (monthly or annually), from 100% of graduated students or as Mr. Washington pronounced, "all of you," is the clearest indicator of alumni strength.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 29, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear sir: In further answer to your very kind letter of a few days ago making inquiry as to the work of our graduates and ex-students, I would say that one of our officers is employed almost continuously in visiting and inspecting the work being done by the men and women that we turn out, and he makes periodical reports to me of what he finds, and I take the liberty of enclosing to you a copy of the last report which he sent in. An analysis of this report will show that 57 cases are covered. Four are engaged wholly in teaching, 27 work wholly at their trades, 26 teach in connection with working at their trades. Yours truly," - Booker T. Washington, "July 9, 1903"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Nothing is more exhilarating-aside from reporting and conveying high rates of alumni giving percentages-for a president of a university to take delight in reporting about his or her alumni than reporting upon their individual successes in their fields of study. Make no mistake, the pride and strength of any institution is its students and its graduates for these individuals represent the core mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of any institution of higher learning. Long before the nomenclature of an "outcomes-oriented organization" became commonplace in American higher education, here you find the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University providing data-informed responses to inquiries with respect to his graduates. Note, there is not a single day in the life of a university president where he or she is not requested to provide documentable, evidence-based and outcomes-based responses regarding the successes of their institution. Though somewhat rudimentary in 1903, Mr. Washington, all the same, provided "facts" not "floating tales" in the form of a "periodical report" that he is able to readily provide to any would-be supporter or detractor concerning his work at Tuskegee (Institute) University. Here again, it is an extension of Mr. Washington's often quoted maxim: "Let examples answer." (It is simply unwise in any endeavor to offer words without accompanying and supporting works.) In this respect, Mr. Washington did not merely suggest that the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee were the very best and the brightest, he demonstrated it. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 28, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear Sir: Yours of May 2nd has been received and is somewhat of a surprise to me. I would say, however, at the outset that it is against my custom to make reply in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears, and if he permits himself to be influenced by them I find he will impair his usefulness for work, and it has been my rule to neither deny nor affirm such stories [...]" - Booker T. Washington, "May 4, 1892"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of all the considerations persons fail to consider when they approach the President of Tuskegee Institute (University)-or any leader of a highly visible organization-is perhaps the most obvious of all: "[...] in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man [or woman] who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears [...]". And Mr. Washington's assertion is one that all leaders and talebearers would do well to take heed to. For talebearers, such an omission does not injure the public figure, but injures the bearer of the "tales" designed to "put into his ears." Unknown to many, the role of President or CEO grants access to a great many details that most persons are not-nor ever will be-privy to. And those who approach a leader with information that he or she is likely already familiar with will generally find that their information is likely-partial at best or faulty at worst. For if a leader allowed himself or herself to be "influenced" by partial or faulty information, it would "impair his [or her] usefulness for work." And, in the end, it would be the leader-not the talebearer-who would be standing alone to explain why he or she relied on "floating" tales as opposed to facts. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 27, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Before going to Tuskegee I had expected to find there a building and all the necessary apparatus ready for me to begin teaching. To my disappointment, I found nothing of the kind. I did find, though, that which no costly building and apparatus can supply, -hundreds of hungry, earnest souls who wanted to secure knowledge." - Booker T. Washington, "Up From Slavery," (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

To be sure, a surplus of resources-material, monetary, human or property (land)-are necessary for the building of a great institution of higher education. Nevertheless, all of these resources would be wasted if there were not students who are "hungry," "earnest" and desire "knowledge." It is roundly true that Mr. Washington's "Tuskegee Machine" was one of the wealthiest institutions in the nation during the late 19th and early 20th century (and beyond), yet it was equally true that the real strength of the institution was its people-namely the many students and subsequent graduates of Tuskegee (Institute) University who have gone forth as the 'sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee'. For this collective body of students-past, present and future-are the living "building" and "apparatus" of Tuskegee University and the spring from which all of its resources have and must continue to flow. And these students not only represent the strongest indicator of its wealth but these students represent where Tuskegee University's resources will continue to be invested.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 26, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I have found that strict business methods go a long way in the securing the interest of rich people. It has been my constant aim at Tuskegee to carry out, in our financial and other operations, such business methods as would be approved of by any New York banking house." - Booker T. Washington, _Up From Slavery_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One of the surest indicators of how an organization might manage another's resources-fiscal or otherwise-is to consider how this same organization manages its own, and Mr. Washington's desire to manage Tuskegee Institute in a manner that "would be approved of by any New York banking house" is quite telling. In both its "financial and other operations," Mr. Washington wanted to ensure that the practices of Tuskegee Institute (University) were such that it would appeal to the persons who could help fiscally advance and develop the University the fastest-"rich people". While it is true that Mr. Washington received a great many gifts from persons who were not wealthy-make no mistake-many of the most pivotal and significant gifts came from persons with wealth. For the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) well understood that if he was going to attract the "interest" of persons with means then he would have to follow the very practices that were used in managing such means.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 22, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[I] stuck to my old line of argument, urging the education of the hand, the head and the heart." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education," (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While there is significant historic disagreement with Mr. Washington's philosophical orientation toward 'vocational' education, what is often omitted in such discussions is his overarching sense of the term "vocation". The word is derived from its Latin origin, 'vocare,' and it means "to call". Between the 16th to 19th centuries, 'vocation' within a given profession was commonly understood as "calling". "Vocation" or "Calling" is inclusive of much more than work involving the "the education of the hand," which undoubtedly was a Washingtonian emphasis in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Notwithstanding, a "heart" enflamed with a personal sense of passion and integrity toward one's work, a "head" filled with the requisite knowledge for one's field and, lastly, "hands" that are ready and willing to translate both "heart" and "head" into practical experience within a specified field are the sum whole of Mr. Washington's notion of "heart," "head" and "hands". Thus, Heart (Character) + Head (Competence) + Hands (Capability) = (W)holistic Calling.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 21, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[...] I made up my mind definitely on one or two fundamental points. I determined: First, that I should at all times be perfectly frank and honest in dealing with each of the three classes of people that I have mentioned; Second, that I should not depend upon any "short-cuts" or expedients merely for the sake of gaining temporary popularity or advantage, whether for the time being such action brought me popularity or the reverse. With these two points clear before me as my creed, I began going forward." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education," (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While one may have great difficulty in successfully appealing to multiple constituents and interests, the surest way to fail at doing so is pandering to the opinions of all. And there is no better blueprint for negotiating the pitfalls of paltry politics and partisanship than to follow Booker T. Washington's two-part course of action throughout his 34-year Presidency (1881-1915): 1. Speak clearly, frankly and honestly at all times. 2. Though laborious-and often painstaking-let your work speak for itself. "Integrity," the single greatest 9-letter word, speaks to the former. Consistency in communication across constituencies produces confidence. (For conversations spoken in one arena are bound to be communicated to other arenas, and multiple constituencies will quickly discover inconsistencies and inequity when conversations are compared to one another.) "Purpose," the single greatest 7-letter word, speaks to Washington's latter formulation. Persons consumed with purpose have little time for pandering and cronyism because they are consumed with performance. (For, in the end, performance and accomplishment-not political expediency-is the primary currency needed in communication across constituent groups.) Mr. Washington's signal accomplishments-best evidenced in the past, present and future testament of Tuskegee University-provides the clearest telltale signs of his philosophy's success. And it was no "short cut."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 20, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"We have reached a period when educated Negroes should give more attention to the history of their race; should devote more time to finding out the true history of the race, and in collecting in some museum the relics that mark its progress. It is true of all races of culture and refinement and civilisation that they have gathered in some place the relics which mark the progress of their civilisation, which show how they lived from period to period. We should have so much pride that we would spend more time in looking into the history of the race, more effort and money in perpetuating in some durable form its achievements, so that from year to year, instead of looking back with regret, we can point to our children the rough path through which we grew strong and great." - Booker T. Washington, (1899) Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

John Lukacs suggests the following about the potential of the past coming to bear upon the future: "I saw the future and it was the past." And Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University offers a similar advisement in his little-known work, The Future of the American Negro published in 1899. Now, the mere assembling of the "relics" of any people group's history alone is not a sole predictor of its future. For it greatly depends upon what is being assembled as one paraphrased African proverb offers: "The hunter will always be the hero until the lion has his own historian." And Mr. Washington recommends the assembling of those "relics [in particular], which mark the progress of their civilization" and "achievements" placed "in some durable form." (Here again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) If one consistently reads a narrative or documentable history of a people characterized by its clear and documentable successes as opposed to failures documented for varying purposes, such histories will serve to shape not only the psyche of a single people group but also the psyche of all people groups who have a special relationship or closeness to this same group. Such is the history of Tuskegee (Institute) University, where reading the narratives of the men and women (including students, supporters, community members, faculty, staff and administrators) provide a documentable, inspiring and motivating "tradition" (past) that can translate into a documentable, inspiring and motivating "trajectory" (future). 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 19, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"We frequently hear the word 'lucky' used with reference to a man's life. Two boys start out in the world at the same time, having the same amount of education. When twenty years have passed, we find one of them wealthy and independent; we find him a successful professional man with an assured reputation, or perhaps at the head of a large commercial establishment employing many men, or perhaps a farmer owning and cultivating hundreds of acres of land. We find the second boy, grown now to be a man, working for perhaps a dollar or a dollar and a half a day, and living from hand to mouth in a rented house. When we remember that the boys started out in life equal-handed, we may be tempted to remark that the first boy has been fortunate, that fortune has smiled on him; and that the second has been unfortunate. There is no such nonsense as that. When the first boy saw a thing that he knew he ought to do, he did it; and he kept rising from one position to another until he became independent. The second boy was an eye-servant who was afraid that he would do more than he was paid to do-he was afraid that he would give fifty cents' worth of labour for twenty-five cents [...]The first boy did a dollar's worth of work for fifty cents. He was always ready to be at the store before time; and then, when the bell rang to stop work, he would go to his employer and ask him if there was not something more that ought to be done that night before he went home. It was this quality in the first boy that made him valuable and caused him to rise. Why should we call him 'fortunate' or 'lucky'? I think it would be much more suitable to say of him: 'He is responsible." - "Individual Responsibility: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

At the onset of receiving an entering incoming freshmen class into a university, one becomes awed and buoyed by the extraordinary sense of possibility that each student has in his or her future. Whether they were a 4.0 student or a 2.8 student in high school, the beginning of freshman year matriculation is a unique opportunity in their lives to start anew and afresh. And Mr. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), provides an example of two young boys who possessed the same opportunities, but had very different outcomes 20 years later. It is all too easy to pass off Mr. Washington's telling as some moralizing tale designed to motivate his students during one of his Sunday evening talks. Yet, we must be inclined to think that either Mr. Washington himself experienced this so-called tale directly-his autobiographical narrative Up from Slavery (1901) suggests as much-or he observed this in the lives of two of his students in his 34-year long tenure at the helm of Tuskegee University. Washington's telling of such a tale might also raise the ire and suspicion of those who might argue the following: "It is roundly unfair for Mr. Washington to ascribe lacking personal responsibility to the woes of the second boy's life because he doesn't know what happened to him." Notwithstanding any such dismissals, what Mr. Washington seeks to convey in this talk was the sense of a very real distinction between two young men who approached life matters-whether in the classroom or beyond-quite differently. The first young man was likely accused of being too punctual, too exact or just plain too serious. He often heard the now common proverbial expression: "It doesn't take all of that." And in spite of all attempts to justify the many failures of the second boy, all such attempts are undergirded with a profound sense of irony. (The very individuals who defend or make excuse for the second lad will also not hire him nor give him any responsibility regarding that, which is their own.) Wholly consistent with his reputation for being frank, honest and giving 'straight talk," Mr. Washington would not allow any such misgivings about his impressions of the success-or relative lack thereof-of the two boys described here. For Mr. Washington believed that "it does take all of that" to reach any desirable outcome, and one will be subject to the envy and criticism of others while doing it. Yet, enduring the sort of suffering experienced by the first boy is far better than experiencing the suffering of the second. We all experience one form of suffering or another, and if one learns how to suffer-to truly know how to suffer well in the thing that is good-one will learn how to succeed.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 18, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"More than that, a school that is content with merely turning out ladies and gentlemen who are not at the same time something else -- who are not lawyers, doctors, business men, bankers, carpenters, farmers, teachers, not even housewives, but merely ladies and gentlemen -- such a school is bound, in my estimation, to be more or less a failure." - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_(1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In keeping with his constant emphasis that "style"-however impressive to the eye or palpable to the ear-will never ever be a replacement for "substance," Booker T. Washington here speaks to the central purpose of a university education. Make no mistake, appropriate dress and eloquent speech is quite essential for the university-trained man or woman. Grades alone without accompanying poise, presence and posture will not assure one's entrance into career fields where appearance often factors into personal prejudices and/or preferences. All the same, "knowledge," which is the second greatest 9-letter word after "integrity," is one of the single most important attributes to be in possession of for the university-trained man or woman for not only the successful entrance into a field of activity but a successful stay. Whether in the 19th Century or the 21st Century, one has to know something. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and society, "knowledge" is the chief currency and substance in fields of activity where performance enables one to transcend multiple work environments. And the institution that is more concerned with what is upon the backs of her students than what is between the ears of her students, is in the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University's "estimation...more or less a failure."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 14, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"You cannot hope to succeed if you keep bad company. As far as possible try to form the habit of spending your nights at home." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk: On Influencing by Example"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

The adage that one is known by the company he or she keeps is an oft-expressed one, but the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, extends the adage even further both in the aforementioned passage and in another commonly quoted passage: "Associate yourself with people of good quality. It is better to be alone than in bad company." Moreover, his additional suggestion to "try to form the habit of spending your nights at home" is a very practical one worth noting. Insofar as it is possible to discern from his autobiography, correspondence, letters, speeches-and more importantly his accomplishments-the man, Booker Washington, apparently did little else but read, write, work and stay at home with his family. And while it is easy to regard Tuskegee (Institute) University's founding principal with an overwhelming sense of awe, one can begin to appreciate and understand him in view of his own self-discipline and self-sacrifice. (Everyone suffers but few suffer voluntarily. Yet, if one learns how to suffer, one will learn how to succeed.) One need not be reminded that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but how one spends those hours is what ultimately distinguishes men and women. (One would simply be amazed at how much more time can be committed to a meaningful mission or a purposeful project if time is not spent in (un)meaningful and (un)purposeful ones that do not result in progress.) Clearly, recreation, fun and leisure have their place but not if these things come at the expense of sustainable success. (Mr. Washington suggests that it is even better when one's recreation, fun and leisure become part and parcel of one's work.) For when an individual can transform his or her home into an extension of their workshop, they have the benefit of continuing, doubling and multiplying their labors when others have ceased from theirs.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 13, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear Sir: Your kind favor of May 2nd, asking if I could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College is received. I am pleased to know that you should think of me in this connection, and of course feel complimented in the highest degree, but I think it best to say in the beginning that I do not think I could be induced to give up my present position. The salary you name is much larger than I am present receiving but I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere, and for the further reason that there are a number of individuals throughout the North who have given and are giving rather large sums of money to this work, based on their faith in my devotion to this work [...]"- "May 9, 1894," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Highly successful men and women of character, competence and credentials are rarely without suitors for their services. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) was no exception. Mr. W.B. Murdock of Alcorn College approached Mr. Washington hoping that he "could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College." And what is most remarkable in Mr. Washington's reply was not his gracious recognition of the "compliment," but rather his reasons for not acquiescing to the offer and to remain at Tuskegee Institute (University): "[...] I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere...". Imagine that. A person electing to remain at an institution on the basis of the GOOD he or she might be able to do as opposed to having a larger salary? Perhaps this is an old-fashioned 19th Century notion or perhaps Mr. Washington and men and women of his ilk-unlike many in the present century-were men and women of purpose. And "purpose" is the single greatest 7-letter word.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 12, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 11, 2015

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"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 or they 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.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 8, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Some years ago, in an effort to bring our rhetorical and commencement exercises into a little closer touch with real things, we tried the experiment at Tuskegee of having students write papers on some subject of which they had first-hand knowledge. As a matter of fact, I believe that Tuskegee was the first institution that attempted to reform its commencement exercises in this particular direction." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

What might now be considered as painstakingly obvious-the idea that an educated man or woman should be well-versed in having "first-hand knowledge"-Tuskegee University was a visionary institution in the education of her students under the leadership of its founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington. For the characteristic of possessing "first-hand knowledge" is the hallmark of the thoroughly educated man or woman based upon the following reasons: First, these young men and women will be not easily deceived and misled as they enter into their chosen field of study. Having already experienced in some measure-whether in matters great or small-the activities that will be required of them, they are knowledgeable and prepared to not only deal abstractly but practically. Second, they learn to discern second-hand knowledge (or worst hearsay) as men and women of intelligence. (Only the unintelligible rely upon knowledge that they have not vetted "first-hand" or experienced.) The mark of intelligence is but an extension of one's integrity, the greatest 9-letter word, and if a man or woman would rely upon second-hand and/or piecemeal information in the employment of their duties in their chosen field of endeavor, they put their own work and reputation at risk through no other's fault but their own. Third and last, "first-hand knowledge" separates one from peers and colleagues who have not undertaken the requisite work and suffering (endurance) necessary for gaining this knowledge. (Hear again, if one learns how to suffer and is willing to suffer well, one will learn how to succeed.) These men and women undertook to do what others were unwilling to do, afraid to do or simply too lethargic to do. The founder's oft-repeated two most important qualities, "faith" and "hard work", are both necessary but the latter-the second greatest 4-letter word-is what gives men and women the grand opportunity to separate themselves on the field of "first-hand knowledge." (These men and women work while others talk.) You will not learn what you will not work to learn, and in this the centennial anniversary of Tuskegee University's Booker T. Washington's passing (1915-2015), we celebrate both the legacy and the institution of higher learning he "worked" for 34 years (1881-1915) to establish.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 7, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"After I got so that I could read a little, I used to take a great deal of satisfaction in the lives of men who had risen by their own efforts from poverty to success. It is a great thing for a boy to be able to read books of that kind. It not only inspires him with the desire to do something and make something of his life, but it teaches him that success depends upon his ability to do something useful, to perform some kind of service that the world wants." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

The great scholar, literary critic and 'Narnia' chronicler, C. S. Lewis, remarks about the value of books upon a young boy or girl's imagination: "Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker." Here again, what one consistently reads, one consistently becomes; Just imagine what one might become when one reads about the lives of great men and women from the time of one's youth even into one's mature years. This is what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University recommends, and it is a recommendation that we would do well to not only just follow, but continuously follow. First, the world needs verifiable, authentic and organic heroes, not simply scripted and fictional ones. Men and women whose lives are grounded in believable and relatable life experiences that one can readily identify with provides great grounds for hope for those who have similar experiences. Second, one can learn from the mistakes made in the lived lives of others. It is simply not true that one must repeat the mistakes of others. (Instead, you read and learn from them.) The triumphant records of men and women that also record both their foibles and follies are useful for persons of any century to learn, discern and comprehend that what happened before may very well occur again. Third, the lived lives of men and women who are no longer amongst us are permanent, indelible and fixed records that will remain ever unchanged. (One may repeatedly interpret and re-interpret their deeds done but there will be no adding or taking away from them.) And this final thought is one that certainly motivated men and women of the class of Booker T. Washington and should motivate us as well. For Booker T. Washington knew that one has but one life to live, and there would be no do over. When future chroniclers composed the narrative of his life, he wanted to be certain that it contributed to making someone else's "destiny brighter" not "darker." The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University did not simply write correspondence, books and speeches worth reading; he lived a life worth reading not only in his generation but also in the many future generations to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 6, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"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 far weightier 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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 5, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the "Tuskegee spirit"; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it." "Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the "Tuskegee spirit." (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the "Tuskegee spirit" is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The "Tuskegee spirit" is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 4, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: "Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis's idea that "perfect humility dispenses with modesty" rejects such an accusation. ("Humility" is the greatest 8-letter word and "Fearless" is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington's conception of "education" encompasses those who have erred and failed because a "truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything" permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences "falsity [or failure] in anything" because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of "knowledge"-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing "success"-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real "falsity" or "failure" in the truest sense of the words. For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called "false" or a "failure" because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: "Humility" and "Fearless," which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
May 1, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"My dear Mr. President [Theodore Roosevelt]: If you have in mind the sending in of a special message bearing upon the lynching of Italians in Mississippi, I am wondering if you could not think it proper to enlarge a little on the general subject of lynching; I think it would do good. I think you could with perfect safety, give the Southern States praise, especially the Governors and the daily press, for assisting in reducing the number of lynchings. The subject is a very important and far reaching one and keeps many of our people constantly stirred up [...]." - Booker T. Washington, "January 5, 1902"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Leo Tolstoy offers the following expression concerning men and women who live according to their conscience, as opposed to the dictates of popular sentiment: "He who lives not for the sake of his conscience, but for the sake of others' praise, lives badly." Although Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, might have expressed his views more diplomatically than most men and women of his era who were not situated at the helm of a major institution, he possessed his own methods to express his views nevertheless. And the communication to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt suggests a great deal about how this institutional president operated in matters of national importance. First, he need not make a public announcement of his views. Booker T. Washington had direct access to the President of the United States. An advisor to President Roosevelt on a number of political matters, his letters reveal an ongoing stream of communication that suggests that his advice and opinion mattered to the President and would be weighed carefully. Second, he used the opportunity of President Roosevelt's apparent willingness to discuss "the lynchings of Italians in Mississippi" to suggest that he broaden his discussion to encompass to one of his primary constituencies and concerns during the period-the lynching of African Americans. Finally, he alluded to the importance of the President addressing the subject: It was for the benefit of all Americans. He fittingly ascribed his concern to the well being of the country similar to Lyman Beecher Stowe's sentiment when he penned the following: "Here in America, we are all, in the end, going up or down together." Here again, the man Booker T. Washington might not have done what many desired him to do and in the precise manner they would have liked for him to do but he did do what he thought was right to do.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 30, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 29, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Among the most trying class of people with whom I come in contact are the persons who have been educated in books to the extent that they are able, upon every occasion, to quote a phrase or a sentiment from Shakespeare, Milton, Cicero, or some other great writer. Every time any problem arises they are on the spot with a phrase or a quotation. No problem is so difficult that they are not able, with a definition or abstraction of some kind, to solve it. I like phrases, and I frequently find them useful and convenient in conversation, but I have not found in them a solution for many of the actual problems of life." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

We often deceive ourselves by assuming that a word fitly spoken, an opinion boldly proffered, an argument well-written or a critique loosely given is tantamount to leadership--particularly with respect to solving "the actual problems of life." And this is the idea that Booker T. Washington explained in his observations of men and women who offer words without any accompanying works. Thomas Edison suggested that "A vision without execution is a hallucination." To be clear, "vision"-the single greatest 6-letter word- requires words for articulating, reasoning, inspiring and motivating. Yet, this is only one half of the deal in leadership. The other half is transforming those words into works. Such works, unlike words, are never philosophical or theoretical "abstraction[s]". These works are "solution[s] for many of the actual problems" that visionary words propose to solve. Works are the evidentiary and documentable deeds done that substantiate the words of visionary leadership. Works are what can be touched, pointed to and-most importantly-verified, substantiated and authenticated precisely like the presence of Tuskegee (Institute) University that still stands a full century since Mr. Washington's death (1915-2015). Mr. Washington's late 19th and early 20th century demonstration of visionary leadership is the complete expression of a leader's love for "words" that he found "useful and convenient in conversation," as well as his "work" achieved and completed at Tuskegee. And witnessing such visionary leadership is akin to persons upon a ship viewing an iceberg in the middle of a frigid ocean. The "words" are what sit atop the iceberg's tip until the "works" of the impressive mass that lies beneath comes slowly into view.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 28, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[...] After the man was shot his son brought him to my house for help and advise, (and you can easily understand that the people in and about Tuskegee come to me for help and advice in all their troubles). I got out of bed and went out and explained to the man and his son that personally I would do anything I could for them but I could not take the wounded man into the school and endanger the lives of students entrusted to my care to the fury of some drunken white men. Neither did I for the same reason feel that it was the right thing to take him into my own house. For as much as I love the colored people in that section, I can not feel that I am in duty bound to shelter them in all their personal troubles any more than you would feel called to do the same thing in Washington. I explained my position fully to the man and his son, and they agreed with me as to the wisdom of my course. And I now state what I have not to any one before. I helped them to a place of safety and paid the money out of my own pocket for the comfort and treatment of the man while he was sick. Today I have no warmer friends than this man and his son. They have nothing but the warmest feelings of gratitude for me and are continually in one way or another expressing this feeling. I do not care to publish to the world what I do and should not mention this except for this false representation. I simply chose to help and relieve this man in my own way rather than in the way some man a thousand miles away would have had me do it." - Booker T. Washington, "To Francis James Grimke," November 27, 1895

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

A man of Booker T. Washington's eminence, position and stature was often criticized on a great many matters from persons who perhaps had his interest-or their own-at heart, but were wholly removed from the facts. Often in the case of leadership-particularly in the leadership of a vast organization such as Tuskegee Institute (University)-one must exercise tremendous restraint in responding to erroneous opinions, ill-informed recommendations or ill-advised suggestions. However, Mr. Washington's response to what he perceived was a "false representation" of his character was another matter altogether. During the difficult period of "Jim Crow," many persons-white and black-held opinions about how the Tuskegee Principal should respond and react to racial atrocities as described in his letter to Grimke. In the present circumstance, Mr. Washington is responding to a letter from Grimke wherein the writer indicated that someone-"whose name [he had] forgotten"-relayed the circumstances of this event during a Bethel literary society meeting in Atlanta and that the founding Principal "refused to allow him to be brought in or the physician to attend him." To Grimke's credit, he went on to inform Mr. Washington that he felt it his "duty to apprise [him] of what was said." All the same, aside from Mr. Washington's detailed correspondence communicating the circumstances aright to Mr. Grimke, he went on to provide additional facts concerning his activities that were intentionally not designed for public consumption or publication. It would be remiss to think or believe that Mr. Washington's advocacy of industrial education or internal uplift and reform, was free from sympathetic interest to the political matters of his day. Rather, Mr. Washington's approach-as sound approaches often are-was marked by tact, sagacity and, most importantly, prudence. For Mr. Washington's true audience was not political constituents who suggested what ought be done but the father and the son who were the beneficiaries of what needed to be done.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 27, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Some people may say that it was Tuskegee's good luck that brought to us this gift of fifty thousand dollars. No, it was not luck. It was hard work. Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. When Mr. Huntington gave me the first two dollars, I did not blame him for not giving me more, but made up my mind that I was going to convince him by tangible results that we were worthy of large gifts. For a dozen years I made a strong effort to convince Mr. Huntington of the value of our work. I noted that just in proportion as the usefulness of the school grew, his donations increased." - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_ (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Nothing is more disturbing to hear about individual or organizational success-especially if you have contributed to such success-than that such success should be attributed to "luck" and not "hard work". Hard work involves deliberate and persistent effort directed towards a designated end that is often easy to gloss over when witnessing the outcome and not the work preceding it. And such was Mr. Washington's work in the advancement and development efforts of Tuskegee Institute (University). Here was a man who did not scoff at any amount received into the coffers of Tuskegee whether great or small. Without regard to the amount, he "made up [his] mind" to be resolute about his pursuit for even larger ones with his chief aid being "tangible results." Or, as he wrote elsewhere, "Let[ting] Examples Answer." For when an organization's "examples answer," it becomes easier to proceed from strength to strength because past successes are often the surest indicators of future successes.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 24, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance." - "Substance vs. Shadow: A Sunday Evening Talk" - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Shortly after beginning his presidency, Booker T. Washington began a series of "Sunday Evening Talks" to students and teachers. When compiling these in a book for compilation in 1901, he wrote in his preface: "These addresses were always delivered in a conversational tone and much in the same manner that I would speak to my own children around my fireside." Unlike a well-prepared lecture or speech that any might be able to prepare, Mr. Washington allowed his hearers to engage him directly in a "conversational" manner to learn who he was as opposed to who he appeared to be. And few other quotations excerpted from one of these talks demonstrate that he was a man of purpose, not pretension, than the one found here: "The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance." It would have been all too easy for Mr. Washington to rely upon his fame and renown to fully justify his not appearing before students in such an informal manner. (For he gave speeches across the nation, wrote books read 100 years since his passing and was the force behind what came to be regarded as the "Tuskegee Machine.") Rather-as a man of both words and works indeed-Mr. Washington wanted to fully demonstrate that he was a tangible person whose life embodied what he proverbially preached. He did not simply possess a title, which permitted him to perpetually parade in pomp and circumstance because of it. His work and achievements could be readily deduced and substantively emulated and followed by those he led. In sum, he was the real thing-not the "shadow" but the "substance." And in hindsight these Sunday evening talks is what likely lent even more power to his reputation. For Mr. Washington would have them to understand that he was no pretender but a man of purpose. And in the end, it was the person of Washington that men and women of Tuskegee could follow, not the position of Washington-the principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 23, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Ever since the beginning of this school, we have made it a point to try to secure teachers who would be willing to work wherever and whenever duty called, and in this respect I feel that we have been unusually successful. This school is supported almost wholly by people who make sacrifices of personal conveniences in order that they may give to us, and I cannot feel that it is right to allow a teacher to refuse, without adequate reasons to give a small sacrifice of her time to work that has the good of the girls in view, while at the same time our Northern friends and others are doing all they can to support the school in the belief that each teacher is willing to perform her duty in the same spirit that they give the money. We have a large number of girls whose mothers have entrusted them to our care [and it] seems to me that you should count it a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task." "February 9, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

No single individual can ever be fully and thoroughly compensated at the level he or she deserves especially for all the good that one is able to do for students when working in an institution of higher learning. From attending events that celebrate student success in the classroom to cheering students on as they represent the institution's proud brand and heritage in extracurricular activities, there is not a price that can be put on these interactions. And this was precisely Mr. Washington's point in his communiqué to one of his teachers at Tuskegee Institute (University). Non-profit work, which includes higher education, is indeed a revenue-generating endeavor, but revenue and high salaries are not the principal reasons for the existence of such organizations. The mission of non-profit organizations like Tuskegee University serves humanity in a number of ways, and the work of the university is to provide an education both inside and outside the classroom to equip a student for future employment and life-long living and learning. This is why it is generally "count[ed] a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task." For the man or woman who helps a single student on his or her pathway to full adulthood during such an impressionable period will be rewarded with something greater than mere money. This man or woman will be rewarded with the sense of knowing that his or her work has impacted not only the future of a single student but the lives of many others who will also become impacted through the single life of a single student. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 22, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I resolved at once to go to that school, although I had no idea where it was, or how many miles away, or how I was going to reach it; I remembered only that I was on fire constantly with one ambition, and that was to go to Hampton. This thought was with me day and night."  - Booker T. Washington. Up from Slavery (1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

"Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal," is a maxim that has survived several revisions, and though it has been attributed to several historic personages, Booker T. Washington's autobiography is a fine representation of this idea. One need not be reminded that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was a man who was formerly enslaved. While his autobiography chronicles his family's poverty and difficult circumstances, it also chronicles his undaunted courage, persistence and determination "to go to school" in spite of these challenges. Consider the following: Booker T. Washington possessed a "vision"-the greatest 6-letter word-to get an education that would be bound by neither obstacles nor the opinions of others. More than this, "this thought was with [him] day and night." (At night, while others were perhaps sleeping, this man was likely reading, writing and thinking, particularly as he gradually developed this life-long habit.) One can easily imagine the very apparent "obstacles" that might have caused him-as they did so many others-to retreat to a position of resignation that acquiring an education would not be within the grasp of a formerly enslaved young man. Or that somehow his "one ambition" was fool-hearted because others had not done so. Rather, he held fast to his idea to acquire an education when perhaps there was no reason to do so-except for "vision". (And he did infinitely more than receive the education he long "thought" of and "that [he] was on fire constantly for".) He was first educated. He next became a teacher and finally, at age 25, he became founding principal and president of one of the preeminent institutions in the world where he served for 34 years. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 21, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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Personal and Confidential
[To William Howard Taft]
My dear Mr. President: In considering the matter of the new judge for the Northern District of Alabama, I hope you will bear in mind the interests of the Negro. The United States Courts have been, as it were, kind of "cities of refuge" for the colored people. I mean that in these courts they have been always sure of securing justice in cases that properly come under the jurisdiction of such courts by reason of the fact that the judges have been such broad and liberal men that the juries have represented a class of people who would see that a fair verdict was rendered.

Not only this, but in the United States Courts in the South Negroes have heretofore been place on the grand jury and petit jury and in this way they gotten recognition that they have not gotten in any other case. This matter, as small as it is, has gone to make them feel that they were citizens and has encouraged them not a little. With few exceptions, where narrow minded men have been made judges they have gradually used their influence in some way to keep Negroes off the juries and have made them feel that they had few rights in these courts.

Please do not take the time to answer this letter. - Yours very truly, Booker T. Washington, "May 6, 1909"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

After "integrity," and "knowledge," "influence" is the third greatest 9-letter word. And in this letter to the 27th President of the United States of America, William Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington once again demonstrates that the range of his "influence" extended to the very highest levels of American government. In earlier correspondence, President Taft, who succeeded President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, made it crystal clear that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University would still be expected to play a similar major role in advising the President of the United States as he had done with President Roosevelt. (The correspondence reveals that Roosevelt not only recommended Washington's pivotal role in consulting on major affairs but also Taft readily assented.) All the same, we learn in the letter to President Taft three very important considerations about the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University and his "influence." First, we learn, contrary to popular opinion, he used his "influence" to address issues that concerned one of his most important constituents: African Americans. Here again, one would be remiss to think that Mr. Washington did not advocate on issues of importance. Rather, he moved "in a rather quiet way" as he indicated in a previous communiqué. (The loudest communication is not necessarily the most effective communication, and Mr. Washington's direct correspondence with the President of the United States is effective communication.) Second, the "influence" of Mr. Washington's correspondence was certain in that it was marked "personal and confidential." This was not one of many letters that the President of the United State or any man or woman situated at the helm of a large organization receives that may or may not come to his attention or was handled through an intermediary. It is clear that Mr. Washington's letters would be read by the President himself. So much so that Mr. Washington did not even need a reply: "Please do not take the time to answer this letter." Third and last, Mr. Washington's "influential" advocacy was owing to sound, sober and logical reasoning. His letter thoughtfully and dispassionately articulates the potential success for President Taft in following his suggestion based upon both past and present successes in similar matters. (No doubt Mr. Washington was likely part of such decisions during the Roosevelt Administration.) All three of these reasons-along with many, many more-are why Tuskegee University celebrates the "influence" of Booker T. Washington in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 20, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear Gen'l [Armstrong]: Mr. [Albert] Howe stayed with us 4 days and no one's visit has done us the real good that his has. His suggestions were valuable and criticisms frank. He has been especially helpful in his suggestions regarding our land and brick works." - Tuskegee, Alabama, April 29, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) offers here a noteworthy and rare commendation for one Mr. Albert Howe. While it is true what the Greek Historian Plutarch writes concerning friends and acquaintances-"I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better"-it is equally true that simply offering a criticism does not make the criticism valuable. Of the many eminent visitors and well wishers-invited or not-that Mr. Washington received at Tuskegee Institute in the first four years of his Presidency, "no one has done [Tuskegee] the real good that [Howe] has." Mr. Washington states unequivocally that unlike other suggestions that were offered, Mr. Howe's were "valuable and criticisms frank." To be sure, uttering a frank criticism was the not the sole characteristic of Howe's suggestion when a man of Mr. Washington's position assessed the value of Howe's recommendations as compared to those of others. Instead, Howe's suggestions came directly to bear upon how the institution managed two of its most important resources at the time-it's "land and brick works." One has to simply pause here to consider the regard Mr. Washington must have held for such a person who after spending "4 days" with him at Tuskegee, was able to be regarded as the single most helpful visit in his early four-year tenure. For it matters not whether the person offering a suggestion deems it valuable, but whether the person who receives the suggestion regards it as valuable.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 17, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I do not say you should not use them, should not posses 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 person is a third facet that can never be taken from the person in back of a position. More importantly, these facets are 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).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 16, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Dear Taylor: This letter may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I hope you can see your way clear to accede to our request. After deliberating for a good deal of time over the matter, we have determined to put some one of our graduates in the field in the North to collect money for the school; interest and instruct the people about our work, and we have settled on the conclusion that we can get no better person to represent us than yourself." - Booker T. Washington, June 9th 1893

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"Dear Friend: your letter of recent date was the greatest surprise imaginable. I have thoroughly considered the offer made to me and have decided to off-set my ideas of going to school next term, so as to comply with your request. As you know Alma-Mater means nourishing Mother. From an intellectual stand-point I consider Tuskegee my mother-so I am perfectly willing to act in the capacity of a child." - R.W.Taylor June 14th 1893

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Aside from her students, there is no more important constituent group for Mother Tuskegee than her students who have graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University). And this correspondence between Booker T. Washington and Robert Wesley Taylor illustrates the strong ties and affinity within the Tuskegee University Family. Note, the Founding Principal "deliberated for a good deal of time" when considering who among "the Sons and Daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee" would best represent the institution. Among the many shining arrows in their quiver, Robert Wesley Taylor was preeminent among the family's best and brightest. Although familial relations dictates equal filial love among siblings, when parents have a need it is not unusual for the strongest, most diligent, most generous and most capable son or daughter to respond. This describes the character of Mr. Taylor. Hearkening to the true spirit of Alma Mater, he regarded Tuskegee as his "intellectual nourishing mother." For Mother Tuskegee had nourished his nascent personal, intellectual, social and spiritual appetite with the milk of George Washington Carver among countless numbers of eminent professors, scholars and staff members who are still nourishing students today. Mr. Taylor did not stop at child-like professions of love for his mother. He exhibited the attitude of a full-grown son who responded with a ready reply when he was called. And "while children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children," a child does well when he or she has left home to help restore the nourishing ability of his or her mother so that mother is able to continue nurturing many, many more sons and daughters for years to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 15, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"ONE of the first questions that I had to answer for myself after beginning my work at Tuskegee was how I was to deal with public opinion on the race question.It may seem strange that a man who had started out with the humble purpose of establishing a little Negro industrial school in a small Southern country town should find himself, to any great extent, either helped or hindered in his work by what the general public was thinking and saying about any of the large social or educational problems of the day. But such was the case at that time in Alabama; and so it was that I had not gone very far in my work before I found myself trying to formulate clear and definite answers to some very fundamental questions." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education(1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

As a prelude to the second chapter, "Building A School Around A Problem," contained within his book, My Larger Education (1911), the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University discussed his need to not only build a school but to do so "around a problem." And like similar undertakings when starting something anew, it was never a question of Booker T. Washington's professional preparation, training or skill set; nor was it ever a question of his personal "integrity" and "knowledge". Rather, Mr. Washington found himself consumed with the "problems" of race that persons were more concerned with than the work of "building a school" designed to partly address these matters. And Mr. Washington makes it crystal clear how he would proceed to begin grappling with matters beyond the strict performance of his duties associated with being principal and president of Tuskegee: "ONE of the first questions that I had to answer for myself..." Note, no one was qualified nor experienced enough to assist the 25-year-old Booker newly arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama (Macon, County) in 1881, where the idea of starting an institution would be entirely foreign to a group of newly emancipated slaves who possessed no literacy nor life experiences beyond the rural locale. (He would also have to learn to communicate with former slave owners who had never encountered a gifted, visionary educational leader who could read, write and think beyond what they had probably expected.) To be sure, advisers similar to General Samuel Armstrong, founding principal and president of Hampton Institute (University) could certainly provide guidance on the actual work he was doing and on these matters in general; but on the day-to-day matters of living, learning and leading in Tuskegee, Alabama, this young founder had to find out "for myself." And what is crystal clear is that he not only did so but he did so in exceedingly, demonstrative and effective ways for everyone to see in both Tuskegee and throughout the world for over 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee. Here again, this is why we celebrate his "vision", his abilities as a "leader" and his extraordinary-not ordinary-"genius" in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing. And in this writer's opinion, "vision," "leader" and "genius" are the greatest 6-letter words in succession.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 14, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I have been a slave once in my life-a slave in body. But I long since resolved that no inducement and no influence would ever make me a slave in soul, in my love for humanity, and in my search for truth." - Booker T. Washington, (1907) The Negro in the South 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In a little-known, yet most noteworthy moment in the history of both American and African American literary history, Booker T. Washington jointly published the book, The Negro In the South (1907) containing 2 essays from himself and 2 other essays from none other than W.E.B. Du Bois. (And this was not their first co-publication. This would be the second book containing these two stalwarts in American and African American educational and intellectual history.) All the same, in the first of Mr. Washington's two essays, he makes the distinction between being a "slave in body" versus being a "slave in soul." Note the following concerning the remarks of the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University: He made a strategic, calculated set of decisions to ensure that his outward circumstance would not determine his future circumstances. (And these decisions revolved around a "love for humanity" and a "search for truth", which will always place the "lover" and "seeker" of such beyond the pale of those whose pursuits are self-interested and selfish.) First, a lover of humanity is unafraid to come to learn to love others because he or she has first come to love himself. One can hardly come to learn others if one does not possess a deep love for one's self, and this includes learning to love both the learned and the ignorant. For a man or woman who ascended to leadership, as Mr. Washington had done, not only encountered both but had been both during his long ascent Up From Slavery. Second, the seeker of truth seeks after that which is right without regard to where this truth leads. Leo Tolstoy eloquently suggests the following about such a principle: "If you wish to know the truth, first of all free yourself from all considerations of self-interest." Whether the truth Mr. Washington discovered was for the benefit or detriment to himself or not-"integrity" is the single greatest 9-letter word-this pursuit is without question what leads to 34 years of ongoing, consistent and enduring success for Tuskegee (Institute) University. For unbroken, undivided and unwavering consistency and wholeness is perhaps the closest description of both "truth" and Mr. Washington's presidency that has served and will continue to serve generations of "humanity." And this is why we celebrate his accomplishments in this the centennial year of his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 13, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"My dear friend Mr. Briggs: I will open school the 1st Monday in July. Judging from present prospects I shall have about thirty students the first day and a steady increase..." - Booker T. Washington, June 28, 1881 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

On June 28, 1881, a 25-year old Booker T. Washington had enrolled 30 students before Tuskegee Institute (University) was officially founded on July 4, 1881. While this was clearly a noteworthy moment at the onset of his presidency, this is not what is most startling about the first of many achievements that this young president would accomplish during his subsequent 34-years at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University. This young man's single most signal historic achievement-in this writer's opinion-occurred on June 24,1888, which is the date that this student and teacher who had been trained by General Samuel Armstrong, arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama. (We know this because on June 25, 1881 Mr. Washington wrote to James Fowled Baldwin Marshall the following: "Dear friend: Arrived here yesterday.") And it was on that day that a "Copernican Revolution" in the landscape of higher education occurred, not only in Tuskegee but in the history of the world. For this young man's arrival (to start an institution of higher learning for newly freed African Americans) reverberated and transcended not simply the city of Tuskegee and the county of Macon, but the entire world. These 30 men and women who were likely still using skill sets acquired during enslavement would now be afforded the opportunity to use these skills to gain their own economic and intellectual independence. They need not work for their former masters with little distinction in pay from the time of physical bondage. After the training of their hearts, heads and hands within this new institution of higher learning called Tuskegee Normal School (Institute) University, they could now use their own skill sets to start their own businesses and offer their services in a much more economically viable exchange between formerly enslaved men and women and their former masters. And this perhaps ranks atop of the many other significant reasons why we celebrate Booker T. Washington in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 10, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"My dear Mr. Schmidlapp: I thank you very much for your letter of January 3rd, also, for yours of December 7th, which I did not have the privilege of answering in person. We thank you for your subscription of One Hundred Dollars toward the Repair Fund. This will help us much." - Booker T. Washington, January 12, 1910." 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

There is no greater expense for many universities that were founded in the mid to late 1800s than the following: Deferred Maintenance Costs for both living and learning facilities. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was at the forefront of understanding how to create a diverse portfolio of fundraising that included, among other things, restricted gifts for the express purpose of going to the "Repair Fund." Note, the modern-day equivalent of the "Repair Fund" is akin to seeking both small and major "restricted" gifts for the renovation, restoration and repair of "bricks and mortar". (These are living facilities where students reside and learning facilities where professors teach and research. Many institutions have now combined such functions where students and professors can simultaneously "live and learn.") "Restricted" gifts designated for the renovation, restoration or repair of living and learning facilities are often used to serve "unrestricted" purposes. For when an institution can secure such gifts then monies contained within its own annual deferred maintenance budget can be used to renovate, restore and repair additional living and learning facilities. More importantly, when an institution possesses a deferred maintenance plan or schedule that designates monies for renovation, restoration and repair projects over a certain period, a single major "restricted" gift might allow the institution to improve a residential facility or classroom facility years before what the deferred maintenance schedule and plan originally projected. While this is generally understood in a knowledge-based, data-informed and outcomes-oriented 21st century higher education enterprise, here we find that Booker T. Washington was doing this not only in 1910, but as early as 1881 when he arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama only to discover that he would be spending his earliest years teaching in a hen house. (34 years later, he took this hen house and-with the help of employees like Robert R. Taylor and Emmett J. Scott and faculty members like George Washington Carver-transformed it into the single most immaculate campus in all of higher education both nationally and globally.) And this is why we celebrate Booker T. Washington in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing. For this was a man of substance whose writings, correspondence and (most importantly) deeds have demonstrated that he worked with "integrity" and "knowledge," which are the two single greatest 9-letter words, which is also probably why one of Mr. Washington's favorite sayings was as follows: "Let Examples Answer."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 9, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Confidential to Booker T. Washington: 

My dear Dr. Washington; At a meeting of the Investment Committee held on Tuesday, the 21st, I took the liberty of suggesting that I thought you ought to take a good vacation, if possible, during the summer. Such speaking campaigns as you have conducted last year and this, through different sections of the South, seem to me as important work as you have ever done, not only for your own race but for the country as a whole. I know very well, however, that that sort of thing is very exhausting; and I want you, if you can, to arrange your plans so that you may get some of the rest and refreshment of mind and body which will enable you to keep up that sort of service for more years. I am happy to report that the Committee was unanimously in sympathy with this suggestion, and I am writing to you now to say that I have at command the sum of One thousand dollars made up by a number of your friends for the purpose of enabling you to go to Europe next summer, or to any other place where you think you can get real rest. We do not want to send you away in order that you may do work elsewhere. Our purpose is to secure for one who has legitimately earned it, the sort of let-up which is so necessary now and then to keep one's power at their best. I am writing to you at this early day, so that you may have plenty of time to plan for your absence, if you think you can go. Please write to me frankly just how you feel and what you would like to do. Yours sincerely, - Seth Low, "December 23, 1909" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Without question, Booker T. Washington's 34-plus years of correspondence, speeches, writings, fundraising activities, institution building and a wide array of other activities demonstrate nothing other than this single, solitary fact: The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University worked, and he worked a lot. And the above passage is taken from one Mr. Seth Low who wanted to arrange for Mr. Washington to take some rest. While it is unclear whether Mr. Washington followed this recommendation-there is correspondence also from Mr. Emmett J. Scott that indicated that Mr. Washington routinely did not wish to rest-Mr. Low and his colleagues were also clear on another single, solitary fact: "Our purpose is to secure for one who has legitimately earned it, the sort of let-up which is so necessary now and then to keep one's power at their best." Note the following: Booker T. Washington, at the time of this letter, had been serving 29 years in this capacity as founding principal and president. While he was certain to have vacationed before, Mr. Low and his colleagues took great pains to make some attempt to preserve Mr. Washington's health. (Unbeknownst to all, the esteemed founding principal and president would pass away only 5 years later in 1934.) Notwithstanding, what was painstakingly clear then and remains painstakingly clear now, the man Booker T. Washington worked tirelessly on behalf of Mother Tuskegee and his documented and verifiable accomplishments attest to it. More importantly, Mr. Low and his colleagues not only benefited from his work but expressed their appreciation tangibly, which was but a small token in comparison with his 29 years of service: "Such speaking campaigns as you have conducted last year and this, through different sections of the South, seem to me as important work as you have ever done, not only for your own race but for the country as a whole. I know very well, however, that that sort of thing is very exhausting; and I want you, if you can, to arrange your plans so that you may get some of the rest and refreshment of mind and body which will enable you to keep up that sort of service for more years." In the end, it is easy to surmise that Mr. Washington was likely more concerned with the work he was doing as opposed to the appreciation in the form of a vacation that was being offered. And in many ways, his tireless ethic of "work," the second greatest 4-letter word, is why Tuskegee University celebrates him in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 8, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[To President Wilbur Patterson Thirkield] [...] In a word, I feel that you as President of the University know more than anybody else what it needs, and it seems to me that this is a matter in which you will have to largely if not wholly decide for yourself. That would certainly be the attitude I would take if Tuskegee were placed in a similar position. In the conduct of any large organization I believe that the only way for success to be attained is to support the man at the head. In the last analysis he bears the burden and should have the credit or censure for success or failure." - Booker T. Washington, August 15, 1909

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In an earlier communique, we learn that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) also held board appointments at other higher education institutions-including Howard University and Fisk University)-and in the present communication to President Wilbur Patterson Thirkield, then president of Howard University, Mr. Washington conveys his sentiments to the president who sought his counsel on an important matter. Although this dynamic needs little additional commentary, once again we find that Mr. Washington's counsel and influence is sought out. (His was an opinion that was valued and respected because he had documented, veritable and objective successes in his own personal and professional accomplishments that President Thirkield found helpful.) All the same, on the present matter, Mr. Washington had an especially keen and acute perception of President's Thirkield's position: He himself had served in the capacity of a president of a "large organization" such as "Tuskegee". Relying upon his own successes, longevity and achievements as a president-in 1909 he would have been the president of Tuskegee for 29 years-he offered the following summative counsel for President Thirkield: "In the last analysis he bears the burden and should have the credit or censure for success or failure." (And Booker T. Washington's assessment echoed another powerful sentiment expressed by President Theodore Roosevelt who Mr. Washington not only advised but dined with, becoming the first African American to dine in the White House-albeit, not without controversy.) In a rather lengthy quotation that has reverberated throughout American history since first uttered, President Roosevelt suggests the same as Tuskegee University President Washington's advice to Howard University President Thirkield: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." What we find in these two men, Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, are two men whose deeds and endeavors need not be recounted here. (Their works speak for them.) More importantly, these two men endured and withstood the very criticisms that President Thirkield would certainly face regardless of the decision he arrived at. As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University indicated: "This is a matter in which you will have to largely if not wholly decide for yourself." And given the long-term success of both institutions, Howard University and Tuskegee University, it is clear that the leaders of these institutions were both supported and surrounded by first-rate counselors. And in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since the passing of Booker T. Washington, we celebrate his successes as a presidential advisor, president, and even board member during his 34-year long tenure here at Tuskegee (Institute) University. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 7, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Matter already attended to...Will send you paper with announcement." - November 12, 1902, "From Emmett Jay Scott to Booker T. Washington"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

A man or woman situated similar to the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University can hear no more satisfying words than the following: "Matter already attended to..." And this refrain, "[the] matter [has] already [been] attended to" is typically uttered by the best and most successful employees. And Booker T. Washington's long-time aid, Emmett Jay Scott, was such an employee. (Note: If a man or woman could successfully work for Booker T. Washington, he could go on to successfully work for anyone, which Mr. Scott did at the highest federal levels.) For the man Booker-as demonstrated in his correspondence-was a man of integrity, knowledge, exacting detail and substance-not messiness, ignorance or fluff. He managed serious matters within the Tuskegee organization that impacted both the "macro" and "micro," and to have one of his subordinates to express in response to an earlier query that "[the] matter [has] already [been] attended to" must have brought deep delight and satisfaction to Mr. Washington. For when a "matter [has] already [been] attended to" in an organization as large as the one he served as chief executive officer over, he need not attend to it. Moreover, if he need not attend to such matters then he could go on to attend to matters that he alone could attend to. And herein lies the deep delight and satisfaction. For like Booker T. Washington's long and impressive 34-year leadership at the helm of Tuskegee University, the best leaders select the best men and women that enable him or her to lead. And Mr. Washington's success at selecting such able men and women is evidenced in that his leadership is celebrated at Tuskegee University in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 2, 2015
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"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 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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
April 1, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I remember one young man in particular who graduated from Yale University and afterward took a post-graduate course at Harvard, and who began his career by delivering a series of lectures on "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington." It was not long, however, before he found that he could not live continuously on my mistakes. Then he discovered that in all his long schooling he had not fitted himself to perform any kind of useful and productive labour. After he had failed in several other directions he appealed to me, and I tried to find something for him to do. It is pretty hard, however, to help a young man who has started wrong." - Booker T. Washington, (1911) My Larger Education 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. offers the following concerning men and women whose actions are similar to the young man described in Booker T. Washington's aforementioned passage: "Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way - and the fools know it." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University provides several important lessons about both the young man-as well as all men and women of his ilk-who seek to establish their name and reputation on the basis of disparaging the name and reputation of others-particularly those whose accomplishments they will only be brought in close proximity to only upon the basis of "controversy." First, Mr. Washington never ever mentions this young man's name. While this unidentified young man knew full well that persons might give him a hearing-not upon the basis of his own person and accomplishments-but based upon the person and accomplishments of his topic, "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington," identifying or responding to this young man provided not a single, solitary benefit to Mr. Washington and Tuskegee. Second, Mr. Washington understood that the young man's premises were flawed from the onset, and it is the clearest telltale example of Mr. Washington's oft-repeated phrase, "Let examples answer." To be sure, the actions of no man or woman are all "good" or all "bad." (This is naïve, simplistic and child-like thinking.) Yet, in the face of the clear, overwhelming and documentable evidence that testify to the good that Mr. Washington had done locally, regionally and nationally, this young man titled his lecture series according to what he perceived were the mistakes of Mr. Washington. Here again, what one consistently reads and hears, one will consistently become. And this young man ought to have taken heed to how and to what he was hearing for it ultimately led to what he had become. (For this young man's attempt to categorize and confine a man of Booker T. Washington eminence and accomplishments to a series of perceived mistakes that his limited training, limited knowledge and limited life experience identified did nothing but demonstrate his failure to understand the significance of the (2) greatest 9-letter words and the single, most dangerous 9-letter word: 1. "Integrity" 2. "Knowledge" 3. "Ignorance;") Finally, we should consider Mr. Washington's demonstration of another one of his famous aphorisms: "I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him." The very same young man who sought to disparage and defame Mr. Washington later sought him for assistance, and Mr. Washington "tried to find something for him to do." (This dynamic needs no additional commentary.) Yet what is deserving of additional commentary is that this young man might have spent his time and work writing, lecturing and building his own legacy and life worth reading as opposed to seeking to denigrate another's whose legacy and life of building Tuskegee (Institute) University spanned 34 years (1881-1915) and remains and is read to this very day. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 31, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"He is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education (1911)"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

There is nothing more painstaking to endure than one who talks simply for the sake of talking. For such a person rambles until-hopefully-someone picks up upon perhaps a word, a phrase or a sentiment that would justify the many other poorly thought or mis-spoken ideas that the rambler has already proffered. This is entirely unlike the man or woman that the founding principal president of Tuskegee Institute (University) describes when he states the following: "he is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops." And this is the quality of a man or woman of "substance". Unlike a rambler, a person of substance stands pat, ready to answer-no substantiate-every word uttered or written. This is not so for the rambler. A rambler excuses every utterance he or she has offered except for the singular one or two statements--out of a great many-that have received approbation from one or two of his or her hearers. (Even in this, the substantiation is grounded in the nodding heads of others as opposed to deeds done or objective and impartial evidence.) Contrarily, going "straight to the point" requires past, present and future knowledge of what can be verified or plausibly deduced-without regard to the approbation of "nodding heads". For all persons "like to listen to" one whose thoughts and opinions are supported by facts instead of feelings. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 27, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"As I have said before, I do not regret that I was born a slave. I am not sorry that I found myself part of a problem; on the contrary, that problem has given direction and meaning to my life that has brought me friendships and comforts that I could have gotten in no other way." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education, (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington had more reason than most to decry the circumstances of his upbringing. (For he was born enslaved.) Yet, Mr. Washington's reference to himself as "part of a problem" was not owing to any intrinsic qualities of his own person. Rather, it was akin to W.E.B. Du Bois's expression: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line." All the same, the fact that Mr. Washington was born into such a difficult period did not ultimately deter his ambitions; Instead, it fueled them. And this is clearly one of the most singularly important lessons of Mr. Washington's life and career-long work at Tuskegee Institute (University) evidenced in his most quoted aphorism: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." For the satisfaction gained in spending one's life transforming seemingly insurmountable obstacles into long-standing triumph and achievement is, after all, the definition of an overcomer. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 26, 2015



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I said I would take living men and women for my study, and I would give the closest attention possible to everything that was going on in the world about me [...] I said to myself that I would try to learn something from every man I met; make him my text-book, read him, study him and learn something from him. So I began deliberately to try to learn from men. I learned something from big men and something from little men, from the man with prejudice and the man without prejudice. As I studied and understood them, I found that I began to like men better; even those who treated me badly did not cause me to lose my temper or patience, as soon as I found that I could learn something from them." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of his many writings demonstrating the magnanimity of Tuskegee Institute's (University) founding principal and president, this sits on top. For the most learned men and women are those who continue to learn, and there is no greater "text-book" to learn from than the lives of men and women. And Mr. Washington not only learned from great men and women-those who have achieved fame deservedly or not-but he learned "from big men and something from little men." He even learned from his enemies. Any man or woman "with prejudice" is an enemy to humanity because this person has predetermined expectations of what a person within a racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious or organizational group is capable of without regard to examining the merit and makeup of the singular individual. Even in this, Mr. Washington was able to "learn something from them." When one learns about people, you learn about yourself. And this understanding leads to one of the most important facets in leadership and service to others: All people understand and show favor to the leader who recognizes that his or her condition is very much like everyone else's. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 25, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"[To Fanny Norton Smith Washington] Dear F. I send you a telegram today so you may know where to write. Write me at once. I shall probably stay here till April 1, when I shall come home. Had a fine a[nd] very large meeting here last night. Love to all. Kiss Portia for me. Yours. B." - Booker T. Washington, March 22, 1884

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Although Mr. Washington's letters and other writings that reference significant historical personages are most often heralded, his domestic letters revealing his role as both husband and father are equally important. Fanny Norton Smith Washington was the founding Principal's first wife, and their daughter Portia was born in 1883. While the aforementioned note contains but a simple communiqué informing Fanny of his plans and day in Philadelphia, his expression of love and, finally, a request to pass along a kiss to his year-old daughter is compelling, it was his desire to learn what was taking place in the homestead even as he was engaged in the significant work of advancing and developing Tuskegee Institute (University). For more often than not, the care and concern one has for family members and matters within the private sphere of home, reflects the care and concern one will have for one's constituents and organization in the public sphere.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 24, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"...I have tried to pursue the policy of acting in a business-like prompt way especially when we are able to pay. I wish you would take up all these small accounts that are overdue and settle them. It is doubly necessary that an institution that depends for its living on begging money should keep a good business reputation. It is much more necessary than for an institution doing a strictly commercial business. It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike and this hurts us in getting funds. For all these reasons it is very necessary that all the matters I am referring to in this letter be carefully, systematically and promptly attended to in your office. Some of the letters regarding the bills that I refer to I enclose." - Booker T. Washington, "February 13, 1915"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, repeatedly demonstrated during his 34-year long administration, the stewardship of one's existing resources goes hand-in-hand with the petitioning of additional resources. And Mr. Washington here again describes, in what would be the last year of his life, an important philanthropic consideration between a non-profit institution like Tuskegee University-and similarly situated higher education institutions-as opposed to a for-profit "commercial business." A non-profit institution seeks to serve a higher and greater good, and while profit and revenue are supremely important drivers in such institutions, its focus upon an area of societal need such as higher education makes profit generation only one of several considerations unlike "commercial business". And this is why non-profit institutions rely upon philanthropic (fundraising) gifts to help support their efforts to serve the larger good. (In the case of Mother Tuskegee, the education and the comprehensive development of her students is the highest and larger good.) Notwithstanding, such a noble aim does not exempt a non-profit institution from "keep[ing] a good business reputation" particularly when it continuously seeks "funds" to support its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory. Without respect to an institution's noble ambitions, if it does not manage its existing resources in a manner that demonstrates that it can manage additional resources, it "hurt[s]" itself "in [the] getting [of] funds." And Mr. Washington tells us precisely why it becomes "difficult" for others to give to it: "It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike..." Moreover, if such a "rumor" is circulated in the kind of "community" that can actually provide a non-profit institution with major, transformational assistance in the pursuit of its noble aims then the hurt is extremely harmful. For no corporation, foundation, organization, entity or individual donor who has successfully stewarded its own fiscal resources will give them to another who has not successfully stewarded its own-however small or meager. These entities are also accountable to their own stakeholders, customers and constituents who rightly question where their gifts are directed, and stakeholder's rest easier knowing that major gifts from entities they are vested in are going to non-profit institutions who will steward them appropriately. And Mr. Washington, who Tuskegee University celebrates in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), was the recipient of many such major, transformational gifts because he "carefully, systematically and promptly attend[ed]" to the stewardship of Mother Tuskegee's resources from 1881-1915.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 23, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"The more I come into contact with wealthy people, the more I believe that they are looking upon their money simply as an instrument which God has placed in their hand for doing good with. I never go to the office of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, who more than once has been generous to Tuskegee, without being reminded of this. The close, careful and minute investigation that he always makes in order to be sure that every dollar that he gives will do the most good-an investigation that is just as searching as if he were investing money in a business enterprise-convinces me that the growth in this direction is most encouraging." - Up From Slavery (1901), Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Although this historical fact is rarely heralded, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, ranks at the very top of all higher education fundraisers in American history. Mr. Washington's letters and writings are replete with examples of his dealings with men and women who gave both large and small donations to the work of Tuskegee Institute (University). And it appears that Mr. Washington quietly and quickly-and the results indicate that he did so with accompanying quality-came to understand two of the single most important characteristics of those who are deeply engaged in philanthropic activity: stewardship and investment. The first of which is stewardship. No matter how wealthy an individual, organization, corporation or foundation may be, they will not simply give money to another to be wasted. (The individual or organization has not wasted its own monies nor the monies of others to achieve its great success so why should the individual or organization begin doing so now?) The guiding principle of stewardship often leads to the accumulation of great sums of wealth, and the notion that simply because an individual, organization, corporation or foundation has achieved great amounts of wealth will now, in turn, give away such wealth to any and every cause is unfounded. Proper stewardship in accumulation of wealth necessarily required decision-making and care in recognizing the individual or organization's priorities and interests; thus, the mere giving away of money on the singular basis that the individual or organization has wealth is absurd. Investing is the second characteristic of philanthropic activity. One never seeks to invest in what will inevitably become a failed cause or enterprise. The very idea of investing is to receive a return. Whether this return is in furthering the individual or organization's own cause being advanced in the investment or merely to have the return satisfaction of seeing the recipient actualize its own success, investment always seeks a return. Moreover, philanthropic investment into an institution is a way to become associated with its brand, cause and/or undertaking. What individual or organization seeks to be associated with a failed brand or cause? Rather, an investment in an institution is generally associated with investing in the documented and demonstrated-or soon to be-success of an institution. (In the latter regard, the earliest investors in new undertakings always receive the greatest return for they saw, believed and invested early on in what would eventually become a successful enterprise. And they did so before others who preferred to "wait and see.") In sum, stewardship and investment are not only the hallmarks of givers but recipients as well. For if recipients are to every rise to the ranks of givers-indeed it is more blessed to give than receive for it indicates that one has resources to give-then stewardship and investment are individual and organizational traits that they must learn quietly, quickly and with quality. And Mr. Washington established the blueprint for this at Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 20, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I do not say you should not use them, should not posses 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 person is a third facet that can never be taken from the person in back of a position. More importantly, these facets are easily transferrable 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).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 19, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"...I not only learned that it was not a disgrace to labour, but learned to love labour, not alone for its financial value, but for labour's own sake and for the independence and self-reliance which the ability to do something which the world wants done brings." - Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While any man or woman who has acquired any measure of success in their chosen field of endeavor has learned that they must labour (work), the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University extends this notion further. Booker T. Washington suggests that one must "learn to love labour (work)", and he provides three attendant fruits beyond "financial value' for those who have "learned to love labour (work)." First, those who love to work have learned the intrinsic value of the work itself-"for labour's own sake." The discovery of one's passion often comes through the repeated doing and subsequent mastery of a particular task in a particular field that eventually leads to an intrinsic joy in doing what one may eventually become successful doing. Some people learn to love what they do well but this comes only after one actually tries to do something. (The "passion" to do something often leads to "success" and can lead to an individual's eventual coming to understand their personal sense of "calling.") Second, "independence" and "self-reliance" is also a result of "learning to love labour (work)." Knowledge obtained in the wise doing (labour) of any task-wisdom is but knowledge applied-is transferrable to any environment. Such a man or woman possesses that which cannot ever be taken from him or her. (Knowledge is the chief asset in an rapidly changing 21st century politically, economic and increasingly pluralistic society and herein is the basis of their "independence" and "self-reliance".) While these men or woman certainly do not become an island to themselves, they know "how," "what," "when," "where" and "who" to seek additional knowledge from to complement their own. (These men and women can readily identify what "knowledge," the second greatest 9-letter word, looks like because they have it themselves.) Lastly, the "love of labour" has perhaps the most important fruit: "the ability to do something which the world wants done..." All of our work (labour) means little if it does not result in service to others. Better still, when this work serves not only those in the present generation but in subsequent generations, such work has the opportunity to stand rank and file with men and women like Booker T. Washington whose work at Tuskegee University in the centennial year of his passing (1915-2015) is still "something which the world wants" and that the world needs.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 18, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I believe that it is impossible for a person to live a high life, a noble life in the future world, who does not live a high life in this world...And so, I want you to get the idea that each day brings to you a serious responsibility. You should try to get as much out of the twenty-four hours in each day as is possible for an individual to get out of twenty-four hours. Learn to get out of each day, out of the twelve hours of each day, just as much as possible every for one to get. Learn to get out of every hour, every year as much as it is possible for you to get. You have only one life to live; remember you pass through this life but once, and if you fail, you fail, perhaps, for all time. You should consider closely the serious obligation you have upon you to live properly through a day, through a year, and you should try to get everything that is best out of that day, out of that year." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In perhaps one of the earliest Sunday evening talks the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University gave at the onset of the New Year in 1901-for this talk was given on February 17, 1901-Booker T. Washington speaks not so much to resolutions but the "serious responsibility" and the "serious obligation" to live a life of consistency "each day." (Character is nothing but Consistency. It is neither one's highest moment nor one's lowest moment. Character is one's most Consistent moment.) And there is no more telltale sign for objectively assessing, counting, chronicling or journaling the consistency of one's character than to evaluate what one does hourly, daily, monthly and yearly. For a new year is but a new day, and there are 365 of these. Moreover, the years accumulated into the respective time one receives in a singular life hopefully will constitute a life well lived, which is why Mr. Washington describes the use of one's time as "serious." The years spent in a well-lived life are often found in how the days, hours and months of one's life were spent. And such was the life of Booker T. Washington who Tuskegee University honors in this the centennial year of his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 17, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"When I left school at the end of my first year, I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out. It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid. I economized in every way that I could think of-did my own washing, and went without necessary garments-but still I found my summer vacation ending and I did not have the sixteen dollars" - Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One not only finds lessons in Mr. Washington's management of a university, his stewardship and cultivation of transformative gifts and donations, his passion as an educator or his affectionate love for his wife and children, one also learns from his life as a student. And here is one lesson that students can learn from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University): "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid" To be sure, the price of a university education-particularly an education received from an university as eminent as Tuskegee-is costly. Yet, it is equally costly to have no such education. All the same, Mr. Washington knew what all graduates of post-baccalaureate and graduate institutions either know or comes quickly to know: Education costs and paying for your education is a responsibility for all who desires one. We learn the following from his own experiences at Hampton Institute. First, "I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out." Much like a creditor, an institution is not always able to "work it out" for students. When it does so largely though discounting the tuition bill it does so to its own detriment and opens itself to other criticisms from many of the same students as to why the institution is often unable to provide other services. Second, "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt." He knew that a tuition bill would be there when he returned to school in fall. In spite of his obvious poverty as a formerly enslaved person, he did not expect that he would be able to "work it out". Rather, he worked and "saved". Whether an internship, summer research program or any other noteworthy summer endeavor, each student should bear in mind that fall is coming and any unpaid tuition bill will await them. Third, "I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid." Honor is nothing but integrity. Hear again: "Integrity is the greatest 9-Letter word." Mr. Washington would not allow his words to be inconsistent with his works for he had received an education at the expense of the institution that paid the salaries of the professors who educated him. This was a transaction. He received the education and in turn he owed the institution its money so that it might continue to pay his professors to educate others. Last, he "economized in every way that I could think of." The founding principal and president did not frivolously spend his summer monies knowing full well he owed on his tuition bill. Rather he "economized." He counted the cost and did his best to make it right. In the end, Mr. Washington did secure sufficient monies. He did not give up. He was resourceful, and he went on to not only graduate from Hampton Institute but to go on to lead from 1881 to 1915 what remains one of the finest institutions in the nation-Tuskegee University-"the pride of the swift growing south.'

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 16, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"My dear Mr. Fortune: [...] There is no need why every colored man who graduates at college should go to teaching or preaching. If we do not through the instrumentality of the stronger brain in the race, lay hold of the business and industrial openings in the South during the next 10 years these opportunities will pass beyond our recall." - Booker T. Washington, March 1, 1899

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While, in hindsight, one may argue that Mr. Washington's platform lent itself to "accommodationist" thinking-though several scholars and historians have revisited and reinterpreted this view of Mr. Washington-the thrust of his assertion that many students have resigned themselves "to teaching or preaching" has strong reverberations for the present. It was untrue then and remains so now, that the highest service one can render to mankind must come in the form of "teaching and preaching." To be sure the nobility and servanthood associated with these two worthy professions are admirable. All the same, what Mr. Washington recognized then is what most university and college graduates have come to recognize now: Calling (vocation) is not confined to a single category. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 13, 2015



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: "Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis's idea that "perfect humility dispenses with modesty" rejects such an accusation. ("Humility" is the greatest 8-letter word and "Fearless" is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington's conception of "education" encompasses those who have erred and failed because a "truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything" permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences "falsity [or failure] in anything" because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of "knowledge"-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing "success"-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real "falsity" or "failure" in the truest sense of the words. For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called "false" or a "failure" because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: "Humility" and "Fearless," which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 12, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"To [George Augustus Gates]...If you take the position of President of Fisk, and later on you feel that I can be of real service as a trustee, I shall be willing to think favorably in that direction. I do not think well to act, however, in the matter now. Serving as a trustee of Fisk will not take so much of my time as in the case of the other institutions for the reason that I am already pretty well acquainted with the Fisk plant and also with the methods and policy of the institution, and I take for granted that a large part of the meeting will be held in New York. As I stated to you in my verbal conversation, in case you take the position, in my humble way I will stand back of you and support you in every way possible, and Dr. Frissell I am sure will do for the same thing. Both of us feel that there ought to be at least one strong central institution in the South for the higher education of the Negro, and that all things considered, Fisk is by far the best institution to be strengthened and supported in a way as to make it serve this purpose. Yours very truly." 
- Booker T. Washington, "October 7, 1909"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, had not only ascended to the posts of both professor and president in his long and stellar academic career, but had also served as board of trustees member. (Among other institutions, he had served on the board of trustees at Howard University during the tenure of President Wilbur Patterson Thirkield.) All the same, Mr. Washington had not only been routinely and regularly approached to assume presidential posts at other institutions, requested to speak at other institutions and selected for awards and honors at other institutions, he was often conferred with to take on posts of "stewardship" in the capacity of a board of trustee member. President George Augusta Gates, who would eventually be named as president of Fisk University, was ultimately successful in securing the services of Booker T. Washington as a trustee member. (This would be the modern-day equivalent of securing the appointment of one of the most well-placed, wealthiest and most influential African Americans in the world.) Unsurprisingly, Booker T. Washington's appointment to Fisk's board of trustees during the Gates administration coincided with Fisk's eventual $1M endowment, which was reached in 1920. To be clear, Fisk University was preeminent before Washington's arrival to its board of trustees for it had produced stellar alumni-perhaps none so well regarded as W.E.B. Du Bois as well as his wife Margaret Murray Washington. Nevertheless, as he had done with respect to all of his professional achievements as a professor and president, a man of "integrity" and "knowledge"--the first and second greatest 9-letter words--the man Booker would not sit idly by in his capacity as a Fisk board of trustees member and not utilize his "influence," the third greatest 9-letter word, to help make a great institution become still greater. And his able and "influential" service in the capacity of a board of trustee member is yet one of the many proud reasons why Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), Booker T. Washington-a man who did not just write words worth reading but lived a life full of works worth reading.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 11, 2015

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"When I speak of humbleness and simplicity, I do not mean that it is necessary for us to lose sight of what the world calls manhood and womanhood; that it is necessary to be cringing and unmanly; but you will find, in the long run, that the people who have the greatest influence in the world are the humble and simple ones." - "The Virtue of Simplicity: A Sunday Evening Talk," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Generally speaking, the smartest, wealthiest, strongest and most talented among a community of his and her fellows would hardly ever pronounce it. (For he and she already knows it.) And therein lies the "influence" generally found in the "humble and simple ones"-that Washington describes. In one of his earlier writings, Professor Cornel West writes: "To be humble is to be so sure of one's self and one's mission that one can forego calling excessive attention to one's self and status." Knowing with complete certainty one's self and status is akin to knowing one's name. Unless one is patently-even absurdly-insecure, a person would never enter into quarrels about his or her own name. On the other hand, the sense of absolute certainty that accompanies the sense of knowing one's name and identity reeks of humility, sincerity and simplicity; Such a posture leads to the greatest influence among men and women because arrogance tends to repel and humility tends to invite. And men and women of humility and simplicity always invite others into their ever expanding circles--thus gaining influence that has no boundaries.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 10, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"The more we talked with the students who were then coming to us from several parts of the state, the more we found that the chief ambition among a large proportion of them was to get an education so that they would not have to work any longer with their hands. This is illustrated by a story told of a coloured man in Alabama, who, one hot day in July, while he was at work in a cotton field, suddenly stopped, and, looking toward the skies, said: 'O Lawd, de cotton am so grassy, de work am so hard, and the sun am so hot dat I b'lieve did darky am called to preach!" - Booker T. Washington "Up From Slavery" (1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In hindsight, it would be all too easy to take issue with Mr. Washington's late 19th and early 20th century preoccupation with working "with the hands," or his use of dialect to illustrate a noteworthy principle; however, if we were to suspend judgment we might find an important ideal revolving around notions of "calling," "vocation," and the requisite work required for success within a designated "field." Though stated broadly and not ascribed to the entirety of the ministerial profession, Mr. Washington's statement that some students elected not to continue working "with their hands"-opting instead to pursue ministry-has profound reverberations for the present. To be sure, many students elected to change their pursuit of one profession to another for a variety of reasons-including seeking congruence with their latent talent, skills and desires. All the same, there are many instances where a student may have not simply had the wherewithal to continue his or her labors due to the proverbial "price of the ticket." And this is clearly Mr. Washington's concern in this passage. One simply cannot expect to achieve enduring success in any endeavor or profession without first putting in the requisite work that is often designed to harden and prepare for subsequent experiences in the profession. For demonstrating a proven ability to overcome difficult circumstances-and preferably more than one-is infinitely more impactful than merely communicating the stories of others who have overcome.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 9, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"I hope, for instance, that a large proportion of you-in fact all of you-will make it a practice to give something yearly to this institution. If you cannot give but twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or a dollar a year, I hope you will put it down as a thing that you will not forget, to give something to this institution every year. We want to show to our friends who have done so much for us, who have supported this school so generously, how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess. I hope that every senior, in particular, will keep this in mind. I am glad to say that we have many graduates who send us such sums, even if small, and one graduate who for the last eight or ten years has sent us ten dollars annually." - "Sunday Evening Talk," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

When potential donors inquire with an institution concerning its alumni giving participation, the percentage of total alumni giving not the amount of alumni giving is the foremost consideration. Even if a single alumnus gives $1M per year, the following questions are immediately begged: What is the giving and interest level of the thousands of remaining alumni that the institution has graduated? Was this a single aberration? Is alumni giving limited to the eminently successful alumni? or does it extend from small to great-all of whom are recipients of Tuskegee Institute (University) baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees? And interest level goes well beyond public professions of love for one's alma mater "our nourishing mother," but the expression of this love in tangible gifts and donations. Mr. Washington, founding principal and president, understood this well when he spoke the following to students who would become future alumni during one of his Sunday evening talks: "We want to show to our friends...how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess." Although the sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee are the institution's most precious value claim to the world-its most precious commodity-the gifts of those interested, including alumni, in the advancement of the institution are what established-and continues to establish-Tuskegee Institute (University's) reputation as one of the finest campuses and strongest academic destinations in the nation and the world. Friend-raising and fundraising begins at home. And if those who are most intimately familiar with and profess support or love for the institution will not give to it, why would a stranger who is not familiar with and professes no support or love for the institution give to it? Thus consistent giving whether small or great, regularly (monthly or annually), from 100% of graduated students or as Mr. Washington pronounced, "all of you," is the clearest indicator of alumni strength.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 6, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Mr. J.B. Washington: You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office. If you do not know it is your own fault. I entrusted to you the mailing of the Advertisers which were purchased at quite an outlay, and I find that the whole expenses, and work in connection with this work, are to a large extent, thrown away by reason of the fact that the papers were not properly wrapped. I did not suppose it was necessary to go into each detail and tell you how to wrap these papers. They have been wrapped, I find, with no idea of making the marked article conspicuous, and at least half of the person whom the papers will go will not see the article owing to your carelessness. It seems to me just that a part of the expense connected with purchasing these papers should be charged to your personal account." - "February 27, 1895," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is amazing to continuously read the administrative and management philosophy that Mr. Booker T. Washington demonstrated in his correspondence and writings from 1881-1915-his 34-year long tenure as founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). For this man's philosophy was truly without respect for persons and such persons included his very own brother-his younger adopted brother-Mr. James B. Washington. Washington Baseball Field at Tuskegee University was named after James B. Washington who came to Tuskegee from Hampton Institute in 1890. He is affectionately referred to as the "Father of Athletics at Tuskegee." Washington, the adopted brother of Booker T. Washington, organized the first Tuskegee baseball team in 1892. In the present communiqué, Mr. Washington's remonstrations directed towards this employee, his very own brother were premised upon the following: "You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office." 

If an employee has been at an institution for less than a year, one year or possibly two, one may readily concede a person's relative unfamiliarity about the unit they have been given the charge over or have inherited from a predecessor. (The very best leaders do not rely upon such concessions for they immediately assume the charge over their unit and/or organization without regard to their longevity in the post.) All the same, Mr. James B. Washington had now possessed the charge of the unit he was leading for a full "five or six years," and the expertise required for leading his unit ought to have been either been acquired by diligent acquisition or pursuit, or he might have relinquished his post and simply acknowledged before his employer-his older brother-Booker T. Washington that he did not possess the requisite talent, skillset or ability to do what the institution needed from him in his present capacity. (If it were a matter of lack of institutional support for what he had needed, he might have communicated this as well.) Notwithstanding, it is not an admission of weakness or non-strength to concede that one cannot do what is expected of him or her. Rather, such admission is the surest sign of both professional maturity and vocational integrity, and might possibly lead such an employee to a better position, within the institution or otherwise, more properly aligned to his or her skill sets and capabilities. We know that Mr. James B. Washington ably served alongside his brother Booker, and well after the passing of the university's first president. Nevertheless, for the post he held in the capacity described above, Mr. James B. Washington's efforts did not meet with the expectations of his employer-his older brother, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 5, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Mr. J.H. Washington, Supt. of Ind. Not later than this week I wish you to go over the whole subject of the wages of students and recommend whatever reduction you think should take place. I wish a reduction of not less than one-third to be made. Small boys whose work can be of almost no service need special attention." "September 4, 1894," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The fiscal management of student financial assistance or aid was not beyond the managerial scope of the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). For many institutions, net tuition revenue received from students-not the headcount of students visibly present-is the principal driver of an institution's annual budget. In addition to federal and state aid in the form of grants and loans-and a host of other resources that students may receive including scholarships or personal resources. Institutions provide a number of options to assist students in the form of institutional scholarships, which are often "discounts", alumni scholarships, donor scholarships and work-study. All the same, a university's ability to provide on-going and continuous improvements to its technology, infrastructure and services available to students is partially contingent upon the monies these students pay in tuition billing to attend and secure a baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degree. (Deep discounting or mis-managed discounting of tuition bills often leads to discounting the quality of the student experience at the institution. And this did not occur on the first president of Tuskegee University's watch.) Mr. Washington requested a full review "over the whole subject of the wages of students" and he recommend[ed] whatever reduction you think should take place." It is well known that the early Tuskegee Institute students received monies in the form of wages to help pay their tuition bills so that they could remain enrolled. (Even the founding principal and president found work as a janitor at Hampton Institute to remain enrolled.) An institution has both a moral and civic duty to help her students but it also has a fiscal duty to itself. Moreover, this review also included the discounting of "[s]mall boys whose work can be of almost not service need[ed] special attention". Presumably, there were "small boys" who were receiving "wages" from the institution-or in 21st Century nomenclature, "financial aid"-that did not demonstrate a reciprocal benefit for the institution. Perhaps they could not lift the bales of hay? Perhaps they could not lift the well-known bricks that Tuskegee Institute students were known throughout the region for? All the same, Mr. Washington requested a review of their work to determine whether the aid given to them in wages is the appropriate use of institutional monies. For the milk of Mother Tuskegee is available for all of her children, yet the institutional responsibility to steward her resources while simultaneously replenishing them is what will ensure that the milk continues to flow.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 4, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver." - Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is a wise and prudent man or woman indeed who does not readily accept-or seek-any and every invitation to speak. Although such restraint is uncommon, Mr. Washington's recommendation is one that would serve us well to follow. For the best speakers-whether teacher, professor, lecturer or any number of itinerant persons-are those whose words proceed from the works that support them. Mr. Washington was known locally, regionally, nationally and globally for his oratorical prowess and was largely regarded as such for the work he was doing at Tuskegee University. And this work was no mere job for the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee University, but his life's purpose "deep down in his heart." When he spoke, men and women could feel the force of someone who was not pretentious but purposeful. And he was able to do so because he spoke concerning those things he was doing or had done. He did not theorize about how to lead an institution. He led one. He did not simply ask of those within his charge to persevere, endure and overcome. He himself had done these things. He did not simply speak about the "race problem" affecting newly freed and formerly enslaved men and women but was engaged in a work to solve this problem in a manner consistent with his beliefs. And all of these things were visible, tangible and remain so nearly 100 years since his passing (1915-2015). Audiences know immediately whether one has done or is doing the things that he or she speaks which is why one should never offer words without accompanying works.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 3, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"We frequently hear the word 'lucky' used with reference to a man's life. Two boys start out in the world at the same time, having the same amount of education. When twenty years have passed, we find one of them wealthy and independent; we find him a successful professional man with an assured reputation, or perhaps at the head of a large commercial establishment employing many men, or perhaps a farmer owning and cultivating hundreds of acres of land. We find the second boy, grown now to be a man, working for perhaps a dollar or a dollar and a half a day, and living from hand to mouth in a rented house. When we remember that the boys started out in life equal-handed, we may be tempted to remark that the first boy has been fortunate, that fortune has smiled on him; and that the second has been unfortunate. There is no such nonsense as that. When the first boy saw a thing that he knew he ought to do, he did it; and he kept rising from one position to another until he became independent. The second boy was an eye-servant who was afraid that he would do more than he was paid to do-he was afraid that he would give fifty cents' worth of labour for twenty-five cents [...]The first boy did a dollar's worth of work for fifty cents. He was always ready to be at the store before time; and then, when the bell rang to stop work, he would go to his employer and ask him if there was not something more that ought to be done that night before he went home. It was this quality in the first boy that made him valuable and caused him to rise. Why should we call him 'fortunate' or 'lucky'? I think it would be much more suitable to say of him: 'He is responsible." - "Individual Responsibility: A Sunday Evening Talk,"- Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

At the onset of receiving an entering incoming freshmen class into a university, one becomes awed and buoyed by the extraordinary sense of possibility that each student has in his or her future. Whether they were 4.0 student or 2.8 students in high school, the beginning of freshman year matriculation is a unique opportunity in their lives to start anew and afresh. And Mr. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), provides an example of two young boys who possessed the same opportunities, but had very different outcomes 20 years later. It is all too easy to pass off Mr. Washington's telling as some moralizing tale designed to motivate his students during one of his Sunday evening talks. Yet, we must be inclined to think that either Mr. Washington himself experienced this so-called tale directly-his autobiographical narrative Up from Slavery (1901) suggests as much-or he observed this in the lives of two of his students in his 34-year long tenure at the helm of Tuskegee University. Washington's telling of such a tale might also raise the ire and suspicion of those who might argue the following: "It is roundly unfair for Mr. Washington to ascribe lacking personal responsibility to the woes of the second boy's life because he doesn't know what happened to him." Notwithstanding any such dismissals, what Mr. Washington seeks to convey in this talk was the sense of a very real distinction between two young men who approached life matters-whether in the classroom or beyond-quite differently. The first young man was likely accused of being too punctual, too exact or just plain too serious. He often heard the now common proverbial expression: "It doesn't take all of that." And in spite of all attempts to justify the many failures of the second boy, all such attempts are undergirded with a profound sense of irony. (The very individuals who defend or make excuse for the second lad will also not hire him nor give him any responsibility regarding that, which is their own.) Wholly consistent with his reputation for being frank, honest and giving 'straight talk," Mr. Washington would not allow any such misgivings about his impressions of the success-or relative lack thereof-of the two boys described here. For Mr. Washington believed that "it does take all of that" to reach any desirable outcome, and one will be subject to the envy and criticism of others while doing it. Yet, enduring the sort of suffering experienced by the first boy is far better than experiencing the suffering of the second. We all experience one form of suffering or another, and if one learns how to suffer-to truly know how to suffer well in the thing that is good-one will learn how to succeed.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
March 2, 2015



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"Dear Taylor: This letter may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I hope you can see your way clear to accede to our request. After deliberating for a good deal of time over the matter, we have determined to put some one of our graduates in the field in the North to collect money for the school; interest and instruct the people about our work, and we have settled on the conclusion that we can get no better person to represent us than yourself." - Booker T. Washington, June 9th 1893

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"Dear Friend: your letter of recent date was the greatest surprise imaginable. I have thoroughly considered the offer made to me and have decided to off-set my ideas of going to school next term, so as to comply with your request. As you know Alma-Mater means nourishing Mother. From an intellectual stand-point I consider Tuskegee my mother-so I am perfectly willing to act in the capacity of a child." - R.W.Taylor June 14th 1893

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Aside from her students, there is no more important constituent group for Mother Tuskegee than her students who have graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University). And this correspondence between Booker T. Washington and Robert Wesley Taylor illustrates the strong ties and affinity within the Tuskegee University Family. Note, the Founding Principal "deliberated for a good deal of time" when considering who among "the Sons and Daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee" would best represent the institution. Among the many shining arrows in their quiver, Robert Wesley Taylor was preeminent among the family's best and brightest. Although familial relations dictates equal filial love among siblings, when parents have a need it is not unusual for the strongest, most diligent, most generous and most capable son or daughter to respond. This describes the character of Mr. Taylor. Hearkening to the true spirit of Alma Mater, he regarding Tuskegee as his "intellectual nourishing mother." For Mother Tuskegee had nourished his nascent personal, intellectual, social and spiritual appetite with the milk of George Washington Carver among countless numbers of eminent professors, scholars and staff members who are still nourishing students today. Mr. Taylor did not stop at child-like professions of love for his mother. He exhibited the attitude of a full-grown son who responded with a ready reply when he was called. And "while children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children," a child does well when he or she has left home to help restore the nourishing ability of his or her mother so that mother is able to continue nurturing many, many more sons and daughters for years to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 27, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"...I have tried to pursue the policy of acting in a business-like prompt way especially when we are able to pay. I wish you would take up all these small accounts that are overdue and settle them. It is doubly necessary that an institution that depends for its living on begging money should keep a good business reputation. It is much more necessary than for an institution doing a strictly commercial business. It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike and this hurts us in getting funds. For all these reasons it is very necessary that all the matters I am referring to in this letter be carefully, systematically and promptly attended to in your office. Some of the letters regarding the bills that I refer to I enclose." - Booker T. Washington, "February 13, 1915"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, repeatedly demonstrated during his 34-year long administration, the stewardship of one's existing resources goes hand-in-hand with the petitioning of additional resources. And Mr. Washington here again describes, in what would be the last year of his life, an important philanthropic consideration between a non-profit institution like Tuskegee University-and similarly situated higher education institutions-as opposed to a for-profit "commercial business." A non-profit institution seeks to serve a higher and greater good, and while profit and revenue are supremely important drivers in such institutions, its focus upon an area of societal need such as higher education makes profit generation only one of several considerations unlike "commercial business". And this is why non-profit institutions rely upon philanthropic (fundraising) gifts to help support their efforts to serve the larger good. (In the case of Mother Tuskegee, the education and the comprehensive development of her students is the highest and larger good.) Notwithstanding, such a noble aim does not exempt a non-profit institution from "keep[ing] a good business reputation" particularly when it continuously seeks "funds" to support its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory. Without respect to an institution's noble ambitions, if it does not manage its existing resources in a manner that demonstrates that it can manage additional resources, it "hurt[s]" itself "in [the] getting [of] funds." And Mr. Washington tells us precisely why it becomes "difficult" for others to give to it: "It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike..." Moreover, if such a "rumor" is circulated in the kind of "community" that can actually provide a non-profit institution with major, transformational assistance in the pursuit of its noble aims then the hurt is extremely harmful. For no corporation, foundation, organization, entity or individual donor who has successfully stewarded its own fiscal resources will give them to another who has not successfully stewarded its own-however small or meager. These entities are also accountable to their own stakeholders, customers and constituents who rightly question where their gifts are directed, and stakeholder's rest easier knowing that major gifts from entities they are vested in are going to non-profit institutions who will steward them appropriately. And Mr. Washington, who Tuskegee University celebrates in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), was the recipient of many such major, transformational gifts because he "carefully, systematically and promptly attend[ed]" to the stewardship of Mother Tuskegee's resources from 1881-1915.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 26, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the "Tuskegee spirit"; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it." - "Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk,"  Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the "Tuskegee spirit." (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the "Tuskegee spirit" is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The "Tuskegee spirit" is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 25, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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Phillips Brooks gave expression to the sentiment: "One generation gathers the material, and the next generation builds the palaces." As I understand it, he wished to inculcate the idea that one generation lays the foundation for succeeding generations. - Booker T. Washington, Future of the American Negro (1899)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Any institutional or organizational leader would be remiss--no fool hearted--if he or she did not first look to, then build upon and, finally, greatly improve upon the foundation of the past--particularly when that foundation is as solid and substantive as that which is found here at Tuskegee (Institute) University. (And this writer believes that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, was prescient enough to know that his was a foundation that any man or woman could build "palaces upon.") Preparation, planning, purpose and performance are the hallmarks of sound management practices in any leadership and management paradigm, and a leader must not only prepare and plan on how to ascend to institutional leadership, but what to do with it once he or she gets it. One certain way of doing this is to return to the founder's "foundation." Booker T. Washington laid a rock-solid foundation based upon personal and organizational "integrity," the greatest 9-letter word. In perusing through some 34 years of this man's letters and correspondence, one finds that "integrity" is the most consistent and persistent attribute permeating within each writing or speech. Whether writing or speaking to persons small or great, he installed a vision on the basis of being truthful, honest and earnest in all his dealings, and such attributes appealed to both external and internal constituents alike-particularly when seeking major, transformational gifts like Booker T. Washington secured. (The best institutional leaders and organizations are "transparent," "consistent," "communicative," and "collaborative".) What the man, Booker Washington, spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in one arena was consistent with what he spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in another arena, thus forming an unbroken chain of integrity on which he built the foundation of Tuskegee. This integrity extended not only to the world-renowned bricks of Tuskegee's oldest buildings, but also to the foundational philosophy of Tuskegee University and its founder. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 24, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Hear this repeatedly. Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University is world-renowned for his many signal accomplishments during his 34-year tenure. However, none were more significant to the mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of Tuskegee University than his accomplishments as a fundraiser. (The man Booker T. Washington was not merely a great President and fundraiser for a historically black university such as Tuskegee University. He exhibited the two greatest 9-letter words: integrity and knowledge.) Arguably, his documented successes recording his fundraising activities involving his direct leadership and involvement are comparable to the greatest presidents in the history of all American higher education. Among the many letters documenting how he accomplished this-including but not limited to--good business practices, speeches, writings, selecting competent personnel, personal and professional ethics, fiscal management and utilizing in the late 19th Century what we now term, "tuition discounting" or "work study" to assist deserving students who worked in exchange for these "scholarships," he offers an additional stratagem for his success: "My own experience convinces me that the easiest way to get money for any good work is to show that you are willing and able to perform the work for which the money is given." Note the simplicity of Mr. Washington's suggestion: Properly and effectively utilize the money for the purposes for which they were given. "Stewardship"-one of the greatest 11-words-is quite indispensable in fundraising. Booker T. Washington understood then what many are coming to understand now in 21st Century Philanthropic studies. Wealthy organizations, donors and corporations were made wealthy in part due to stewardship and contrary to popular-and often uninformed-sentiment about the work of university presidents and the work of fundraising, persons and entities are not required to give solely because they are asked. As successful stewards of their own resources and their own stakeholders themselves, they GIVE to what is GOOD. Further, those that give, first earned it to give it. For they have already learned the very principles of success, one of the greatest 7-letter words, that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University suggests here. These persons and organizations are successful and they give to organizations that will utilize these resources to contribute to the institution's own on-going, continuous success and improvement. And in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since the passing of Booker T. Washington, there is no better university to give it to than Tuskegee University and her students-the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee and the sons and daughters of Booker.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 23, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"My position in respect to the students and the public is peculiar, and I must see that everyone does the highest service in benefitting the students, and must get rid of any obstacle that prevents this result." "March 26, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

There is no clearer statement that ought to mark both the mission and vision, the tradition and trajectory, of any institution of higher learning-especially as evidenced here from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University)-than one that has its first and foremost focus upon STUDENTS. Student success, student engagement, (parent)-student satisfaction within a university environment is akin to a business's focus being squarely upon its customers. (Who would offer a different focus for where an institution of higher learning's resources should be otherwise directed?) Any alternative suggestion flies squarely in the face of the work and function of a university and reveals far more about the individual who offers an alternative suggestion as opposed to the mission and vision of an institution. At many American institutions-except for the most exceptionally endowed ones-the institution's primary revenue stream derives from the net tuition revenue received from its students. To be sure, faculty research and philanthropic giving also provide additional streams of revenue, but even here these opportunities are largely premised upon the business of educating students in a living-learning environment. For where there are no students, there is no university, and where there is no university there is no purpose. A university's mission is to educate her students, and Mother Tuskegee is committed to educating her students-the sons and daughters of Booker.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 20, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: "Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis's idea that "perfect humility dispenses with modesty" rejects such an accusation. ("Humility" is the greatest 8-letter word and "Fearless" is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington's conception of "education" encompasses those who have erred and failed because a "truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything" permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences "falsity [or failure] in anything" because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of "knowledge"-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing "success"-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real "falsity" or "failure" in the truest sense of the words. For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called "false" or a "failure" because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: "Humility" and "Fearless," which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 19, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"[To Gilchrist Stewart]...I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less." - "November 9, 1897," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one's purpose and passion in connection with one's work: "It is not easy work rejoining soul and role." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of "heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable)," Mr. Washington wanted someone to "take hold in a whole souled way," and "whose soul is deeply in love with his work."

While Mr. Washington's passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone "who gives [work] his thought night and day." Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone "who looks so closely after every detail of his work...whom orders will not have to be continually repeated...[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work." Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, "it does take all of that" to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of "continuous improvement." It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after "purpose" and "passion.") Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee (Institute) University.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 18, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_headerDear Gen'l [Armstrong]: Soon after our conversation in Phila.[delphia] I arrived here and found a letter announcing that the Misses Mason had given us $7000. Faith [Washington italics] and hard work [Washington italics] I find will accomplish anything. Yours &c" - B.T. Washington, November 26, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

We all tend to misconstrue notions of the importance of "faith" and "hard work." For some, "faith" is the single most important attribute-absent any personal diligence, integrity, work and sacrifice-all of which is critical to achievement and accomplishment. And, for others, "hard work" is the all-encompassing personal quality that is sufficient for all things achieved in life. However, Mr. Washington suggests that both are required, and our daily lives suggest the same. There are a great many pursuits that we have diligently "worked hard" towards that have simply not yielded expected results. And there are those pursuits where "faith" exercised towards an expressed desire was all that one could do under the circumstances, and it produced unexpected success. (And such "faith" was more times than not unmerited.) All the same, the two qualities listed here in Mr. Washington's letter-"faith" and "hard work"-are the highest ideals in daily accomplishment leading towards long-term success. For our words of sincere desire must always work together with our works of sincere effort because when daily difficulties push the one, the other stands ready to push back.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 17, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"In the early days of freedom, when education was a new thing, the boy who went away to school had a very natural human ambition to be able to come back home in order to delight and astonish the old folks with the new and strange things that he had learned. If he could speak a few words in some strange tongue that his parents had never heard before, or read a few sentences out of a book with strange and mysterious characters, he was able to make them very proud and happy. There was a constant temptation therefore for schools and teachers to keep everything connected with education in a sort of twilight realm of the mysterious and supernatural. Quite unconsciously they created in the minds of their pupils the impression that a boy or a girl who had passed through certain educational forms and ceremonies had been initiated into some sort of secret knowledge that was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Connected with this was the notion that because a man had passed through these educational forms and ceremonies he had somehow become a sort of superior being set apart from the rest of the world [...]" - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education__(1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While the term "esoteric" is not entirely pejorative-it can mean that members within a certain profession or group understand and converse sharing many of the same assumptions or terminology-it is sometimes used to denote exclusivity meaning that information and knowledge is understood by a chosen few. In the present passage, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University speaks to this latter formulation. Here he laments that often education-the act of teaching and learning-resembles the closing off of knowledge from others as opposed to its wide dissemination among many. Mr. Washington's idea is that such knowledge ought to have relevancy and application for others beyond the sole possessor of this knowledge. Imagine that. The idea of education should not be exclusive to a limited few but should enlighten and have impact upon others in beneficial ways. Thus, not only are the recipients all the better for having received this knowledge but also the giver of this knowledge is made better. For this man or woman has completed the complete cycle of education. First you learn, master and apply for yourself. (It is is a poor teacher whose words do not resemble his or her works.) Then you proceed to teach others. And such an education can be found at many institutions of higher learning including Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 16, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"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 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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 13, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"In my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls-with the great outside world. No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world." - Booker T. Washington, (1901) Up From Slavery

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Try as we might, there is really no way to get around what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University suggests about parochial (narrow-minded), unlearned and partisan persons whose experiences and perspectives are limited to one race or another. "Breadth" and "Depth" is the greatest 5 and 7-Letter combination, and Booker T. Washington suggests that the most well-read men and women are also the most well-bred men and women-born again through the breadth and depth found in books. Now, "vision"-the greatest 6-letter word and perhaps the greatest in all of the English language-requires applicability that is neither "bounded" or constrained "by colour." Men and women like Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.-even Cyrus "the Great," the greatest historical leader this writer has read and studied-whose "vision" out of necessity could not be bound by a kind of narrowness and provincialism based upon color. These men and women needed, relied upon and facilitated a host of persons and organizations to unite to support a common vision ranging from Tuskegee University to the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, "leader," in this writer's opinion, is the second greatest 6-letter word, and a leader must articulate a "vision" so broad and deep that its applicability reaches far and wide and it's dissemination not only cannot be confined but will increase and multiply. Everyone without respect of color can connect to such vision and cultivating such vision comes through both reading and reading well. (Hear this again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) And if a man or woman (or Tuskegee University student) would ever seek to become a "visionary leader," then they need read no further than Tuskegee University's founding principal and president-the man, Booker T. Washington. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 12, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"It seems to me that there never was a time in the history of the country when those interested in education should the more earnestly consider to what extent the mere acquiring of the ability to read and write, the mere acquisition of a knowledge of literature and science, makes men producers, lovers of labour, independent, honest, unselfish, and, above all, good. Call education by what name you please, if it fails to bring about these results among the masses, it falls short of its highest end...How I wish that from the most cultured and highly endowed university in the great North to the humblest log cabin school-house in Alabama, we could burn, as it were, into the hearts and heads of all that usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education." - Booker T. Washington, (1899) The Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Cornel West suggests the following about the "quantity" of educated persons in the present generation as opposed to the "quality" of the past generation in his best-selling work, (1994) Race Matters: "THERE has not been a time in the history of black people in this country when the quantity of politicians and intellectuals was so great, yet the quality of both groups has been so low...How do we account for the absence of the Frederick Douglasses, Sojourner Truths, Martin Luther King, Jrs., Malcolm Xs, and Fannie Lou Hamers in our time?" And perhaps the answer to Professor West's rhetorical query resides in what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University wrote in the above passage: "...usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education." (Here again, Washington's Tuskegee idea was not one based solely upon the work of one's "hands". Rather, the complete configuration of his conception of education-as ought be for all of education-was that of Heart (Character)-Head (Competence)-Hands (Capable). And once again, the little-discussed and deeply personal notion of the individual "heart" in modern education from which the "service" of the head and hands flow is likely why the "quality...has been so low." The heart (character) is the seat of all an individual's ambitions, ideas, motives and foci, and if the heart is not rooted in the idea of genuine and authentic service to mankind without respect to color, then the number of degrees, the name of the universities or the notoriety of the career matters little. And this is precisely why the "education"-not simply degree-received at Tuskegee University revolves around the university's motto: Knowledge-Leadership-Service. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 11, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"You cannot hope to succeed if you keep bad company. As far as possible try to form the habit of spending your nights at home." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk: On Influencing by Example"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The adage that one is known by the company he or she keeps is an oft-expressed one, but the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, extends the adage even further both in the aforementioned passage and in another commonly quoted passage: "Associate yourself with people of good quality. It is better to be alone than in bad company." Moreover, his additional suggestion to "try to form the habit of spending your nights at home" is a very practical one worth noting. Insofar as it is possible to discern from his autobiography, correspondence, letters, speeches-and more importantly his accomplishments-the man, Booker Washington, apparently did little else but read, write, work and stay at home with his family. And while it is easy to regard Tuskegee (Institute) University's founding principal with an overwhelming sense of awe, one can begin to appreciate and understand him in view of his own self-discipline and self-sacrifice. (Everyone suffers but few suffer voluntarily. Yet, if one learns how to suffer, one will learn how to succeed.) One need not be reminded that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but how one spends those hours is what ultimately distinguishes men and women. (One would simply be amazed at how much more time can be committed to a meaningful mission or a purposeful project if time is not spent in (un)meaningful and (un)purposeful ones that do not result in progress.) Clearly, recreation, fun and leisure have their place but not if these things come at the expense of sustainable success. (Mr. Washington suggests that it is even better when one's recreation, fun and leisure become part and parcel of one's work.) For when an individual can transform his or her home into an extension of their workshop, they have the benefit of continuing, doubling and multiplying their labors when others have ceased from theirs.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 10, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"Mrs. Rumbley: When I made arrangements with you to return this year and take the present work, of course I did not mean that you would be retained in the position throughout the year regardless of the way you perform the service. When I said to you a few days ago that no change would be made to interfere with your plans it was on the supposition that you would do the work properly. When you returned from Mrs. Adams' I had a conversation with you in which I told you plainly that the teachers department went more smoothly while you were away, because Miss Jones gave more personal attention to the work. You seemed to see the point and promised to make it go more smoothly. Since then you have not given the attention to the work that I thought you would. For example, you are almost never present to overlook and see to the preparation of breakfast...Your work needs to be systematized. This can be done by making a study of what will please the teachers. The teachers do not complain of the quality but it is the way the food is prepared. I still think that you can make a success of your work but in order to do this you must become interested. In order to make it a success I shall do all in my power to help you in any reasonable way. Yours."Booker T. Washington, [Tuskegee, Ala.] October 10th 1888

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In addition to his other more externally visible tasks of speaking, writing and advancing and developing the institution, Mr. Washington was also responsible for the internal management of personnel. And this rather lengthy excerpt taken from Mr. Washington's correspondence to an employee at Tuskegee Institute, who served in the capacity as a cook, is an example of strong yet supportive management of personnel. First, he makes it plain that retention "in the position" was not "regardless of the way you perform the service," and that the underlining premise of the employee's appointment was "that you would do the work properly." (Positions and appointments are rarely perpetual but are contingent upon performance.) Second, Mr. Washington had a direct and honest conversation regarding his assessment of the work. (He did not avoid being earnest with the employee for Mr. Washington was managing a major institutional enterprise comprised of many interchangeable functions. The function-not feelings-is of paramount importance in the successful management of an organization.) Third, he provided an example of what was not being done properly. (It was neither rumor, second-hand observation nor innuendo but a tangible and objective example that could be readily observed.) Fourth, he provided a recommendation to the employee. He recommends that the work should be "systematized" and that a "study" of the employee's constituents-namely the teachers-would reveal a possible way for solving the problem. (It is important for managers to not simply point to the problem but to provide a solution as well. And what better recommendation than to go to the constituency group who roundly described the services performed as a problem.) Lastly, he provides a final word of encouragement and a willingness to provide additional help. (Though the very best leaders do not avoid tough conversations about performance, it is imperative to provide a sense of hope, help and encouragement to employees who instead of retreating may actually re-double their efforts to set the matter aright.) In the end, Mr. Washington's correspondence provides an insight into leadership that is rarely seen because of its sensitive nature but is absolutely necessary for managing an outcomes oriented organization in the 19th, 20th or 21st Century.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 9, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"[I] stuck to my old line of argument, urging the education of the hand, the head and the heart." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education," (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While there is significant historic disagreement with Mr. Washington's philosophical orientation toward 'vocational' education, what is often omitted in such discussions is his overarching sense of the term "vocation". The word is derived from its Latin origin, 'vocare,' and it means "to call". Between the 16th to 19th centuries, 'vocation' within a given profession was commonly understood as "calling". "Vocation" or "Calling" is inclusive of much more than work involving the "the education of the hand," which undoubtedly was a Washingtonian emphasis in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Notwithstanding, a "heart" enflamed with a personal sense of passion and integrity toward one's work, a "head" filled with the requisite knowledge for one's field and, lastly, "hands" that are ready and willing to translate both "heart" and "head" into practical experience within a specified field are the sum whole of Mr. Washington's notion of "heart," "head" and "hands". Thus, Heart (Character) + Head (Competence) + Hands (Capability) = (W)holistic Calling.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 6, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 5, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"[Mr. Hutt][...] I do not think that you are doing yourself justice here and I hope you will excuse me if I speak to you rather plainly. I very much hope that you will be able to remain here until the end of the year with credit to yourself and profit to the school. The main trouble is that you do not push ahead; you wait too much for somebody to direct and lead you. You ought to see, it seems to be me, the difference between your work and that of Mr. Taylor, who has had about the same course of training as yourself. Mr. Taylor is constantly leading in his work, working in season and out of season. Instead of having someone to lead him he is constantly making suggestions as to what should be done [...] You may think that I speak to you very plainly; but it is a good deal better to speak to you this way now than wait until the end of the term and say to you that we do not wish your services longer. I hope very much that we can keep you in the employ of the school, and shall do so if your prove worthy, but certainly if you do not, you cannot expect to be re-employed next term [...] I do hope that between now and that time you will put your department in shape to be inspected, but in order for you to do yourself justice it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before." - "February 3, 1894," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The "Tuskegee Machine" was no mere designation describing Booker T. Washington's and Tuskegee University's political and economic strength across the nation. Instead, it also referred to the systemic administrative and management philosophy of its founding principal and president, and his insistence upon the effectiveness and efficiency of every function within the organization. And this letter to Mr. Will Eugene Hutt is no exception. First, Mr. Washington-as he does so in all of his writings and speeches-"speaks...plainly." All too often hearers attribute rudeness to plain speech, frankness and honesty when hearing truths that are unpleasant to the recipient. Second, Mr. Washington did not take the road most often travelled in leadership. Such leadership avoids difficult discussions and makes decisions in the dark. Mr. Washington might have easily hid his concerns-wait him out-and grant this employee no opportunity to correct the deficiencies within his department. What one expects, one must inspect, and it is clear that Mr. Washington was not sitting on the mountain top of "Tuskegee Machine." Rather, he was a very real participant in the affairs of Tuskegee Institute (University) to make the pointed suggestions he offers to Mr. Hutt. Third, he provides an example of an employee who does not wait to be "push[ed] ahead" or "for somebody to direct and lead" them. To the contrary, Mr. Taylor, another employee in the same rank and class, was value-added to Mr. Washington. He took initiative "constantly making suggestions as to what should be done." (One could rightly criticize Mr. Washington if he did not point to any employees who fulfilled his expectation but instead he provided an example to Mr. Hutt-one of his peers and colleagues-to demonstrate that the expectations he had for employees could not only be received but also achieved.) Lastly, he reminded Mr. Hutt that he had not exercised his right to remove him but instead was speaking plainly and frankly to encourage him, perhaps even to motivate him. And he did so with the understanding that Mr. Hutt might have never had such expectations, for he completed his correspondence with a parting admonition that "it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before." Perhaps Mr. Hutt had never had such a supervisor provide such clear expectations? Perhaps Mr. Hutt's previous supervisors merely discussed his poor performance with others as opposed to Mr. Hutt directly? Perhaps Mr. Hutt responded and eventually became one of the greatest employees in the annals of Tuskegee Institute (University)? Whatever Mr. Hutt's response might have been, it is clear that he fully understood Mr. Washington's expectations of him, which is what real leadership looks like: Transparent, Consistent, Communicative and Collaborative.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 4, 2015



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"My dear Dr. Grimke: You cannot realize how much satisfaction your kind words of congratulation bring to me. I know that no utterance comes from your lips that are not sincere. The reception given my words at Atlanta has been a revelation to me. I had no idea that a Southern audience would treat a black man's utterances in the way that it did. The heart of the whole South now seems to be turned in a different direction. You can easily see that I had rather a difficult task. First I wanted to be very sure to state the exact truth and of not compromising the race. Then there were some things that I felt should be said to the colored people and some others to the white people; and aside from these considerations I wanted to so deport myself as not to make such an impression as would prevent a similar opportunity being offered to some other colored man in the south." - September 24, 1895, Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In the days and weeks following Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Address (1895)," he received several commendations and congratulatory messages from a host of well wishers for this now historic address. In addition to remarks received from Francis James Grimke who was instrumental in the founding of the NAACP, W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois-his noted rival-remarked, "My Dear Mr. Washington: Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success at Atlanta-it was a word fitly spoken." In deed and in truth, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) "had rather a difficult task" in delivering such an address that has profound reverberations, even in this present century. Mr. Washington's detractors-including many who praised him in private-decried against the address calling it the "Atlanta Compromise" because of its emphasis upon industrial education and developing economic independence for African-Americans as opposed to pressing for social justice during that volatile period. Yet, what many failed to appreciate then about Washington-and fail to appreciate now about men and women in leadership situated similar to Washington-is that such men and women have multiple constituencies and audiences to appeal to. In 1895, in the Deep South, where Mr. Washington had spent 15 years building an institution of higher learning for formerly enslaved African-Americans, he needed to be especially keen, prudent and cautious about enflaming the fires of lynching, unprovoked beatings and murder, and the burning down of his facilities during a dark and infamous period in American history that is all too well documented. (For this man, unlike many of his detractors was in a position of leadership over students whose parents entrusted them to him, and if the institution were burned to the ground with several casualties because he spoke what others thought he should speak, one need only have a rudimentary historical imagination to understand the consequences of this.) On the other hand, he could hardly deny that the racial atrocities and social injustices committed against African-Americans solely based upon their ancestry and skin color could go unnoticed or unspoken on such a prominent platform. Thus, he-like most persons who have ever successfully led or spoken to diverse and multiple constituencies-followed a three-prong approach in his address: 1. "First [he] wanted to be very sure to state the exact truth..." (One will never go awry in speaking a plain statement of facts to audiences without regard to how such facts are received. As J.K. Miller wrote: "It is not the truth that people cannot handle. It is the consequences that stem from that truth.") 2. Second, "there were some things that I felt should be said to the colored people and some others to the white people;"(It is a poor, paltry and partial speaker or leader indeed who makes one-dimensional arguments and directs messages of truth to one racial, socioeconomic, ethnic or cultural group or another.) The greatest speakers and leaders transcend such categorizations and will inevitably share truth that falls wherever it may. Third, "aside from these considerations [he] wanted to so deport [himself] as not to make such an impression as would prevent a similar opportunity being offered to some other colored man in the south." (Make no mistake, one's words and actions in leadership always set precedents for those who come afterward. While one's conscience and sense of "speaking one's mind" may lead one to offer a torrent of remarks without regard to one's constituency, the prudent leader exercises restraint for he or she knows that his words and leadership impacts someone other than himself.) And this final regard is the hallmark of Booker T. Washington's leadership at the helm of Tuskegee Institute (University). Possessing real and actual responsibility with respect to others deepens one's commitment and capacity for serving others and lessens one's commitment and capacity for serving one's self.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 3, 2015

       

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I remember one young man in particular who graduated from Yale University and afterward took a post-graduate course at Harvard, and who began his career by delivering a series of lectures on "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington." It was not long, however, before he found that he could not live continuously on my mistakes. Then he discovered that in all his long schooling he had not fitted himself to perform any kind of useful and productive labour. After he had failed in several other directions he appealed to me, and I tried to find something for him to do. It is pretty hard, however, to help a young man who has started wrong." - Booker T. Washington, (1911) My Larger Education 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. offers the following concerning men and women whose actions are similar to the young man described in Booker T. Washington's aforementioned passage: "Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way - and the fools know it." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University provides several important lessons about both the young man-as well as all men and women of his ilk-who seek to establish their name and reputation on the basis of disparaging the name and reputation of others-particularly those whose accomplishments they will only be brought in close proximity to only upon the basis of "controversy." First, Mr. Washington never ever mentions this young man's name. While this unidentified young man knew full well that persons might give him a hearing-not upon the basis of his own person and accomplishments-but based upon the person and accomplishments of his topic, "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington," identifying or responding to this young man provided not a single, solitary benefit to Mr. Washington and Tuskegee. Second, Mr. Washington understood that the young man's premises were flawed from the onset, and it is the clearest telltale example of Mr. Washington's oft-repeated phrase, "Let examples answer." To be sure, the actions of no man or woman are all "good" or all "bad." (This is naïve, simplistic and child-like thinking.) Yet, in the face of the clear, overwhelming and documentable evidence that testify to the good that Mr. Washington had done locally, regionally and nationally, this young man titled his lecture series according to what he perceived were the mistakes of Mr. Washington. Here again, what one consistently reads and hears, one will consistently become. And this young man ought to have taken heed to how and to what he was hearing for it ultimately led to what he had become. (For this young man's attempt to categorize and confine a man of Booker T. Washington eminence and accomplishments to a series of perceived mistakes that his limited training, limited knowledge and limited life experience identified did nothing but demonstrate his failure to understand the significance of the (2) greatest 9-letter words and the single, most dangerous 9-letter word: 1. "Integrity" 2. "Knowledge" 3. "Ignorance;") Finally, we should consider Mr. Washington's demonstration of another one of his famous aphorisms: "I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him." The very same young man who sought to disparage and defame Mr. Washington later sought him for assistance, and Mr. Washington "tried to find something for him to do." (This dynamic needs no additional commentary.) Yet what is deserving of additional commentary is that this young man might have spent his time and work writing, lecturing and building his own legacy and life worth reading as opposed to seeking to denigrate another's whose legacy and life of building Tuskegee (Institute) University spanned 34 years (1881-1915) and remains and is read to this very day. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
February 2, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_headerPersonal and Confidential
[To William Howard Taft]


"My dear Mr. President: In considering the matter of the new judge for the Northern District of Alabama, I hope you will bear in mind the interests of the Negro. The United States Courts have been, as it were, kind of "cities of refuge" for the colored people. I mean that in these courts they have been always sure of securing justice in cases that properly come under the jurisdiction of such courts by reason of the fact that the judges have been such broad and liberal men that the juries have represented a class of people who would see that a fair verdict was rendered.

Not only this, but in the United States Courts in the South Negroes have heretofore been place on the grand jury and petit jury and in this way they gotten recognition that they have not gotten in any other case. This matter, as small as it is, has gone to make them feel that they were citizens and has encouraged them not a little. With few exceptions, where narrow minded men have been made judges they have gradually used their influence in some way to keep Negroes off the juries and have made them feel that they had few rights in these courts.

Please do not take the time to answer this letter."  - Yours very truly, Booker T. Washington, "May 6, 1909"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

After "integrity," and "knowledge," "influence" is the third greatest 9-letter word. And in this letter to the 27th President of the United States of America, William Howard Taft, Booker T. Washington once again demonstrates that the range of his "influence" extended to the very highest levels of American government. In earlier correspondence, President Taft, who succeeded President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, made it crystal clear that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University would still be expected to play a similar major role in advising the President of the United States as he had done with President Roosevelt. (The correspondence reveals that Roosevelt not only recommended Washington's pivotal role in consulting on major affairs but also Taft readily assented.) All the same, we learn in the letter to President Taft three very important considerations about the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University and his "influence." First, we learn, contrary to popular opinion, he used his "influence" to address issues that concerned one of his most important constituents: African Americans. Here again, one would be remiss to think that Mr. Washington did not advocate on issues of importance. Rather, he moved "in a rather quiet way" as he indicated in a previous communiqué. (The loudest communication is not necessarily the most effective communication, and Mr. Washington's direct correspondence with the President of the United States is effective communication.) Second, the "influence" of Mr. Washington's correspondence was certain in that it was marked "personal and confidential." This was not one of many letters that the President of the United State or any man or woman situated at the helm of a large organization receives that may or may not come to his attention or was handled through an intermediary. It is clear that Mr. Washington's letters would be read by the President himself. So much so that Mr. Washington did not even need a reply: "Please do not take the time to answer this letter." Third and last, Mr. Washington's "influential" advocacy was owing to sound, sober and logical reasoning. His letter thoughtfully and dispassionately articulates the potential success for President Taft in following his suggestion based upon both past and present successes in similar matters. (No doubt Mr. Washington was likely part of such decisions during the Roosevelt Administration.) All three of these reasons-along with many, many more-are why Tuskegee University celebrates the "influence" of Booker T. Washington in this the centennial year (1915-2015) since his passing.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 30, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header[To Booker T. Washington, From George Washington Carver]

"My dear Mr. Washington, Your letter received and read with great care. Your letter encourages me greatly. I am determined to raise chickens regardless of difficulties, I mean just that. I only sent you the report for your information, and not as a complaint. I thought you would be glad, or rather that it was my duty to keep you posted in detail. I want you to know that I am not sitting down permitting such a condition to exist without trying to remedy it. I fully appreciate the fact that we have a fine plant here for which I am extremely grateful. And without taking more of your time, will say in closing that you shall have chickens." - Very Truly G.W. Carver, May 4, 1909

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is quite difficult for us to fully comprehend both the far-reaching "breadth" and richly textured "depth" contained in the personal correspondence between not only two of the great personages in the intellectual and educational history of Tuskegee (Institute) University but two of the great personages in all of African American, American and global intellectual and educational history-Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Mr. Carver's response above was in reply to Mr. Washington's letter of May 2, 1909 wherein the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University expressed the following: "I have received your letter bearing upon the poultry yard, also your report of the analysis of the eggs... I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed." George Washington Carver, a man of similar "integrity" and "knowledge"-the first and second greatest 9-letter words-would in no wise permit anyone, including Booker T. Washington, to interpret his "report" as mere "complaint." To the contrary, he disabused Mr. Washington of any inclination that he was simply "sitting down permitting such a condition to exist without trying to remedy it." Serving as both a professor and steward of the university's resources, Mr. Carver remarked that the intent of his report was to provide the president with "information." (What one may view as the "paralysis of analysis," another may view as "climbing the speculative ladder [before] leaping out into the darkness of faith.") All the same, Mr. Carver goes on to state in the most exacting fashion: "I am determined to raise chickens regardless of difficulties, I mean just that." And herein lies the sum whole of the matter concerning the "raising of chickens" for both President Washington and Professor Carver: They both wanted results without regard to difficulties. For both men, whose records of accomplishment would be difficult-not impossible-to surpass, "success" and "results" were the chief assets in the late 19th and early 20th Century. (And it remains so here in the 21st Century.) These men operated according to their functions-not their feelings. Their foremost priority was to develop the fiscal, intellectual and knowledge-based educational prowess at Tuskegee University that would come to be recognized both nationally and internationally as the "Tuskegee Machine." In this, the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015), we reflect upon both the words and works of these Tuskegee luminaries as they remind us of what made Tuskegee (Institute) University great. A mission and a vision, a "tradition" and a "trajectory," led by one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known, Booker Taliaferro Washington.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 29, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header[To George Washington Carver]...I can see no reason why we cannot get some results from the geese and ducks. With the large number of geese and ducks on hand we ought to have two or three hundred young ones of each kind, but as it is we have almost nothing. Certainly we are not being troubled with the sore head, neither should there be any trouble about the eggs of the geese and ducks. I think what is most needed is for you to make an earnest effort to master the incubators so as to get some young fowls out of the eggs. Nobody in the South has such an excellent chance to show what can be done in raising poultry as you have right now at Tuskegee, and I hope that you can bring about results. The weather is unusually cool, and I am sure that you can with safety use the incubators up until the 20th or 25th of June.

You will remember that it was at your request that we stopped buying eggs from a distance. A good many people have the idea that we are not able to put in practice what is taught in the classroom in the agricultural teaching. Here is an excellent chance for you to show that you cannot only give instruction in the class room in poultry-raising, but you can actually get results in the poultry yard...I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed. Yours truly, - Booker T. Washington, May 2, 1909 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Even world-renowned Tuskegee (Institute) University professor, George Washington Carver, was not beyond the founding principal and president's reach when it came to his preoccupation with "success" and "results." And Mr. Washington offered the following prescription for the age-old malady of explaining why something could not be done: "I think if everybody will simply stop thinking and talking about difficulties and what prevents success and go to talking about working in the direction of getting chickens and at the same time be determined to get them regardless of difficulties that you will succeed." Although the above excerpt is taken from a rather lengthy correspondence from Washington to Carver, Mr. Washington essentially encourages Professor Carver to spend less time reporting, explaining and contemplating the reasons why the "geese" and "ducks" are not producing sufficient offspring. Rather, he wrote the following to Professor Carver: "I confess that the report does not interest me over-much. What I want you to do is to devise some means by which you can get fowls. These reports which simply discuss matters pro and con do not help your getting of young fowl." To be sure, contemplation and analysis has its place. (This is especially evidenced in the extraordinary accomplishments of Professor Carver, which were largely done here on the campus of Tuskegee.) Notwithstanding, there is a great deal to learn from Washington's administrative suggestion, which is akin to Andrew Jackson's adage: "Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in." The professor-turned-president (Washington) offered this proverbial piece of administrative wisdom to the professor (Carver) who elected to remain a professor after rebuffing several overtures from Washington to join administration through their long tenure working together. In the end, we now are able to celebrate in this the centennial year since the passing of Booker T. Washington (1915-2015)-not one or the other but both the accomplishments of President Washington and Professor Carver here at Tuskegee University.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 28, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"A person never gains anything in real power, in real lasting influence except as he remains always himself, always natural, always simple-and whenever he departs from that attitude, yielding to the temptation to imitate somebody else, of something else, to be that which he is not, in that same degree he loses his influence, he loses his power, and his strength." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk, "January 10, 1909

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests in his essay, "The American Scholar," the following concerning individuals and their originality: "Is it not the chief disgrace in the world...not to yield that peculiar fruit which each man was created to bear [?]" And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, reminds students about this all too forgotten principle in one of his Sunday evening talks. In sum, Washington and Emerson both bid students the following: Be Organic. Like fruit and trees, individuals come in all sizes and shapes. Moreover, they all serve different purposes. Still further, individuals have been born in different soils of environment, culture, creed and ethnicity for the singular purpose of fulfilling the distinct function they were each designed to fulfill in the earth. Each person is designed "to yield that peculiar fruit which each man [or woman] was created to bear." And when a person, like a particular tree that was designed to produce a particular "fruit," "departs" from its central purpose in life, "in that same degree he loses his influence, he loses his power, and his strength." Any student, like any fruit-bearing tree, that is not developed or cultivated to produce that which he or she alone can produce cannot fulfill their "purpose" and tap into the requisite "passion" to succeed in their given career or still better "calling." And Tuskegee University students-and all students situated anywhere in this increasingly global and knowledge-based economy-need look no further than the example of Booker Taliaferro Washington who Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015). For this man's life and work embodied and continues to embody the greatest 7-letter words in succession: Purpose, Passion and Calling.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 27, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I do not say you should not use them, should not posses 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 person is a third facet that can never be taken from the person in back of a position. More importantly, these facets are 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).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 26, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"Dear Mr. Logan: War now seems sure. Buy nothing except absolute necessities. Live on the farms in every way as far as you can. Yours sincerely." April 5, 1898, - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Abigail Adams wrote: "Great necessities call forth great leaders." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington was such a leader. Mr. Washington's communications to his modern-day equivalent of a chief financial officer, Mr. Warren Logan, was likely in reference to America's 3-month long war in 1898 with Spain. As evidenced in an earlier letter, Booker T. Washington's far-reaching political connections into the halls of government, provided him a tip on the impending war, and Mr. Washington took immediate action to respond. Like a good leader, he prepared and planned, erring on the side of caution and prudence. He did not know that the war would last only 3 months, but prepared as if it would last for 3 years. He cut spending, and he urged Mr. Logan to rely upon Tuskegee University's own resources-its own farms-"in every way as far as you can." For Mr. Washington well understood that "great leaders" in times of "great necessities" focus upon "absolute necessities."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 23, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"I have great faith in the power and influence of facts." - Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Men and women who possess leadership responsibilities beyond their own persons would be hard pressed to find any better ally or supporter than facts. And men and women of the ilk of Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, marshaled both favorable or unfavorable facts to similar ends. It is simply not true that one should keep one's eyes open to favorable facts while closing one's eyes to unfavorable facts. Mr. Washington's penchant for earnestness, frankness and directness in his communications to donors and external constituencies always commingled both favorable and unfavorable facts. As to favorable facts, one ought always communicate what the organization does well in a clear, documentable and evidentiary fashion. (An outcomes-oriented organization need not rely upon fables when facts are present.) On the other hand, communicating unfavorable facts is equally important. Whether one concedes it or not, everyone knows when something "is not right." A plain statement and admission of an organization's current environment is one of the clearest telltale signs of organizational integrity. (Hear again, "integrity" is the single greatest 9-letter word.) For Mr. Washington did not merely state that all things were always favorable. (Why would anyone seek outside help if all things, as they currently exist, are favorable? Any petition for aid immediately pronounces the opposite. For no one asks for help when there is no need for it.) Instead, he oft-times made a plain statement of the organization's current environment while positively projecting its target environment. In this regard all successful outside entities have empathy towards such an organization because a right understanding of one's current environment with a view towards its target environment necessitates a commingling of both facts that are favorable and unfavorable.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 22, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header"Of course, not all men who go into politics are affected in the way that I have described. Let me add that I have known many public men and have studied them carefully, but the best and highest example of a man that was the same in political office that he was in private life is Col. Theodore Roosevelt. He is not the only example, but he is the most conspicuous one in this respect that I have ever known." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

William Shakespeare offers the following observation of humanity: "Virtuous and villainous all men must be; Few in the extreme but all in the degree." And it is the rarest and most "extreme" of cases indeed where one finds men and women whose professed words are consistently resembled in their lived works. In Booker T. Washington's second observation of Theodore Roosevelt he speaks to the 2nd greatest 10-letter word: Consistent (Here again, character is nothing but consistency. It is not your highest moment nor your lowest moment but your most consistent moment.) The man Booker who met national and global leaders described Mr. Roosevelt as not only the "highest example of a man that was the same in political office that he was in private life" but he also says "he is the most conspicuous one in this respect I have ever known." Repeatedly, men and women are often mistakenly preoccupied with the position as opposed to the person in back of the position. Any study of leadership fails in this regard if a suitable distinction is not made between the public position and the person. It is a rarity indeed when one can witness the passion of a person fully expressed in a position, which is what is repeatedly found in the annals of history about Roosevelt. (This man was a leader in public and in private without regard to the position. And the connection between the person, passion and position is the most ideal expression of power.) Men and women like Roosevelt were not pretending. They were men and women of purpose-the greatest 7-letter word. So was the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, who was a person of passion who served in a position of power that enabled him to fulfill a great purpose. Tuskegee University celebrates Mr. Washington in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 21, 2015

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header
"One of the most striking things about Mr. Roosevelt, both in private and public life, is his frankness. I have been often amazed at the absolute directness and candour of his speech. He does not seem to know how to hide anything. In fact, he seems to think aloud. Many people have referred to him as being impulsive and as acting without due consideration. From what I have seen of Mr. Roosevelt in this regard, I have reached the conclusion that what people describe as impulsiveness in him is nothing else but quickness of thought. While other people are thinking around a question, he thinks through it. He reaches his conclusions while other people are considering the preliminaries. He cuts across the field, as it were, in his methods of thinking." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One can be slow to act if one is quick to understand. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) describes this attribute of intelligence in one of the world's most esteemed men: Theodore Roosevelt. Quick wittedness or (being quick to understand or know) is often unfavorably interpreted. Like a world class musician upon an instrument, a person in such a class as Roosevelt--and Mr. Washington who was able to recognize such a quality-might simply find it difficult to explain the attribute of "quickness of thought," and others might find it difficult to believe that such an attribute of "quickness of thought" exists. And while it is true what C.S. Lewis writes, "education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil," such was not the case with men like Roosevelt and Washington. For the works of these men-not merely their words-attest to the fact that the employment of their unique gifts were for the good of others. This is particularly true of Booker T. Washington who Tuskegee University celebrates in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015). This man possessed not only the intellectual attribute of "quickness of thought" but also the following greatest 6-letter words: Vision-Leader-Genius.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 20, 2015

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"I would not be doing my duty to the school did I permit the present state of things to exist, especially in view of the fact that I am compelled to be away from the school a large part of the year and I am compelled to perform my work almost wholly through the members of the Executive Council and there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." "March 26, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many important decisions leaders of large organizations must make, deciding upon one's senior leadership team is perhaps the most important. For these men and women become extensions of a leader so that he or she might be in many places at once. And this is the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University's idea when he writes the following: "...I am compelled to be away from the school a large part of the year and I am compelled to perform my work almost wholly through the members of the Executive Council and there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." First, Booker T. Washington's travel often took him away from the home front so that he might represent the interests of the institution both near and abroad. No leader can ever feel comfortable when absent from the organization unless he or she is most certain that affairs will be conducted in a manner that reflects his or her management when they are present. Second, the broadest and widest tents have more than one pole. It is a poor leader who seeks to be the sole source or "pole" of leadership within an organization or unit. (How shall a tent become enlarged with only one pole?) The more poles, the larger the tent, and the selection of many poles enable a leader to expand and "work almost wholly through the members" of his or her "Executive Council." Third, Mr. Washington suggested, "there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." Note, competence is good but character plus competence is better. (Here again, integrity is the greatest 9-letter word.) Men and women who work with integrity will perform their work in view of the organization's mission and vision, its tradition and trajectory without regard to the presence or absence of the leader. Moreover, these men and women must possess the confidence of the leader. (How can a quarterback call plays in a huddle of teammates only to discover that the teammates are giving the plays to the opponent?) Much rather, teammates are selected on the basis of their commitment to a common goal, and a leader's selection of teammates suggests much about who he or she has "complete confidence in," and who "share[s] [his or her] desires." For it is "the policy and work of the institution"-not the individual leader or team member-that makes for a highly functional and highly successful organization like Tuskegee Institute (University) during the 34-year tenure of Booker T. Washington. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 15, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"Mrs. Rumbley: When I made arrangements with you to return this year and take the present work, of course I did not mean that you would be retained in the position throughout the year regardless of the way you perform the service. When I said to you a few days ago that no change would be made to interfere with your plans it was on the supposition that you would do the work properly. When you returned from Mrs. Adams' I had a conversation with you in which I told you plainly that the teachers department went more smoothly while you were away, because Miss Jones gave more personal attention to the work. You seemed to see the point and promised to make it go more smoothly. Since then you have not given the attention to the work that I thought you would. For example, you are almost never present to overlook and see to the preparation of breakfast...Your work needs to be systematized. This can be done by making a study of what will please the teachers. The teachers do not complain of the quality but it is the way the food is prepared. I still think that you can make a success of your work but in order to do this you must become interested. In order to make it a success I shall do all in my power to help you in any reasonable way. Yours." - Booker T. Washington, [Tuskegee, Ala.] October 10th 1888

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In addition to his other more externally visible tasks of speaking, writing and advancing and developing the institution, Mr. Washington was also responsible for the internal management of personnel. And this rather lengthy excerpt taken from Mr. Washington's correspondence to an employee at Tuskegee Institute, who served in the capacity as a cook, is an example of strong yet supportive management of personnel. First, he makes it plain that retention "in the position" was not "regardless of the way you perform the service," and that the underlining premise of the employee's appointment was "that you would do the work properly." (Positions and appointments are rarely perpetual but are contingent upon performance.) Second, Mr. Washington had a direct and honest conversation regarding his assessment of the work. (He did not avoid being earnest with the employee for Mr. Washington was managing a major institutional enterprise comprised of many interchangeable functions. The function-not feelings-is of paramount importance in the successful management of an organization.) Third, he provided an example of what was not being done properly. (It was neither rumor, second-hand observation nor innuendo but a tangible and objective example that could be readily observed.) Fourth, he provided a recommendation to the employee. He recommends that the work should be "systematized" and that a "study" of the employee's constituents-namely the teachers-would reveal a possible way for solving the problem. (It is important for managers to not simply point to the problem but to provide a solution as well. And what better recommendation than to go to the constituency group who roundly described the services performed as a problem.) Lastly, he provides a final word of encouragement and a willingness to provide additional help. (Though the very best leaders do not avoid tough conversations about performance, it is imperative to provide a sense of hope, help and encouragement to employees who instead of retreating may actually re-double their efforts to set the matter aright.) In the end, Mr. Washington's correspondence provides an insight into leadership that is rarely seen because of its sensitive nature but is absolutely necessary for managing an outcomes oriented organization in the 19th, 20th or 21st Century.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 14, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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"More than that, a school that is content with merely turning out ladies and gentlemen who are not at the same time something else -- who are not lawyers, doctors, business men, bankers, carpenters, farmers, teachers, not even housewives, but merely ladies and gentlemen -- such a school is bound, in my estimation, to be more or less a failure." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In keeping with his constant emphasis that "style"-however impressive to the eye or palpable to the ear-will never ever be a replacement for "substance," Booker T. Washington here speaks to the central purpose of a university education. Make no mistake, appropriate dress and eloquent speech is quite essential for the university-trained man or woman. Grades alone without accompanying poise, presence and posture will not assure one's entrance into career fields where appearance often factors into personal prejudices and/or preferences. All the same, "knowledge," which is the second greatest 9-letter word after "integrity," is one of the single most important attributes to be in possession of for the university-trained man or woman for not only the successful entrance into a field of activity but a successful stay. Whether in the 19th Century or the 21st Century, one has to know something. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and society, "knowledge" is the chief currency and substance in fields of activity where performance enables one to transcend multiple work environments. And the institution that is more concerned with what is upon the backs of her students than what is between the ears of her students, is in the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University's "estimation...more or less a failure."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 12, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"Some years ago, in an effort to bring our rhetorical and commencement exercises into a little closer touch with real things, we tried the experiment at Tuskegee of having students write papers on some subject of which they had first-hand knowledge. As a matter of fact, I believe that Tuskegee was the first institution that attempted to reform its commencement exercises in this particular direction." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

What might now be considered as painstakingly obvious-the idea that an educated man or woman should be well-versed in having "first-hand knowledge"-Tuskegee University was a visionary institution in the education of her students under the leadership of its founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington. For the characteristic of possessing "first-hand knowledge" is the hallmark of the thoroughly educated man or woman based upon the following reasons: First, these young men and women will be not easily deceived and misled as they enter into their chosen field of study. Having already experienced in some measure-whether in matters great or small-the activities that will be required of them, they are knowledgeable and prepared to not only deal abstractly but practically. Second, they learn to discern second-hand knowledge (or worst hearsay) as men and women of intelligence. (Only the unintelligible rely upon knowledge that they have not vetted "first-hand" or experienced.) The mark of intelligence is but an extension of one's integrity, the greatest 9-letter word, and if a man or woman would rely upon second-hand and/or piecemeal information in the employment of their duties in their chosen field of endeavor, they put their own work and reputation at risk through no other's fault but their own. Third and last, "first-hand knowledge" separates one from peers and colleagues who have not undertaken the requisite work and suffering (endurance) necessary for gaining this knowledge. (Hear again, if one learns how to suffer and is willing to suffer well, one will learn how to succeed.) These men and women undertook to do what others were unwilling to do, afraid to do or simply too lethargic to do. The founder's oft-repeated two most important qualities, "faith" and "hard work", are both necessary but the latter-the second greatest 4-letter word-is what gives men and women the grand opportunity to separate themselves on the field of "first-hand knowledge." (These men and women work while others talk.) You will not learn what you will not work to learn, and in this the centennial anniversary of Tuskegee University's Booker T. Washington's passing (1915-2015), we celebrate both the legacy and the institution of higher learning he "worked" for 34 years (1881-1915) to establish.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 9, 2015


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"...I have tried to pursue the policy of acting in a business-like prompt way especially when we are able to pay. I wish you would take up all these small accounts that are overdue and settle them. It is doubly necessary that an institution that depends for its living on begging money should keep a good business reputation. It is much more necessary than for an institution doing a strictly commercial business. It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike and this hurts us in getting funds. For all these reasons it is very necessary that all the matters I am referring to in this letter be carefully, systematically and promptly attended to in your office. Some of the letters regarding the bills that I refer to I enclose." - Booker T. Washington, "February 13, 1915"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, repeatedly demonstrated during his 34-year long administration, the stewardship of one's existing resources goes hand-in-hand with the petitioning of additional resources. And Mr. Washington here again describes, in what would be the last year of his life, an important philanthropic consideration between a non-profit institution like Tuskegee University-and similarly situated higher education institutions-as opposed to a for-profit "commercial business." A non-profit institution seeks to serve a higher and greater good, and while profit and revenue are supremely important drivers in such institutions, its focus upon an area of societal need such as higher education makes profit generation only one of several considerations unlike "commercial business". And this is why non-profit institutions rely upon philanthropic (fundraising) gifts to help support their efforts to serve the larger good. (In the case of Mother Tuskegee, the education and the comprehensive development of her students is the highest and larger good.) Notwithstanding, such a noble aim does not exempt a non-profit institution from "keep[ing] a good business reputation" particularly when it continuously seeks "funds" to support its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory. Without respect to an institution's noble ambitions, if it does not manage its existing resources in a manner that demonstrates that it can manage additional resources, it "hurt[s]" itself "in [the] getting [of] funds." And Mr. Washington tells us precisely why it becomes "difficult" for others to give to it: "It does not take long for a rumor to get circulated in any community to the effect that we are not businesslike..." Moreover, if such a "rumor" is circulated in the kind of "community" that can actually provide a non-profit institution with major, transformational assistance in the pursuit of its noble aims then the hurt is extremely harmful. For no corporation, foundation, organization, entity or individual donor who has successfully stewarded its own fiscal resources will give them to another who has not successfully stewarded its own-however small or meager. These entities are also accountable to their own stakeholders, customers and constituents who rightly question where their gifts are directed, and stakeholder's rest easier knowing that major gifts from entities they are vested in are going to non-profit institutions who will steward them appropriately. And Mr. Washington, who Tuskegee University celebrates in the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015), was the recipient of many such major, transformational gifts because he "carefully, systematically and promptly attend[ed]" to the stewardship of Mother Tuskegee's resources from 1881-1915.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 8, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"Matter already attended to...Will send you paper with announcement." - November 12, 1902, "From Emmett Jay Scott to Booker T. Washington"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

A man or woman situated similar to the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University can hear no more satisfying words than the following: "Matter already attended to..." And this refrain, "[the] matter [has] already [been] attended to" is typically uttered by the best and most successful employees. And Booker T. Washington's long-time aid, Emmett Jay Scott, was such an employee. (Note: If a man or woman could successfully work for Booker T. Washington, he could go on to successfully work for anyone, which Mr. Scott did at the highest federal levels.) For the man Booker-as demonstrated in his correspondence-was a man of integrity, knowledge, exacting detail and substance-not messiness, ignorance or fluff. He managed serious matters within the Tuskegee organization that impacted both the "macro" and "micro," and to have one of his subordinates to express in response to an earlier query that "[the] matter [has] already [been] attended to" must have brought deep delight and satisfaction to Mr. Washington. For when a "matter [has] already [been] attended to" in an organization as large as the one he served as chief executive officer over, he need not attend to it. Moreover, if he need not attend to such matters then he could go on to attend to matters that he alone could attend to. And herein lies the deep delight and satisfaction. For like Booker T. Washington's long and impressive 34-year leadership at the helm of Tuskegee University, the best leaders select the best men and woman that enable him or her to lead. And Mr. Washington's success at selecting such able men and woman is evidenced in that his leadership is celebrated at Tuskegee University in this the centennial year since his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 7, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"...I not only learned that it was not a disgrace to labour, but learned to love labour, not alone for its financial value, but for labour's own sake and for the independence and self-reliance which the ability to do something which the world wants done brings." - Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While any man or woman who has acquired any measure of success in their chosen field of endeavor has learned that they must labour (work), the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University extends this notion further. Booker T. Washington suggests that one must "learn to love labour (work)", and he provides three attendant fruits beyond "financial value' for those who have "learned to love labour (work)." First, those who love to work have learned the intrinsic value of the work itself-"for labour's own sake." The discovery of one's passion often comes through the repeated doing and subsequent mastery of a particular task in a particular field that eventually leads to an intrinsic joy in doing what one may eventually become successful doing. Some people learn to love what they do well but this comes only after one actually tries to do something. (The "passion" to do something often leads to "success" and can lead to an individual's eventual coming to understand their personal sense of "calling.") Second, "independence" and "self-reliance" is also a result of "learning to love labour (work)." Knowledge obtained in the wise doing (labour) of any task-wisdom is but knowledge applied-is transferrable to any environment. Such a man or woman possesses that which cannot ever be taken from him or her. (Knowledge is the chief asset in an rapidly changing 21st century politically, economic and increasingly pluralistic society and herein is the basis of their "independence" and "self-reliance".) While these men or woman certainly do not become an island to themselves, they know "how," "what," "when," "where" and "who" to seek additional knowledge from to complement their own. (These men and women can readily identify what "knowledge," the second greatest 9-letter word, looks like because they have it themselves.) Lastly, the "love of labour" has perhaps the most important fruit: "the ability to do something which the world wants done..." All of our work (labour) means little if it does not result in service to others. Better still, when this work serves not only those in the present generation but in subsequent generations, such work has the opportunity to stand rank and file with men and women like Booker T. Washington whose work at Tuskegee University in the centennial year of his passing (1915-2015) is still "something which the world wants" and that the world needs.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 6, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"I believe that it is impossible for a person to live a high life, a noble life in the future world, who does not live a high life in this world...And so, I want you to get the idea that each day brings to you a serious responsibility. You should try to get as much out of the twenty-four hours in each day as is possible for an individual to get out of twenty-four hours. Learn to get out of each day, out of the twelve hours of each day, just as much as possible every for one to get. Learn to get out of every hour, every year as much as it is possible for you to get. You have only one life to live; remember you pass through this life but once, and if you fail, you fail, perhaps, for all time. You should consider closely the serious obligation you have upon you to live properly through a day, through a year, and you should try to get everything that is best out of that day, out of that year." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In perhaps one of the earliest Sunday evening talks the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University gave at the onset of the New Year in 1901-for this talk was given on February 17, 1901-Booker T. Washington speaks not so much to resolutions but the "serious responsibility" and the "serious obligation" to live a life of consistency "each day." (Character is nothing but Consistency. It is neither one's highest moment nor one's lowest moment. Character is one's most Consistent moment.) And there is no more telltale sign for objectively assessing, counting, chronicling or journaling the consistency of one's character than to evaluate what one does hourly, daily, monthly and yearly. For a new year is but a new day, and there are 365 of these. Moreover, the years accumulated into the respective time one receives in a singular life hopefully will constitute a life well lived, which is why Mr. Washington describes the use of one's time as "serious." The years spent in a well-lived life are often found in how the days, hours and months of one's life were spent. And such was the life of Booker T. Washington who Tuskegee University honors in this the centennial year of his passing (1915-2015).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
January 5, 2015

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"For example, not very long ago I had a conversation with a young coloured man who is a graduate of one of the prominent universities of this country. The father of this man is comparatively ignorant, but by hard work and the exercise of common sense he has become the owner of two thousand acres of land. He owns more than a score of horses, cows, and mules and swine in large numbers, and is considered a prosperous farmer. In college the son of this farmer has studied chemistry, botany, zoölogy, surveying, and political economy. In my conversation I asked this young man how many acres his father cultivated in cotton and how many in corn. With a far-off gaze up into the heavens he answered that he did not know. When I asked him the classification of the soils on his father's farm, he did not know. He did not know how many horses or cows his father owned nor of what breeds they were, and seemed surprised that he should be asked such questions. It never seemed to have entered his mind that on his father's farm was the place to make his chemistry, his mathematics, and his literature penetrate and reflect itself in every acre of land, every bushel of corn, every cow, and every pig." - Booker T. Washington, (1899) The Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

There is perhaps no better example of possessing what many in the older generation referred to as "book sense but no common sense" than what Booker T. Washington describes in the above passage. To be crystal clear, it was an admirable accomplishment for a young man hailing from a destitute background to go on to achieve an education at a "prominent university." Yet, what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University points out is a rather glaring omission in making his scholarship serviceable. This young man failed to apply this hard-won knowledge nor apparently think to, in his own backyard-namely-at his own father's farm. Serviceable Scholarship is that which translates theoretical abstractions of "knowledge" into practical application and dissemination in service to others beyond one's self or esoteric guild. (Wisdom is but knowledge applied, and the wise man or woman is made wise for others.) And the clear and obvious corollary to Mr. Washington's description of his encounter with this young man is as follows: the young man had not made his scholarship serviceable to his closest and most intimate constituent group-his farmer father who likely supported his pursuit of education. More than this, this young man-as do many similar young men and women of his ilk in both this and past generations-missed the opportunity for he, his father, his community and the surrounding region and nation to benefit. For "knowledge," the second greatest 9-letter word, by design, should increase, reproduce and multiply. (Here again, the complete cycle of education is to first learn, apply for one's self through respected demonstrations of mastery and then-and only then-proceed to teach others.) This young man had not gone on teaching others at the time of his meeting Mr. Washington for he had not first applied for himself and demonstrated mastery for himself and his father-his own father who owned a fruitful farm that might have been made more fruitful with the assistance of his son's proverbial "tree of knowledge." 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 17, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"It seems to me that there never was a time in the history of the country when those interested in education should the more earnestly consider to what extent the mere acquiring of the ability to read and write, the mere acquisition of a knowledge of literature and science, makes men producers, lovers of labour, independent, honest, unselfish, and, above all, good. Call education by what name you please, if it fails to bring about these results among the masses, it falls short of its highest end...How I wish that from the most cultured and highly endowed university in the great North to the humblest log cabin school-house in Alabama, we could burn, as it were, into the hearts and heads of all that usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education." - Booker T. Washington, (1899) The Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Cornel West suggests the following about the "quantity" of educated persons in the present generation as opposed to the "quality" of the past generation in his best-selling work, (1994) Race Matters: "THERE has not been a time in the history of black people in this country when the quantity of politicians and intellectuals was so great, yet the quality of both groups has been so low...How do we account for the absence of the Frederick Douglasses, Sojourner Truths, Martin Luther King, Jrs., Malcolm Xs, and Fannie Lou Hamers in our time?" And perhaps the answer to Professor West's rhetorical query resides in what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University wrote in the above passage: "...usefulness, that service to our brother, is the supreme end of education." (Here again, Washington's Tuskegee idea was not one based solely upon the work of one's "hands". Rather, the complete configuration of his conception of education-as ought be for all of education-was that of Heart (Character)-Head (Competence)-Hands (Capable). And once again, the little-discussed and deeply personal notion of the individual "heart" in modern education from which the "service" of the head and hands flow is likely why the "quality...has been so low." The heart (character) is the seat of all an individual's ambitions, ideas, motives and foci, and if the heart is not rooted in the idea of genuine and authentic service to mankind without respect to color, then the number of degrees, the name of the universities or the notoriety of the career matters little. And this is precisely why the "education"-not simply degree-received at Tuskegee University revolves around the university's motto: Knowledge-Leadership-Service. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 16, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"We have reached a period when educated Negroes should give more attention to the history of their race; should devote more time to finding out the true history of the race, and in collecting in some museum the relics that mark its progress. It is true of all races of culture and refinement and civilisation that they have gathered in some place the relics which mark the progress of their civilisation, which show how they lived from period to period. We should have so much pride that we would spend more time in looking into the history of the race, more effort and money in perpetuating in some durable form its achievements, so that from year to year, instead of looking back with regret, we can point to our children the rough path through which we grew strong and great." - Booker T. Washington, (1899) Future of the American Negro

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

John Lukacs suggests the following about the potential of the past coming to bear upon the future: "I saw the future and it was the past." And Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University offers a similar advisement in his little-known work, The Future of the American Negro published in 1899. Now, the mere assembling of the "relics" of any people group's history alone is not a sole predictor of its future. For it greatly depends upon what is being assembled as one paraphrased African proverb offers: "The hunter will always be the hero until the lion has his own historian." And Mr. Washington recommends the assembling of those "relics [in particular], which mark the progress of their civilization" and "achievements" placed "in some durable form." (Here again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) If one consistently reads a narrative or documentable history of a people characterized by its clear and documentable successes as opposed to failures documented for varying purposes, such histories will serve to shape not only the psyche of a single people group but also the psyche of all people groups who have a special relationship or closeness to this same group. Such is the history of Tuskegee (Institute) University where reading the narratives of the men and women (including students, supporters, community members, faculty, staff and administrators) provide a documentable, inspiring and motivating "tradition" (past) that can translate into a a documentable, inspiring and motivating "trajectory" (future).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 15, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"[To Gilchrist Stewart]...I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less." - "November 9, 1897," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one's purpose and passion in connection with one's work: "It is not easy work rejoining soul and role." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of "heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable)," Mr. Washington wanted someone to "take hold in a whole souled way," and "whose soul is deeply in love with his work." 

While Mr. Washington's passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone "who gives [work] his thought night and day." Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone "who looks so closely after every detail of his work...whom orders will not have to be continually repeated...[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work." Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, "it does take all of that" to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of "continuous improvement." It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after "purpose" and "passion.") Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee (Institute) University. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 12, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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[From William Henry Baldwin, Jr. to Booker T. Washington] "Dear Washington; Dinner: Xmas, at 6.15 Tuesday evening. Come early, and have an extra stocking to hang up. Yours" - WHBJr

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While it is true that Booker T. Washington did not appear to do much more than work, he did find time-on the very rarest of occasions-to "recreate" within the confines of close friends and close associates particularly during the holiday and festive season. Though the communiqué was brief, one is able to deduce (3) qualities about Mr. Washington's relations to a close friend and close associate like Mr. Baldwin. First, his salutation referred to him as "Washington." (This salutation was not a prelude to a solicitation.) This invitation to dinner reeks of a genuine, mutually respectful gesture that carried not a single hint that it was to be used for selfish gain on Baldwin's part. Second, the invitation was for both dinner and-much more-it was on the holiday. The breaking of bread is no small affair with persons situated as Mr. Washington was at the helm of Tuskegee. It is likely that the invitation for such a dinner was premised upon a mutually agreeable understanding that this dinner was among peers whose camaraderie and conversation would be held in confidence. (The weightier one's role, the weightier one's word.) It is simply unwise and imprudent for a man or woman situated as Mr. Washington to make himself or herself available for every single unsolicited invitation to dinner where free discourse often leads to professional entanglements that one need not concern one's self with when surrounded by proven friends and associates.) Last, he bid "Washington" to "come early, and have an extra stocking to hang up." Rest and repose around one's family, friends and associates knows no time constraints. (One would like to be around them as long and as often as possible.) To "come early" indicates that the evening was more than mere dinner. It was not a time-dictated affair where the founding principal and president of Tuskegee would mind the clock to leave on the hour and exit at the conclusion of the hour. It speaks to the mutual relationship between two persons-and potentially other like-minded individuals who may have been in attendance-whose conversation would be joyful and stimulating without hidden distrust, covered agendas or ill-will. It appears that Mr. Washington was not required to be there but that he perhaps genuinely desired to be there. (He was even requested to bring a stocking for perhaps token gifts to be received or given in the spirit of personal and familial relations.) While indeed the highest forms of productivity revolves around reading, writing, working and going home to family, there is another that occurs on the rarest of occasions: Dining during the holiday season with close friends and close associates. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 11, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"In my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls-with the great outside world. No man whose vision is bounded by colour can come into contact with what is highest and best in the world."  - Booker T. Washington, (1901) Up From Slavery

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Try as we might, there is really no way to get around what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University suggests about parochial (narrow-minded), unlearned and partisan persons whose experiences and perspectives are limited to one race or another. "Breadth" and "Depth" is the greatest 5 and 7-Letter combination, and Booker T. Washington suggests that the most well-read men and women are also the most well-bred men and women-born again through the breadth and depth found in books. Now, "vision"-the greatest 6-letter word and perhaps the greatest in all of the English language-requires applicability that is neither "bounded" or constrained "by colour". Men and women like Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr.-even Cyrus "the Great," the greatest historical leader this writer has read and studied-whose "vision" out of necessity could not be bound by a kind of narrowness and provincialism based upon color. These men and women needed, relied upon and facilitated a host of persons and organizations to unite to support a common vision ranging from Tuskegee University to the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, "leader," in this writer's opinion, is the second greatest 6-letter word, and a leader must articulate a "vision" so broad and deep that its applicability reaches far and wide and it's dissemination not only cannot be confined but will increase and multiply. Everyone without respect of color can connect to such vision and cultivating such vision comes through both reading and reading well. (Hear this again, what one consistently reads, one will consistently become.) And if a man or woman (or Tuskegee University student) would ever seek to become a "visionary leader," then they need read no further than Tuskegee University's founding principal and president-the man, Booker T. Washington. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 10, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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Phillips Brooks gave expression to the sentiment: "One generation gathers the material, and the next generation builds the palaces." As I understand it, he wished to inculcate the idea that one generation lays the foundation for succeeding generations. - Booker T. Washington, Future of the American Negro (1899)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Any institutional or organizational leader would be remiss--no fool hearted--if he or she did not first look to, then build upon and, finally, greatly improve upon the foundation of the past--particularly when that foundation is as solid and substantive as that which is found here at Tuskegee (Institute) University. (And this writer believes that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington, was prescient enough to know that his was a foundation that any man or woman could build "palaces upon.") Preparation, planning, purpose and performance are the hallmarks of sound management practices in any leadership and management paradigm, and a leader must not only prepare and plan on how to ascend to institutional leadership, but what to do with it once he or she gets it. One certain way of doing this is to return to the founder's "foundation." Booker T. Washington laid a rock-solid foundation based upon personal and organizational "integrity," the greatest 9-letter word. In perusing through some 34 years of this man's letters and correspondence, one finds that "integrity" is the most consistent and persistent attribute permeating within each writing or speech. Whether writing or speaking to persons small or great, he installed a vision on the basis of being truthful, honest and earnest in all his dealings, and such attributes appealed to both external and internal constituents alike-particularly when seeking major, transformational gifts like Booker T. Washington secured. (The best institutional leaders and organizations are "transparent," "consistent," "communicative," and "collaborative".) What the man, Booker Washington, spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in one arena was consistent with what he spoke, wrote and did concerning Tuskegee University in another arena, thus forming an unbroken chain of integrity on which he built the foundation of Tuskegee. This integrity extended not only to the world-renowned bricks of Tuskegee's oldest buildings, but also to the foundational philosophy of Tuskegee University and its founder. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 9, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"I have often said to you that one of the best things that education can do for an individual is to teach that individual to get hold of what he wants, rather than to teach him how to commit to memory a number of facts in history or a number of names in geography. I wish you to feel that we can give you here orderliness of mind-I mean a trained mind-that will enable you to find dates in history or to put your finger on names in geography when you want them. I wish to give you an education that will enable you to construct rules in grammar and arithmetic for your-selves. That is the highest kind of training. But, after all, this kind of thing is not the end of education. What, then, do we mean by education? I would say that education is meant to give us an idea of truth. Whatever we get out of text books, whatever we get out of industry, whatever we get here and there from any sources, if we do not get the idea of truth at the end, we do not get education. I do not care how much you get out of history, or geography, or algebra, or literature, I do not care how much you have got out of all your text books:-unless you have got truth, you have failed in your purpose to be educated. Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many truths the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University proffered in his many speeches, writings and correspondence, the following is perhaps the single most profound and difficult one to grasp: "Unless you get the idea of truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything, your education is a failure." Now it may appear to the naysayer that Mr. Washington makes a rather prideful or arrogant assertion but C.S. Lewis's idea that "perfect humility dispenses with modesty" rejects such an accusation. ("Humility" is the greatest 8-letter word and "Fearless" is the second greatest 8-letter word in succession with good reason.) To be clear, there is no man or woman who will have not had error or failure at some point in their vocational path or journey. Yet, Mr. Washington's conception of "education" encompasses those who have erred and failed because a "truth so pure that you cannot be false in anything" permits a single man or woman to ascertain valuable and truthful lessons whether through triumph or tragedy. For this man or woman-the truly educated man or woman-never experiences "falsity [or failure] in anything" because he or she lives, learns and then leads others to wrest the valuable water of "knowledge"-the second greatest 9-letter word-from any dampening circumstance. Moreover, these men and women proceed undauntedly, unflinchingly and unwaveringly day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year to continuous and ongoing "success"-one of the greatest 7-letter words-without ever experiencing real "falsity" or "failure" in the truest sense of the words. For never can a man or woman who possesses and applies the sort of education Mr. Washington established at Tuskegee University can ever rightly be called "false" or a "failure" because a truly educated man or woman ultimately views success and failure rightly according to the greatest 8-letter words: "Humility" and "Fearless," which again are the greatest 8-letter words in succession. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 8, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the "Tuskegee spirit"; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it." "Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk,"  - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the "Tuskegee spirit." (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the "Tuskegee spirit" is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The "Tuskegee spirit" is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 5, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"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 far weightier 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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 4, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"I reached Tuskegee, as I have said, early in June, 1881. The first month I spent finding accommodations for the school, and in travelling through Alabama, examining into the actual life of the people, especially in the court districts, and in getting the school advertised among the class of people that I wanted to have attend it." - Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Consider the following: Tuskegee (Institute) University was formally founded on July 4, 1881, and its founding principal and president, the man Booker T. Washington, had already begun work in June 1881. Once again, the words of any visionary undertaking are but the top of the iceberg but the works of its subsequent execution and implementation are what lies beneath the surface-the large unseen mass beneath, not within view until you come closer to inspect. And Mr. Washington's unseen wall work occurring in June 1881 in many ways laid the foundation-or built the wall-for Tuskegee University's lasting and enduring success. His early days were spent "finding," "travelling," "examining" and "advertis[ing]" for students. Unconcerned with any idea of pomp and circumstance long before he began his tenure, Booker T. Washington came to work. (According to Mr. Washington, "Nothing is accomplished but by faith and hard work," and this founding principal and president was focused on the latter in his beginning days.). 

And unlike his presidential peers in later centuries-including those who succeeded him at Tuskegee-this man had no standing facility, faculty, endowment or, most importantly, students. He was teacher, principal, admissions director, advancement head, marketing director and chief financial officer and everything in between. (He had been previously trained under General Samuel Armstrong and was the very best and brightest representative of the Hampton idea. How could he be possibly consumed with anything other than true and documentable success?) He could ill-afford to be concerned with the many ancillary matters that modern-day presidents often spend time grappling with. The problem of getting bread and students for his institution was a very real one that few truly knew. As such, he was primarily focused upon his life-long "purpose,"-the greatest 7-letter word-building and firmly establishing the legacy that is now Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 3, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"My dear Mr. President [Theodore Roosevelt]: If you have in mind the sending in of a special message bearing upon the lynching of Italians in Mississippi, I am wondering if you could not think it proper to enlarge a little on the general subject of lynching; I think it would do good. I think you could with perfect safety, give the Southern States praise, especially the Governors and the daily press, for assisting in reducing the number of lynchings. The subject is a very important and far reaching one and keeps many of our people constantly stirred up [...]." - Booker T. Washington, "January 5, 1902"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Leo Tolstoy offers the following expression concerning men and women who live according to their conscience, as opposed to the dictates of popular sentiment: "He who lives not for the sake of his conscience, but for the sake of others' praise, lives badly." Although Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, might have expressed his views more diplomatically than most men and women of his era who were not situated at the helm of a major institution, he possessed his own methods to express his views nevertheless. And the communication to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt suggests a great deal about how this institutional president operated in matters of national importance. First, he need not make a public announcement of his views. Booker T. Washington had direct access to the President of the United States. An advisor to President Roosevelt on a number of political matters, his letters reveal an ongoing stream of communication that suggests that his advice and opinion mattered to the President and would be weighed carefully. Second, he used the opportunity of President Roosevelt's apparent willingness to discuss "the lynchings of Italians in Mississippi" to suggest that he broaden his discussion to encompass to one of his primary constituencies and concerns during the period-the lynching of African Americans. Finally, he alluded to the importance of the President addressing the subject: It was for the benefit of all Americans. He fittingly ascribed his concern to the well being of the country similar to Lyman Beecher Stowe's sentiment when he penned the following: "Here in America, we are all, in the end, going up or down together." Here again, the man Booker T. Washington might not have done what many desired him to do and in the precise manner they would have liked for him to do but he did do what he thought was right to do.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 2, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"I remember one young man in particular who graduated from Yale University and afterward took a post-graduate course at Harvard, and who began his career by delivering a series of lectures on "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington." It was not long, however, before he found that he could not live continuously on my mistakes. Then he discovered that in all his long schooling he had not fitted himself to perform any kind of useful and productive labour. After he had failed in several other directions he appealed to me, and I tried to find something for him to do. It is pretty hard, however, to help a young man who has started wrong." - Booker T. Washington, (1911) My Larger Education 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. offers the following concerning men and women whose actions are similar to the young man described in Booker T. Washington's aforementioned passage: "Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way - and the fools know it." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University provides several important lessons about both the young man-as well as all men and women of his ilk-who seek to establish their name and reputation on the basis of disparaging the name and reputation of others-particularly those whose accomplishments they will only be brought in close proximity to only upon the basis of "controversy." First, Mr. Washington never ever mentions this young man's name. While this unidentified young man knew full well that persons might give him a hearing-not upon the basis of his own person and accomplishments-but based upon the person and accomplishments of his topic, "The Mistakes of Booker T. Washington," identifying or responding to this young man provided not a single, solitary benefit to Mr. Washington and Tuskegee. Second, Mr. Washington understood that the young man's premises were flawed from the onset, and it is the clearest telltale example of Mr. Washington's oft-repeated phrase, "Let examples answer." To be sure, the actions of no man or woman are all "good" or all "bad." (This is naïve, simplistic and child-like thinking.) Yet, in the face of the clear, overwhelming and documentable evidence that testify to the good that Mr. Washington had done locally, regionally and nationally, this young man titled his lecture series according to what he perceived were the mistakes of Mr. Washington. Here again, what one consistently reads and hears, one will consistently become. And this young man ought to have taken heed to how and to what he was hearing for it ultimately led to what he had become. (For this young man's attempt to categorize and confine a man of Booker T. Washington eminence and accomplishments to a series of perceived mistakes that his limited training, limited knowledge and limited life experience identified did nothing but demonstrate his failure to understand the significance of the (2) greatest 9-letter words and the single, most dangerous 9-letter word: 1. "Integrity" 2. "Knowledge" 3. "Ignorance;") Finally, we should consider Mr. Washington's demonstration of another one of his famous aphorisms: "I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him." The very same young man who sought to disparage and defame Mr. Washington later sought him for assistance, and Mr. Washington "tried to find something for him to do." (This dynamic needs no additional commentary.) Yet what is deserving of additional commentary is that this young man might have spent his time and work writing, lecturing and building his own legacy and life worth reading as opposed to seeking to denigrate another's whose legacy and life of building Tuskegee (Institute) University spanned 34 years (1881-1915) and remains and is read to this very day. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
December 1, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Dear Mr. Logan: I am very sorry about the loss of the barn and especially the cows and feed. We have needed for some time a larger and better barn and now I hope we shall get it. I leave matters regarding the barn to your judgment. I am going to have the loss published in all the papers and I hope there will be gifts to make up the loss. Will write more fully later. Yours truly." - "November 24, 1895," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One can either confront challenging situations with a sense of despondency and despair or with a sense of unbridled hope and optimism, and the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) chose the latter in the incident of "the loss of the barn." Without question, the loss of a barn in the late 19th century was a significant financial loss. Mr. Logan, Mr. Washington's treasurer-a modern-day chief financial officer-had indicated to him in a prior communication that the "insurance" loss was totaled at "fifteen hundred." All the same, note Mr. Washington's response to his CFO. First, he empathized with his colleague over the loss. He knew that Mr. Logan was both faithful and loyal to the university, and that had probably taken the loss personally. He recognized this in Mr. Logan but did not dwell up the darkness; he proceeded to the decision. Second, Mr. Washington took action. Creatively, he turned a negative incident and made it positive. He went to the papers to publicize the loss. One's supporters-true supporters in both words and works-are often anxious to provide support if they are able to understand what the difficulties are. Lastly, he possessed hope that the loss might be leveraged into gain. He hoped that "there will be gifts to make up the loss." Here again, the "Wizard of Tuskegee" was not merely a manager of the micro matters confronting the institution. Behind the curtains, indeed, he was a wizard at communications via the media to leverage a negative into a positive, which is the attribute of every successful leader of any successful organization.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 26, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"In the early days of freedom, when education was a new thing, the boy who went away to school had a very natural human ambition to be able to come back home in order to delight and astonish the old folks with the new and strange things that he had learned. If he could speak a few words in some strange tongue that his parents had never heard before, or read a few sentences out of a book with strange and mysterious characters, he was able to make them very proud and happy. There was a constant temptation therefore for schools and teachers to keep everything connected with education in a sort of twilight realm of the mysterious and supernatural. Quite unconsciously they created in the minds of their pupils the impression that a boy or a girl who had passed through certain educational forms and ceremonies had been initiated into some sort of secret knowledge that was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Connected with this was the notion that because a man had passed through these educational forms and ceremonies he had somehow become a sort of superior being set apart from the rest of the world [...]" - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education__(1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While the term "esoteric" is not entirely pejorative-it can mean that members within a certain profession or group understand and converse sharing many of the same assumptions or terminology-it is sometimes used to denote exclusivity meaning that information and knowledge is understood by a chosen few. In the present passage, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University speaks to this latter formulation. Here he laments that often education-the act of teaching and learning-resembles the closing off of knowledge from others as opposed to its wide dissemination among many. Mr. Washington's idea is that such knowledge ought to have relevancy and application for others beyond the sole possessor of this knowledge. Imagine that. The idea of education should not be exclusive to a limited few but should enlighten and have impact upon others in beneficial ways. Thus, not only are the recipients all the better for having received this knowledge but also the giver of this knowledge is made better. For this man or woman has completed the complete cycle of education. First you learn, master and apply for yourself. (It is is a poor teacher whose words do not resemble his or her works.) Then you proceed to teach others. And such an education can be found at many institutions of higher learning including Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 25, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"When I left school at the end of my first year, I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out. It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid. I economized in every way that I could think of-did my own washing, and went without necessary garments-but still I found my summer vacation ending and I did not have the sixteen dollars" - Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One not only finds lessons in Mr. Washington's management of a university, his stewardship and cultivation of transformative gifts and donations, his passion as an educator or his affectionate love for his wife and children, one also learns from his life as a student. And here is one lesson that students can learn from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University): "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid" To be sure, the price of a university education-particularly an education received from an university as eminent as Tuskegee-is costly. Yet, it is equally costly to have no such education. All the same, Mr. Washington knew what all graduates of post-baccalaureate and graduate institutions either know or comes quickly to know: Education costs and paying for your education is a responsibility for all who desires one. We learn the following from his own experiences at Hampton Institute. First, "I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out." Much like a creditor, an institution is not always able to "work it out" for students. When it does so largely though discounting the tuition bill it does so to its own detriment and opens itself to other criticisms from many of the same students as to why the institution is often unable to provide other services. Second, "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt." He knew that a tuition bill would be there when he returned to school in fall. In spite of his obvious poverty as a formerly enslaved person, he did not expect that he would be able to "work it out". Rather, he worked and "saved". Whether an internship, summer research program or any other noteworthy summer endeavor, each student should bear in mind that fall is coming and any unpaid tuition bill will await them. Third, "I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid." Honor is nothing but integrity. Hear again: "Integrity is the greatest 9-Letter word." Mr. Washington would not allow his words to be inconsistent with his works for he had received an education at the expense of the institution that paid the salaries of the professors who educated him. This was a transaction. He received the education and in turn he owed the institution its money so that it might continue to pay his professors to educate others. Last, he "economized in every way that I could think of." The founding principal and president did not frivolously spend his summer monies knowing full well he owed on his tuition bill. Rather he "economized." He counted the cost and did his best to make it right. In the end, Mr. Washington did secure sufficient monies. He did not give up. He was resourceful, and he went on to not only graduate from Hampton Institute but to go on to lead from 1881 to 1915 what remains one of the finest institutions in the nation-Tuskegee University-"the pride of the swift growing south."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 24, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"As I have said before, I do not regret that I was born a slave. I am not sorry that I found myself part of a problem; on the contrary, that problem has given direction and meaning to my life that has brought me friendships and comforts that I could have gotten in no other way." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education, (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington had more reason than most to decry the circumstances of his upbringing. (For he was born enslaved.) Yet, Mr. Washington's reference to himself as "part of a problem" was not owing to any intrinsic qualities of his own person. Rather, it was akin to W.E.B. Du Bois's expression: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line." All the same, the fact that Mr. Washington was born into such a difficult period did not ultimately deter his ambitions; Instead, it fueled them. And this is clearly one of the most singularly important lessons of Mr. Washington's life and career-long work at Tuskegee Institute (University) evidenced in his most quoted aphorism: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." For the satisfaction gained in spending one's life transforming seemingly insurmountable obstacles into long-standing triumph and achievement is, after all, the definition of an overcomer. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 21, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Gen'l [Armstrong]: Mr. [Albert] Howe stayed with us 4 days and no one's visit has done us the real good that his has. His suggestions were valuable and criticisms frank. He has been especially helpful in his suggestions regarding our land and brick works." - Tuskegee, Alabama, April 29, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) offers here a noteworthy and rare commendation for one Mr. Albert Howe. While it is true what the Greek Historian Plutarch writes concerning friends and acquaintances-"I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better"-it is equally true that simply offering a criticism does not make the criticism valuable. Of the many eminent visitors and well wishers-invited or not-that Mr. Washington received at Tuskegee Institute in the first four years of his Presidency, "no one has done [Tuskegee] the real good that [Howe] has." Mr. Washington states unequivocally that unlike other suggestions that were offered, Mr. Howe's were "valuable and criticisms frank." To be sure, uttering a frank criticism was the not the sole characteristic of Howe's suggestion when a man of Mr. Washington's position assessed the value of Howe's recommendations as compared to those of others. Instead, Howe's suggestions came directly to bear upon how the institution managed two of its most important resources at the time-it's "land and brick works." One has to simply pause here to consider the regard Mr. Washington must have held for such a person who after spending "4 days" with him at Tuskegee, was able to be regarded as the single most helpful visit in his early four-year tenure. For it matters not whether the person offering a suggestion deems it valuable, but whether the person who receives the suggestion regards it as valuable.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 20, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"[To Gilchrist Stewart]...I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less." - "November 9, 1897," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one's purpose and passion in connection with one's work: "It is not easy work rejoining soul and role." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of "heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable)," Mr. Washington wanted someone to "take hold in a whole souled way," and "whose soul is deeply in love with his work." While Mr. Washington's passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone "who gives [work] his thought night and day." Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone "who looks so closely after every detail of his work...whom orders will not have to be continually repeated...[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work." Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, "it does take all of that" to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of "continuous improvement." It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after "purpose" and "passion.") Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee (Institute) University. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"After I got so that I could read a little, I used to take a great deal of satisfaction in the lives of men who had risen by their own efforts from poverty to success. It is a great thing for a boy to be able to read books of that kind. It not only inspires him with the desire to do something and make something of his life, but it teaches him that success depends upon his ability to do something useful, to perform some kind of service that the world wants." - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The great scholar, literary critic and 'Narnia' chronicler, C. S. Lewis, remarks about the value of books upon a young boy or girl's imagination: "Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker." Here again, what one consistently reads, one consistently becomes; Just imagine what one might become when one reads about the lives of great men and women from the time of one's youth even into one's mature years. This is what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University recommends, and it is a recommendation that we would do well to not only just follow, but continuously follow. First, the world needs verifiable, authentic and organic heroes, not simply scripted and fictional ones. Men and women whose lives are grounded in believable and relatable life experiences that one can readily identify with provides great grounds for hope for those who have similar experiences. Second, one can learn from the mistakes made in the lived lives of others. It is simply not true that one must repeat the mistakes of others. (Instead, you read and learn from them.) The triumphant records of men and women that also record both their foibles and follies are useful for persons of any century to learn, discern and comprehend that what happened before may very well occur again. Third, the lived lives of men and women who are no longer amongst us are permanent, indelible and fixed records that will remain ever unchanged. (One may repeatedly interpret and re-interpret their deeds done but there will be no adding nor taking away from them.) And this final thought is one that certainly motivated men and women of the class of Booker T. Washington and should motivate us as well. For Booker T. Washington knew that one has but one life to live, and there would be no do over. When future chroniclers composed the narrative of his life, he wanted to be certain that it contributed to making someone else's "destiny brighter" not "darker." The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) did not simply write correspondence, books and speeches worth reading; he lived a life worth reading not only in his generation but also in the many future generations to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 18, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"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 or they 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.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 17, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Among the most trying class of people with whom I come in contact are the persons who have been educated in books to the extent that they are able, upon every occasion, to quote a phrase or a sentiment from Shakespeare, Milton, Cicero, or some other great writer. Every time any problem arises they are on the spot with a phrase or a quotation. No problem is so difficult that they are not able, with a definition or abstraction of some kind, to solve it. I like phrases, and I frequently find them useful and convenient in conversation, but I have not found in them a solution for many of the actual problems of life." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

We often deceive ourselves by assuming that a word fitly spoken, an opinion boldly proffered, an argument well-written or a critique loosely given is tantamount to leadership--particularly with respect to solving "the actual problems of life." And this is the idea that Booker T. Washington explained in his observations of men and women who offer words without any accompanying works. Thomas Edison suggested that "A vision without execution is a hallucination." To be clear, "vision"-the single greatest 6-letter word- requires words for articulating, reasoning, inspiring and motivating. Yet, this is only one half of the deal in leadership. The other half is transforming those words into works. Such works, unlike words, are never philosophical or theoretical "abstraction[s]". These works are "solution[s] for many of the actual problems" that visionary words propose to solve. Works are the evidentiary and documentable deeds done that substantiate the words of visionary leadership. Works are what can be touched, pointed to and-most importantly-verified, substantiated and authenticated precisely like the presence of Tuskegee (Institute) University that still stands a full century since Mr. Washington's death (1915-2015). Mr. Washington's late 19th and early 20th century demonstration of visionary leadership is the complete expression of a leader's love for "words" that he found "useful and convenient in conversation," as well as his "work" achieved and completed at Tuskegee. And witnessing such visionary leadership is akin to persons upon a ship viewing an iceberg in the middle of a frigid ocean. The "words" are what sit atop the iceberg's tip until the "works" of the impressive mass that lies beneath comes slowly into view.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 14, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Mr. E. J. Scott: Please be very careful to see that all electric lights in your Department are shut off whenever they are not actually being used. By giving attention to this, you will save the school quite a good deal." - Booker T. Washington, "January 14, 1901"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

If an individual thinks that leaving a random light on within their singular residential living space, office space, small apartment or home can lead to increased costs upon their electric bill, just imagine what the costs are for an institution the size of Tuskegee (Institute) University when lights are multiplied exponentially. And the founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington, left little to the imagination addressing this issue in a letter to his modern-day chief of staff, Mr. E. J. Scott. Note-it is quite easy to callously disregard or be indifferent to the many costs and expenses associated with running a large organization where these costs are largely hidden from public view. However, Mr. Washington-and many men and women functioning in similar capacities-could ill-afford to do so. Furthermore, Mr. Washington could ill-afford for the persons surrounding him, including his closest lieutenant, to not be aware of their responsibilities to this aspect of fiscal stewardship and responsibility. This 19th century leader understood a now commonly understood concept for leadership in the 21st century: It is far more profitable for an organization to foster and multiply a spirit of corporate leadership, management and responsibility amongst its employees than to suffer the multiplied costs associated with poor fiscal stewardship.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 13, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Dear Sir: Your kind favor of May 2nd, asking if I could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College is received. I am pleased to know that you should think of me in this connection, and of course feel complimented in the highest degree, but I think it best to say in the beginning that I do not think I could be induced to give up my present position. The salary you name is much larger than I am present receiving but I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere, and for the further reason that there are a number of individuals throughout the North who have given and are giving rather large sums of money to this work, based on their faith in my devotion to this work [...]" - "May 9, 1894," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Highly successful men and women of character, competence and credentials are rarely without suitors for their services. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) was no exception. Mr. W.B. Murdock of Alcorn College approached Mr. Washington hoping that he "could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College." And what is most remarkable in Mr. Washington's reply was not his gracious recognition of the "compliment," but rather his reasons for not acquiescing to the offer and to remain at Tuskegee Institute (University): "[...] I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere...". Imagine that. A person electing to remain at an institution on the basis of the GOOD he or she might be able to do as opposed to having a larger salary? Perhaps this is an old-fashioned 19th Century notion or perhaps Mr. Washington and men and women of his ilk-unlike many in the present century-were men and women of purpose. And "purpose" is the single greatest 7-letter word.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 12, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mr. Lee: I wish you would arrange so that from time to time all of the students in the higher classes can visit the poultry yard. I very much fear that many of our students come here and go away without really seeing much of the work of the school. I fear that we have students on the grounds who do not know as much about what is going on as some of our visitors. Of course they might get information which they might work into their composition writing. Just now it is especially interesting and valuable for the students to go to the poultry yard. I only mention this as one example." - Booker T. Washington, "April 1, 1911"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

It would be a singular travesty for any person who has either attended or worked at Tuskegee (Institute) University to leave without being fully versed in the institution's tradition. And this was the founding principal and president's sentiment when he remarked the following: "I very much fear that many of our students come here and go away without really seeing much of the work of the school. I fear that we have students on the grounds who do not know as much about what is going on as some of our visitors." To be sure, Tuskegee (Institute) University was still building its legacy nearly 30 years since its founding date on July 4, 1881, and Mr. Washington was likely referring to students not knowing about the diversity of disciplines that were offered at the university at the time. In 1911, the university would not have been the destination of visitors, organizations, corporations, foundations and distinguished visitors that it is today. Nonetheless, although daily mundane tasks preoccupy both students and employees alike with the urgency of the present, one would be remiss if he or she did not ever take time to appreciate-and most importantly-learn about both the past significance of this great university. Here again, one cannot walk upon the grounds of Tuskegee without an overwhelming sense of both the sacredness and the great feats of yesteryear. Of course, most are remotely familiar with the feats of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver; however, the names of Robert R. Taylor, General Daniel "Chappie" James, Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis and countless men and women whose efforts were associated with the university or the renowned Tuskegee Airmen can give one great pause for reflection when one reads about their achievements. An appreciation and awareness of Tuskegee's great tradition is not reserved for students and employees but for anyone-including "visitors"-who take the time to understand how this tradition can fuel any great trajectory.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 11, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"My first task was to find a place in which to open the school. After looking the town over with some care, the most suitable place that could be secured seemed to be a rather dilapidated shanty near the coloured Methodist church, together with the church itself as a sort of assembly-room. Both the church and the shanty were in about as bad condition as was possible. I recall that during the first months of school that I taught in this building it was in such poor repair that, whenever it rained, one of the older students would very kindly leave his lessons and hold an umbrella over me while I heard the recitations of the others. I remember, also, that on more than one occasion my landlady held an umbrella over me while I ate breakfast." - Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One need look no further than this passage to understand that great endeavors often start with small beginnings. In June 1881, the founding principal of Tuskegee Normal School, which would subsequently becoming Tuskegee Institute (University), began making preparations for the school's July 4, 1881 opening. Upon arrival, he did not find the immaculate, well kept, well-funded and beautiful campus that visitors the world over now recognize as Tuskegee University. Rather, he found a "rather dilapidated shanty." If it is true what Frederick Douglass spoke first and others later revised that "success is not measured by the heights to which one ascends but from the depths from whence one comes," then perhaps we have not fully appreciated the accomplishments of Booker T. Washington then or now. Hear again, this man began his life enslaved, and he started an institution of world renown in a shanty. While most would likely point to reaching his destination to become a great institutional builder and leader as success, Mr. Washington's telling within his autobiography suggests that the real success was in his long and arduous journey to such success. And if this journey is to be properly measured from the "depths from whence [he came]" as opposed to the "heights" he attained, then there is still yet more for us to learn from Mr. Washington's journey up from slavery. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 10, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"It is not argument, nor criticism, nor hatred, but work in constructive effort that gets hold of men and binds them together in a way to make them rally to the support of a common cause." - "My Larger Education," (1911) Booker T.Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

When seeking resolution to a difficult, challenging and complex issue involving others, perhaps the most difficult course to take between "argument," "criticism," "hatred" and "constructive effort" is that of "constructive effort." For this last action requires a person to do much more than recognize, identify and express an opinion about a problem. This person must also be willing to marshal together often competing perspectives to fashion a singular course that all voices are willing to pursue-even if such a course comes at the expense of his or her own self-interest.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 7, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I have spoken of the impression that was made upon me by the buildings and general appearance of the Hampton Institute, but I have not spoken of that which made the greatest and most lasting impression on me, and that was a great man-the noblest, rarest human being that it has ever been my privilege to meet. I refer to the late General Samuel C. Armstrong." - Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Some men and women are impressed by bricks and mortar, while others are impressed with fashionable style as opposed to formidable substance. However, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was most impressed with flesh and blood, particularly the example set before him in the person of General Samuel C. Armstrong who personally recommended Booker Washington to become Tuskegee University's first president. It is no wonder that Mr. Washington considered the General "a great man-the noblest, rarest human being that it has ever been [his] privilege to meet." In addition to being named founding principal of Hampton Institute, here is a man who first distinguished himself through his service at the head of a regime of African-American soldiers during the Civil War. And while it is clear that Mr. Washington held General Armstrong in high regard as progenitor of the Hampton idea, it would not be surprising if his experiences as a military leader impressed him as well. For the qualities of leadership knows no boundaries. Whether in politics, sports, academia, or business, leadership is transcendent. General Armstrong had not only led men upon a field of battle, he also led them on a battlefield of education where the fight was equally strenuous. His courageous and victorious leadership upon both fields are likely what made such a lasting and influential "impression" upon Mr. Washington where works not words embodies his much repeated phrase: "Let examples answer." 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 6, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition. But out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence..." - Booker T. Washington - Up from Slavery (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, was a man of his day and time--a time that was marked by slavery, racial divisions and its subsequent effects. Mr. Washington's naming of his autobiography, Up from Slavery, speaks to these conditions and the way in which it shaped both himself and all those who lived within this difficult period in American history. All the same, Mr. Washington makes a pointed observation that others have made before. However, he manages to wring a poignant lesson from it:"...out of the hard and unusual struggle through which he is compelled to pass, he gets a strength, a confidence..." Earlier in the same chapter of his autobiography, he makes the statement that is perhaps his most quoted aphorism: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." And the connection between the kind of success gained from overcoming obstacles and the "strength" and "confidence" one gains by doing so is a profound one if one is able to grasp it. All suffering, but particularly, willful suffering, produces the kind of "strength" that is very difficult to imagine one might gain especially when one begins an arduous, "hard and unusual struggle" with no clear and discernible reward in sight. Yet, what Mr. Washington tries to impress upon his readers is a very real sense that despite the injustice and apparent suffering that persons from all walks of life are inevitably confronted with-if one learns how to suffer, one will learn how to succeed. Habits of internal fortitude, patience, perseverance, determination amongst a host of other attributes that one develops-if, and only if, one endures suffering-are the very characteristics that in turn are both necessary for and inherently marks persons of success. Whether one is "compelled to pass" through such suffering or willingly undergoes it, the end result is one that serves the sufferer immeasurably more than the circumstances or society that cause such suffering.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 5, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I resolved at once to go to that school, although I had no idea where it was, or how many miles away, or how I was going to reach it; I remembered only that I was on fire constantly with one ambition, and that was to go to Hampton. This thought was with me day and night." - Booker T. Washington. Up from Slavery (1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

"Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal," is a maxim that has survived several revisions, and though it has been attributed to several historic personages, Booker T. Washington's autobiography is a fine representation of this idea. One need not be reminded that the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was a man who was formerly enslaved. While his autobiography chronicles his family's poverty and difficult circumstances, it also chronicles his undaunted courage, persistence and determination "to go to school" in spite of these challenges. Consider the following: Booker T. Washington possessed a "vision"-the greatest 6-letter word-to get an education that would be bound by neither obstacles nor the opinions of others. More than this, "this thought was with [him] day and night." (At night while others were perhaps sleeping, this man was likely reading, writing and thinking, particularly as he gradually developed this life-long habit.) One can easily imagine the very apparent "obstacles" that might have caused him-as they did so many others-to retreat to a position of resignation that acquiring an education would not be within the grasp of a formerly enslaved young man. Or that somehow his "one ambition" was fool-hearted because others had not done so. Rather, he held fast to his idea to acquire an education when perhaps there was no reason to do so-except for "vision". (And he did infinitely more than receive the education he long "thought" of and "that [he] was on fire constantly for".) He was first educated. He next became a teacher and finally, at age 25, he became founding principal and president of one of the preeminent institutions in the world where he served for 34 years.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 4, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"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 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
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
November 3, 2014
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mr. J. H. Washington: The following matter I wish you to give immediate attention to today. The exposure to girls and lady teachers of the girls water closet is something disgraceful, and I wish you would take hold of the matter at once and arrange so that the boxes and general back part of the water closet can be shielded from view of the lady teachers and girls passing to and from the chapel." - Booker T. Washington, "December 26, 1903"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was equally concerned with both the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee, Mr. Washington was particularly careful with respect to attending to the residential areas of female students. Note, Mr. Washington wanted his brother-his older brother-"to give immediate attention to [it] today." Living-learning environments need not only be in keeping with standards but these should also be safe and secure. Once again, Mr. Washington demonstrates that the responsibility of the institution's chief executive officer is an admixture of matters external and internal-not one or the other. The mothers, fathers and family members of those students that were, are and will continue to be sent to Tuskegee University expect no less. Here again, an institution's vision must connect with its mission, and its trajectory with its tradition, and Mr. Washington was crystal clear that the success of his Tuskegee University students also encompassed the safety and security of his Tuskegee University students. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 31, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_headerPersonal

"Dear sir: In further answer to your very kind letter of a few days ago making inquiry as to the work of our graduates and ex-students, I would say that one of our officers is employed almost continuously in visiting and inspecting the work being done by the men and women that we turn out, and he makes periodical reports to me of what he finds, and I take the liberty of enclosing to you a copy of the last report which he sent in. An analysis of this report will show that 57 cases are covered. Four are engaged wholly in teaching, 27 work wholly at their trades, 26 teach in connection with working at their trades. Yours truly," - Booker T. Washington, "July 9, 1903"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Nothing is more exhilarating-aside from reporting and conveying high rates of alumni giving percentages-for a president of a university to take delight in reporting about his or her alumni than reporting upon their individual successes in their fields of study. Make no mistake, the pride and strength of any institution is its students and its graduates for these individuals represent the core mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory-of any institution of higher learning. Long before the nomenclature of an "outcomes-oriented organization" became commonplace in American higher education, here you find the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University providing data-informed responses to inquiries with respect to his graduates. Note, there is not a single day in the life of a university president where he or she is not requested to provide documentable, evidence-based and outcomes-based responses regarding the successes of their institution. Though somewhat rudimentary in 1903, Mr. Washington, all the same, provided "facts" not "floating tales" in the form of a "periodical report" that he is able to readily provide to any would-be supporter or detractor concerning his work at Tuskegee (Institute) University. Here again, it is an extension of Mr. Washington's often quoted maxim: "Let examples answer." (It is simply unwise in any endeavor to offer words without accompanying and supporting works.) In this respect, Mr. Washington did not merely suggest that the sons and daughters of Mother Tuskegee were the very best and the brightest, he demonstrated it. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 30, 2014
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"[To William Edward Burghardt Du Bois] Mr. Booker T. Washington will be pleased to have you take dinner with him at his home, "The Oaks," at 6:30 o'clock this evening." - Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee, July 6, 1903

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

There are a handful of historic dinner-time conversations that the writer of this commentary would ever wish to be transported back in time to listen in upon. And this one between the eminent and distinguished founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, and the eminent and distinguished, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois ranks near the very top. For in 1903, these two men were, arguably, at the very zenith of their spiritual (heart), intellectual (head) and physical (hands) strength. W.E.B. Du Bois would have published his signal work, The Souls of Black Folk in this same year, 1903, and Booker T. Washington would only be two years removed from publishing Up From Slavery in 1901. One can only imagine the earnestness, frankness and thoughtfulness of their discourse on that evening. ("Depth" and "breadth" is the greatest 5 and 7-letter word combination, and this conversation would have certainly fit this description-completely opposite of a conversation that is flat, flippant and frivolous.) All the same, one would be deeply mistaken to assume their ideological differences were so deep-seated that these two men could not come together for dinner and discussion. One would hardly ever invite someone to dinner who one disdains and distrusts into the confines of one's home, particularly into one as auspicious as "The Oaks," and amongst one's family. These men likely expressed their differences with one another, but they assuredly did so honorably and respectfully in the presence of each other. In the end, one might never learn what the conversation was about; Yet, the singular invitation to invite one who has commonly been regarded as his chief adversary-possessing equal ability, stature and renown-speaks to the magnanimity of Tuskegee's Booker T. Washington, who demonstrated one of his oft-quoted maxims: "I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 29, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"You cannot hope to succeed if you keep bad company. As far as possible try to form the habit of spending your nights at home." - Booker T. Washington, "A Sunday Evening Talk: On Influencing by Example"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The adage that one is known by the company he or she keeps is an oft-expressed one, but the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, extends the adage even further both in the aforementioned passage and in another commonly quoted passage: "Associate yourself with people of good quality. It is better to be alone than in bad company." Moreover, his additional suggestion to "try to form the habit of spending your nights at home" is a very practical one worth noting. Insofar as it is possible to discern from his autobiography, correspondence, letters, speeches-and more importantly his accomplishments-the man, Booker Washington, apparently did little else but read, write, work and stay at home with his family. And while it is easy to regard Tuskegee (Institute) University's founding principal with an overwhelming sense of awe, one can begin to appreciate and understand him in view of his own self-discipline and self-sacrifice. (Everyone suffers but few suffer voluntarily. Yet, if one learns how to suffer, one will learn how to succeed.) One need not be reminded that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but how one spends those hours is what ultimately distinguishes men and women. (One would simply be amazed at how much more time can be committed to a meaningful mission or a purposeful project if time is not spent in (un)meaningful and (un)purposeful ones that do not result in progress.) Clearly, recreation, fun and leisure have their place but not if these things come at the expense of sustainable success. (Mr. Washington suggests that it is even better when one's recreation, fun and leisure become part and parcel of one's work.) For when an individual can transform his or her home into an extension of their workshop, they have the benefit of continuing, doubling and multiplying their labors when others have ceased from theirs.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 28, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Dear Gen'l [Armstrong]: Soon after our conversation in Phila.[delphia] I arrived here and found a letter announcing that the Misses Mason had given us $7000. Faith [Washington italics] and hard work [Washington italics] I find will accomplish anything. Yours &c" - B.T. Washington, November 26, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

For some, "faith" is the single most important attribute-absent any personal diligence, integrity, work and sacrifice-all of which are critical to achievement and accomplishment. And, for others, "hard work" is the all-encompassing personal quality that is sufficient for all things achieved in life. However, Mr. Washington suggests that both are required, and our daily lives suggest the same. There are a great many pursuits that we have diligently "worked hard" towards that have simply not yielded expected results. And there are those pursuits where "faith" exercised towards an expressed desire was all that one could do under the circumstances, and it produced unexpected success. (And such "faith" was more times than not unmerited.) All the same, the two qualities listed here in Mr. Washington's letter-"faith" and "hard work"-are the highest ideals in daily accomplishment leading towards long-term success. For our words of sincere desire must always work together with our works of sincere effort because when daily difficulties push the one, the other stands ready to push back.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 27, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the "Tuskegee spirit"; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it." "Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the "Tuskegee spirit." (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the "Tuskegee spirit" is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The "Tuskegee spirit" is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 24, 2014

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Mr. Washington: Your favor of June 11th to my father enclosing check for $249 being the balance of his pledge authorizing the expenditure up to $34,000 for a boys dormitory, which balance you state was not required in the completion of the building, is received. My father is gratified to know that the building has been constructed so well within the estimated cost, the more so since it so frequently happens that the opposite is the case. He takes pleasure in returning the check for $249 desiring that the same be applied as you may see fit." - Very Truly, John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s follow up to Booker T. Washington, who on June 11, 1903 returned an extra $249 to his father, Mr. Rockefeller not only expressed his "gratitude" for Mr. Washington's gesture, but he did something more. He confirms and affirms that the actions of the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University were atypical-even unusual-completely unlike what the Rockefellers had been used to: "My father is gratified to know that the building has been constructed so well within the estimated cost, the more so since it so frequently happens that the opposite is the case." Note, it was and continues to be no small matter to receive commendations and endorsements from major donors, significant external constituencies and foundations within the class and/or influence of the Rockefellers. These contributors are among a select group who are able to either offer transformative gifts to an institution to help further its mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory-or who are able to recommend an institution to similarly situated persons and organizations. Mr. Rockefeller's affirmation of both the manner and method of Tuskegee (Institute) University's then-operating principles carried the kind of weight in the kinds of circles that institutions want to be well regarded in. Moreover, the senior Rockefeller went still further: "He takes pleasure in returning the check for $249 desiring that the same be applied as you [Booker T. Washington] may see fit." Whether the founding principal of Tuskegee expected this gesture or no, it is clear that the Rockefellers held Washington in such regard that not only did they return the unspent funds but permitted him to use these funds in an "unrestricted" manner. Institutions will make use of all kinds of funds "restricted" or "unrestricted" but "unrestricted" use is particularly helpful for an institution and its president when granted this unique opportunity because it allows these funds to be used "as you see fit." "Trust," one of the greatest 5-letter words is a key component of institutional integrity. Like any strong relationship, it takes time to develop and it is often developed through stewarding smaller gifts until the donor trusts that the institution will steward larger gifts-"here a little, there a little." Here, it is clear that the Rockefellers trusted that this man, Booker, would do what he said he would do, and that he would do no more or no less. And herein lies an object lesson for persons in the 19th, 20th, 21st century or any century. It is never the "quantity" of endorsements, affirmations and commendations received from signal constituent groups but the "quality" of the individuals and organizations that offer them. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 23, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"My dear Mr. Rockefeller: I am sorry that the amount left over after the completion of Rockefeller Hall is not as large as I thought it would be, still I take great pleasure in returning to you in the enclosed check Two Hundred and Forty-nine ($249.00) Dollars. You do not know how very grateful we are to your father for this generous help. It has made a very large number of our boys much happier and placed them in a position to do better work than they have ever done before. I hope at some time your father can see the school that he has done so much to put upon its feet. The students and teachers would give him a great welcome if he could ever see his way clear to come. Yours very truly."-"June 11, 1903," - Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

We find repeatedly in Booker T. Washington's letters and writings to major donors and foundations three characteristics that are often looked at long before such donors and foundations make commitments to institutions and the men and women who lead them: Accountability, Stewardship and Sustainability. As to accountability, donors and foundations do not simply give to institutions and positions but to the persons in back of them. Firstly, accountability is akin to transparency. The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University did not merely make requests for such donations, but he clearly expressed for what reason he was making such a request and for what purpose shall the donation be put to. Mr. Washington apologized in part that the request he had made was beyond what he anticipated: "I am sorry that the amount left over after the completion of Rockefeller Hall is not as large as I thought it would be..." (Here again, "integrity" is the single greatest 9-letter word and Mr. Washington was clearly panged that somehow his estimation was slightly above what he had communicated. A man of conscience, he did not think this a small matter to make such an apology. Rather he admitted this oversight on behalf of either himself or the institution.) Secondly, stewardship is the silentsister of accountability. As a "steward" indeed-anothergreat 7-letter word-he indicated thus: "...I take great pleasure in returning to you in the enclosed check Two Hundred and Forty-nine ($249.00) Dollars." This man made no presumption that the additional $249.00 might have been spent for other purposes or placed within another institutional account to be used for other purposes. (He adhered to the twin sisters, accountability and stewardship, in all of his dealings so that there would be no questioning either his "integrity" or his "knowledge," the second greatest 9-letter word.) Lastly, Sustainability is a nearly absent consideration for those engaged in the advancement and development of an organization. Donors and foundations seek to be associated with success and continued success. One gives to what can be sustained. (Has anyone ever given his or her dollars to an individual or an organization merely to waste without any sustaining power?) Givers desire to be continuous contributors to the on-going work and success of an individual and organization. As the individual and organization's success is sustained, so is the reputation of both the giver and the gift. Hence, the founding principal and president's parting request for Mr. Rockefeller to visit the campus directly: "I hope at some time your father can see the school that he has done so much to put upon its feet. The students and teachers would give him a great welcome if he could ever see his way clear to come." Booker Washington knew that such men and organizations desired to "see" for themselves the effects of their giving; For what is sustainable can not only be seen,but also supplemented with future gifts for continuous, on-going success.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 22, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"After I got so that I could read a little, I used to take a great deal of satisfaction in the lives of men who had risen by their own efforts from poverty to success. It is a great thing for a boy to be able to read books of that kind. It not only inspires him with the desire to do something and make something of his life, but it teaches him that success depends upon his ability to do something useful, to perform some kind of service that the world wants." - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

The great scholar, literary critic and 'Narnia' chronicler, C. S. Lewis, remarks about the value of books upon a young boy or girl's imagination: "Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker." Here again, what one consistently reads, one consistently becomes; Just imagine what one might become when one reads about the lives of great men and women from the time of one's youth even into one's mature years. This is what the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University recommends, and it is a recommendation that we would do well to not only just follow, but continuously follow. First, the world needs verifiable, authentic and organic heroes, not simply scripted and fictional ones. Men and women whose lives are grounded in believable and relatable life experiences that one can readily identify with provides great grounds for hope for those who have similar experiences. Second, one can learn from the mistakes made in the lived lives of others. It is simply not true that one must repeat the mistakes of others. (Instead, you read and learn from them.) The triumphant records of men and women that also record both their foibles and follies are useful for persons of any century to learn, discern and comprehend that what happened before may very well occur again. Third, the lived lives of men and women who are no longer amongst us are permanent, indelible and fixed records that will remain ever unchanged. (One may repeatedly interpret and re-interpret their deeds done but there will be no adding nor taking away from them.) And this final thought is one that certainly motivated men and women of the class of Booker T. Washington and should motivate us as well. For Booker T. Washington knew that one has but one life to live, and there would be no do over. When future chroniclers composed the narrative of his life, he wanted to be certain that it contributed to making someone else's "destiny brighter" not "darker." The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) did not simply write correspondence, books and speeches worth reading; he lived a life worth reading not only in his generation but also in the many future generations to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 21, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"More than that, a school that is content with merely turning out ladies and gentlemen who are not at the same time something else -- who are not lawyers, doctors, business men, bankers, carpenters, farmers, teachers, not even housewives, but merely ladies and gentlemen -- such a school is bound, in my estimation, to be more or less a failure." - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_(1901) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

In keeping with his constant emphasis that "style"-however impressive to the eye or palpable to the ear-will never ever be a replacement for "substance," Booker T. Washington here speaks to the central purpose of a university education. Make no mistake, appropriate dress and eloquent speech is quite essential for the university-trained man or woman. Grades alone without accompanying poise, presence and posture will not assure one's entrance into career fields where appearance often factors into personal prejudices and/or preferences. All the same, "knowledge," which is the second greatest 9-letter word after "integrity," is one of the single most important attributes to be in possession of for the university-trained man or woman for not only the successful entrance into a field of activity but a successful stay. Whether in the 19th Century or the 21st Century, one has to know something. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and society, "knowledge" is the chief currency and substance in fields of activity where performance enables one to transcend multiple work environments. And the institution that is more concerned with what is upon the backs of her students than what is between the ears of her students, is in the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University's "estimation...more or less a failure."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 20, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"[...] I made up my mind definitely on one or two fundamental points. I determined: First, that I should at all times be perfectly frank and honest in dealing with each of the three classes of people that I have mentioned; Second, that I should not depend upon any "short-cuts" or expedients merely for the sake of gaining temporary popularity or advantage, whether for the time being such action brought me popularity or the reverse. With these two points clear before me as my creed, I began going forward." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education," (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While one may have great difficulty in successfully appealing to multiple constituents and interests, the surest way to fail at doing so is pandering to the opinions of all. And there is no better blueprint for negotiating the pitfalls of paltry politics and partisanship than to follow Booker T. Washington's two-part course of action throughout his 34-year Presidency (1881-1915): 1. Speak clearly, frankly and honestly at all times. 2. Though laborious-and often painstaking-let your work speak for itself. "Integrity," the single greatest 9-letter word, speaks to the former. Consistency in communication across constituencies produces confidence. (For conversations spoken in one arena are bound to be communicated to other arenas, and multiple constituencies will quickly discover inconsistencies and inequity when conversations are compared to one another.) "Purpose," the single greatest 7-letter word, speaks to Washington's latter formulation. Persons consumed with purpose have little time for pandering and cronyism because they are consumed with performance. (For, in the end, performance and accomplishment-not political expediency-is the primary currency needed in communication across constituent groups.) Mr. Washington's signal accomplishments-best evidenced in the past, present and future testament of Tuskegee University-provides the clearest telltale signs of his philosophy's success. And it was no "short cut."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 17, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mrs. Washington: Please let me know by bearer if you will go driving at five o'clock." "May 27, 1904," - B.T.W. (Booker T. Washington) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Though expressed in his customary formal tone, this is perhaps one of the most touching communiqués from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington. Addressed to his loving and supportive wife, Mrs. Margaret James Murray Washington, Mr. Washington-a man whose time was consumed with the care and concern of a great university-here finds time to go driving, likely by horse and buggy, about campus and town with his lovely wife. Note, it is a great matter of refreshing, rest and repose to be able to recreate within the confines of family and love ones. (There is no better place of refuge and retreat than one's own family. And Mr. Washington's principal family consisted of 4 primary persons: Portia, Booker, Earnest and Mrs. Washington). A leader of a vast organization such as Mr. Washington certainly acquired a great many friends, acquaintances and associates-particularly upon his ascendancy to such a renowned post-yet here he makes it crystal clear that there is but one he would invite to join him for a relaxing ride-Mrs. Margaret James Murray Washington. Incidentally, she replied, "Yes-Mrs. W." 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 16, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"[To Charles Winter Wood] Fear Booker still unwell. Go Wellesley at once and have full consultation with Mr. Brenner. If you and he think wise and necessary have good physician give Booker thorough examination and do whatever is best for him at any reasonable expense. Have all your dealings with Mr. Benner and do nothing he does not approve. Find out how Booker getting on in every way. Telegraph answer my expense after you have been to Wellesley."- "May 21, 1904," - Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In still another correspondence demonstrating the paternal regard he had for his son, Booker during his tenure at Wellesley school for the boys, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University once again demonstrates concern for his son yet without undermining the authority of Mr. Brenner, the principal and chief administrator of Wellesley. It is clear that a man of Booker T. Washington's eminence, renown, position and wealth might have easily sought to "go around" the principal to have his designate attend to his son. However, he did not do so. As a principal and president of an educational institution himself, he fully understood policy, process and protocol. (How could he have otherwise expected others to respect his authority and process as principal of Tuskegee Institute if he did not respect the authority and process of Mr. Benner, principal of Wellesley?) He did not seek advantage upon the grounds of patronage, parentage, position or prominence with respect to young Booker. Instead, he instructed his designate, one Mr. Charles Winter Wood, as follows: "Have all your dealings with Mr. Benner and do nothing he does not approve." Here again, "integrity" is the greatest 9-letter word, and one's words ought to necessarily be synonymous with one's works. What Mr. Washington expected from others during his tenure at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University is in turn what he expected of himself.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 15, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Mr. Benner: Please tell Booker that I am to be here for a week, and that I should like to hear from him. He has a tendency, I have noticed, to stoop over when he sits, and to stand not at all erect when he walks. I hope you will do all that you can to correct this habit. Very truly yours."- "May 5, 1904," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University was not only an affectionate father who wanted to hear from his sons, he was also a father that provided instruction to them as well. His namesake attended the Wellesley School for Boys in Wellesley, MA, and Mr. Edward Augustine Benner was principal of the school during young Booker's tenure. Similar to his stewardship over the affairs of Mother Tuskegee, he equally considered important the stewardship over his children as a father. A consummate educator, his letters, speeches and writings demonstrate that he used every incident occurring in the walls of the university to provide object lessons to his students for their betterment. Similarly, he used the opportunity to inquire of his son's well -being while simultaneously requesting that the principal make note of his recommendations concerning his son's posture. Like a good teacher, Mr. Washington well understood that paternal love is not constrained to a demonstration of empathy and concern, it also involves correction. For love, empathy and concern properly understood involves both.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 14, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I hope that each of you as you go out for the summer, whether you go out with the view of returning here to finish your course of study, or whether you go out as graduates of the institution, I want each of you to remember that you are going to go backward or you are going to go forward. It will be impossible for you to stand still. You will either go upward or you will go downward, and as you go upward, you will take others up with you, or as you go downward, you will take others with you." "Sunday Evening Talk," "May 13, 1900," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In life, leadership and a host of other endeavors, one can hardly expect to move "forward" or "upward" while "stand[ing] still". As the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University eloquently articulates in one of his "Sunday Evening Talks" with students, "you are going to go backward or you are going to go forward." To be sure, Mr. Washington's idea of moving "forward," "backward," "upwards," or "downwards" is not an absolute formula. There are a great many occasions where perceived "backward" movements propel individuals and organizations "forward," and perceived "upward" movements move individuals and organizations "downward." Notwithstanding, the idea contained in Mr. Washington's aforementioned formulation speaks most precisely to "activity" or "inactivity," which is otherwise known as, "stand[ing] still". History and contemporary society are replete with examples of men, women and organizations whose constant activity have led to a single monumental success after many repeated failures. Yet, what is constant in both the successes and failures is "activity." Mr. Washington has also described it as, "going". And while it is true that busyness is not the same as effectiveness, it is equally true that the man, woman or organization that is busy "going" is more likely to become successful as opposed to those who are "standing still." 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 13, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_headerPersonal and Private

Dear Sir: I am not active in politics and do not expect to be, and have no claim upon your time or attention. I simply write to assure you that I am doing in a rather quiet way whatever I can in connection with our mutual friend, Mr. Clarkson, to bring about your nomination for the presidency at St. Louis Convention [...]. "April 10, 1896," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Booker T. Washington possessed many detractors who railed against the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University for not being "active in politics." In spite of this, we repeatedly find in his letters and correspondence that he was simply not "active" in the precise manner at the precise time that persons wanted him to be. Such was the case in his communication to William Boyd Allison. Although Mr. Washington was not loud, boisterous nor public in communicating the whole of his ideas and activities, he moved "in a rather quiet way" as demonstrated in this letter marked "personal and private." Unlike those without such responsibilities, many leaders of large and vast organizations like Booker T. Washington are not at liberty to publicly communicate all of their opinions or activities directed towards particular ends. Whether in the 19th century where leaders communicated through pen and paper or in the 21st century where men and women communicate via email or social media, you will rarely find the most effective leaders revealing the whole of their minds and the whole of their undertakings upon a matter. (The weightier their position, the weightier their word.) It is a small and insignificant thing for a person who possesses no public reputation or great authority to offer opinion on highly charged political matters. Yet for a man in Booker T. Washington's position, every move and word was scrutinized because of the eminence of his role and institution. For some 34 years, he was not simply Booker Washington; He was Booker Washington, principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University. As such, prudence dictated that he move "in a rather quiet way" on a great majority of matters for a great majority of his 34 years at the helm of Tuskegee (Institute) University.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 10, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Mr. Saffold: I send you by bearer a sample of the bread which was given the students yesterday for their dinner. You can easily see that such cooking is not only a great waste but is very injurious to the health of the students. I am sure that we are paying enough now for service in connection with the boarding department to have things in first class condition. I do not think there is any necessity for giving the students so much fat meat as that on this saucer would indicated that they are given." - "September 28, 1898," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

This piece of correspondence from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington, gives new meaning to his oft-used expression: "Let examples answer." Although he sent Frank E. Saffold a "sample of the bread which was given the students," Mr. Washington sent something far more important; He sent his concerns about food that "is very injurious to the health of the students." Here again, the president of any university has a great many responsibilities and the quality of food services for its students is near the top. Mr. Washington clearly understood that promoting life-long health and wellness for students begins during their matriculation at a university, and made certain that he was equally meticulous in his oversight of the food he was serving as he was with the funds he was raising.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 9, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Mr. Logan: War now seems sure. Buy nothing except absolute necessities. Live on the farms in every way as far as you can. Yours sincerely." "April 5, 1898," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Abigail Adams wrote: "Great necessities call forth great leaders." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington was such a leader. Mr. Washington's communications to his modern-day equivalent of a chief financial officer, Mr. Warren Logan, was likely in reference to America's 3-month long war in 1898 with Spain. As evidenced in an earlier letter, Booker T. Washington's far-reaching political connections into the halls of government, provided him a tip on the impending war, and Mr. Washington took immediate action to respond. Like a good leader, he prepared and planned, erring on the side of caution and prudence. He did not know that the war would last only 3 months, but prepared as if it would last for 3 years. He cut spending, and he urged Mr. Logan to rely upon Tuskegee University's own resources-its own farms-"in every way as far as you can." For Mr. Washington well understood that "great leaders" in times of "great necessities" focus upon "absolute necessities."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 8, 2014



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"I have great faith in the power and influence of facts." - Booker T. Washington, _Up From Slavery_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Men and women who possess leadership responsibilities beyond their own persons would be hard pressed to find any better ally or supporter than facts. And men and women of the ilk of Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, marshaled both favorable or unfavorable facts to similar ends. It is simply not true that one should keep one's eyes open to favorable facts while closing one's eyes to unfavorable facts. Mr. Washington's penchant for earnestness, frankness and directness in his communications to donors and external constituencies always commingled both favorable and unfavorable facts. As to favorable facts, one ought always communicate what the organization does well in a clear, documentable and evidentiary fashion. (An outcomes-oriented organization need not rely upon fables when facts are present.) On the other hand, communicating unfavorable facts is equally important. Whether one concedes it or not, everyone knows when something "is not right." A plain statement and admission of an organization's current environment is one of the clearest telltale signs of organizational integrity. (Hear again, "integrity" is the single greatest 9-letter word.) For Mr. Washington did not merely state that all things were always favorable. (Why would anyone seek outside help if all things, as they currently exist, are favorable? Any petition for aid immediately pronounces the opposite. For no one asks for help when there is no need for it.) Instead, he oft-times made a plain statement of the organization's current environment while positively projecting its target environment. In this regard all successful outside entities have empathy towards such an organization because a right understanding of one's current environment with a view towards its target environment necessitates a commingling of both facts that are favorable and unfavorable.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 7, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"[To Gilchrist Stewart]...I will tell you in a word what we want in the position that you are now attempting to fill. We want a man who puts his whole soul in the work-who gives it his thought night and day-who can teach the theory of dairying in the class room, and who is not afraid after his teaching to put on his dairy suit and go into the stable and remain with the students while they are milking, and then go into the creamery and take hold in a whole souled way and show the students who to do their work. We want a man who is so much in love with the work that he thinks it is just as important for him to remain with students while they are milking and separating the milk as it is for the academic teacher to remain with his class while they are reciting arithmetic. We want a person whose soul is so deeply in love with his work that it is a pleasure for him to co-operate and obey orders, who looks so closely after every detail of his work that matters will not get so out of order that others will have to be constantly calling his attention to defects and to whom orders will not have to be continually repeated by the farm director or myself. We want one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work. This is what we want in this position and we can accept nothing less."-"November 9, 1897," - Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Esteemed author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes the following regarding finding one's purpose and passion in connection with one's work: "It is not easy work rejoining soul and role." And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, Booker T. Washington thoroughly outlines in this letter to Mr. Gilchrist Stewart the kind of employee he sought to assist him in his work at Tuskegee. Expounding upon his conception of "heart (calling), head (competence) and hands (capable)," Mr. Washington wanted someone to "take hold in a whole souled way," and "whose soul is deeply in love with his work." 

While Mr. Washington's passage needs no additional commentary, and one might argue that he offers a 19th century notion of work, we are able to glean two important lessons for the 21st century from his remarks to Mr. Stewart. First, he wanted someone "who gives [work] his thought night and day." Now, there are a great many employees whose work ends as soon as the bell rings, yet there are some who give constant thought and deliberation to how their work might be improved and made better. To be sure, work-life balance dictates prudence in these matters. Notwithstanding, the student, scholar, professor, staff member and administrator who is constantly turning about in their head how to make things better will likely become the person who surpasses those whose work is done at the close of the class period or the business day. (For this man or woman is working while others are talking or sleeping, and when they become successful, it is only a surprise to those who do not know the supreme value of works as opposed to words.) Second, Mr. Washington wanted someone "who looks so closely after every detail of his work...whom orders will not have to be continually repeated...[and] one who is continually planning for the improvement and perfection of his work." Herein lies the (3) chief descriptors of any successful man or woman at their craft: 1. They look closely after the details. Contrary to popular opinion, "it does take all of that" to become a man or woman whose work transcends any boundary. Attention to the most minute of details is a characteristic of excellence that is oft-times avoided because it is perceived as additional work 2. They do not need to be told repeatedly what to do. If a supervisor must spend his or her time repeatedly issuing the same instructions and expectations to those within their charge, then they might rightly do the work themselves. On the other hand, if a supervisor can issue a general set of expectations and instructions and never return to the person except when absolutely necessary it enables the supervisor to attend to their own duties and not the duties of others. 3. They are continually planning for improvement and perfection in their work. Note, one will never arrive at perfection which is precisely why an institution and its employees must be in a constant state of "continuous improvement." It is a poor employee or organization that rests upon past successes or achievement. The best employees and organizations work constantly to achieve and do MORE and MORE. Success-true success-begets more success and, most importantly, continued success. (Success is the 3rd greatest 7-letter word after "purpose" and "passion.") Every successful man or woman wants to work in a culture of success. And such success is both the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee (Institute) University. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 6, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Sir: Yours of May 2nd has been received and is somewhat of a surprise to me. I would say, however, at the outset that it is against my custom to make reply in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears, and if he permits himself to be influenced by them I find he will impair his usefulness for work, and it has been my rule to neither deny nor affirm such stories [...]" - Booker T. Washington, "May 4, 1892"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of all the considerations persons fail to consider when they approach the President of Tuskegee Institute (University)-or any leader of a highly visible organization-is perhaps the most obvious of all: "[...] in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man [or woman] who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears [...]". And Mr. Washington's assertion is one that all leaders and talebearers would do well to take heed to. For talebearers, such an omission does not injure the public figure, but injures the bearer of the "tales" designed to "put into his ears." Unknown to many, the role of President or CEO grants access to a great many details that most persons are not-nor ever will be-privy to. And those who approach a leader with information that he or she is likely already familiar with will generally find that their information is likely-partial at best or faulty at worst. For if a leader allowed himself or herself to be "influenced" by partial or faulty information, it would "impair his [or her] usefulness for work." And, in the end, it would be the leader-not the talebearer-who would be standing alone to explain why he or she relied on "floating" tales as opposed to facts. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 3, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Sir: Your favor of May 28 informing me of the desire of Harvard University to confer an honorary degree upon me at the next Commencement-June 24, is received. In reply I would say that the information is a great surprise to me. I shall be present at the time you name. Yours Sincerely," "June 1, 1896," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Indeed and of a most sincere truth, "a prophet is not without honor except for his own hometown." Although the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, experienced many dark days, many other days were alighted. And such was the day when he was notified that Harvard University would be conferring upon him an honorary degree. To be sure, nearly halfway through his tenure at Tuskegee University-some 15 years into his presidency (1881-1896)-Mr. Washington was appreciated within his university for the strides he had made to build a university. Notwithstanding such appreciation, when one receives commendations from external persons and entities-particularly in the class of Harvard University-it is especially heartening for a leader. For such commendations provide validation and confirmation that excellent and visionary leadership, which is the best leadership, transcends all boundaries.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 2, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mrs. Logan: For some time I have had in mind having some one come to Tuskegee with a view of looking thoroughly through our class room work and reporting on its condition. I have not however up to the present, arranged with any outside person to do this. It occurs to me that perhaps you might be able to take a week or ten days in making this investigation. At the outset I am trying to say that it is very difficult to find person to do such work for the reason that there are such few persons who can entirely separate themselves from the individual whose work she is looking into, such an examination means nothing unless the examiner is strong enough, I might add has a heart hard enough to shut her eyes against everything except facts...I want to know just whether or not we are doing the best work, and the only way to know is to have it thoroughly looked into by an outside person once in a while."-"March 7, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is often difficult to receive objective and impartial facts regarding functions within a vast organization the size of Tuskegee Institute (University). For all too often-feelings, not facts and functions-are the paramount concern for administrators and employees alike who might not reveal or disclose areas of non-strength within the current institutional environment. All the same, its founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington, employed then in the late 19th century, what is now a common practice in higher education. He brought in an external consultant. Now, external consultants are in abundance, and they hover around institutions seeking to secure contracts for their services. Many of these add immediate value while others not so much. Yet, Mr. Washington did not simply want another consultant seeking proverbial "bread" or salary. Instead, he desired someone who would help him to ascertain in no uncertain terms "just whether or not we are doing the best work..." And such a person would need to be both "strong enough" and "heart hard enough" to provide such an examination without regard to intimate associations with employees within an organization. (How can any external examiner impartially and objectively assess an institution's on the basis of personal relationships, and feelings as opposed to functions?) Here again, it is the function not the feeling when administering organizational change management, and external reviewers are often used for such purposes. For these external men and women help ensure institutional integrity. And "integrity" is the greatest 9-letter word.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
October 1, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I would not be doing my duty to the school did I permit the present state of things to exist, especially in view of the fact that I am compelled to be away from the school a large part of the year and I am compelled to perform my work almost wholly through the members of the Executive Council and there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." "March 26, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of the many important decisions leaders of large organizations must make, deciding upon one's senior leadership team is perhaps the most important. For these men and women become extensions of a leader so that he or she might be in many places at once. And this is the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University's idea when he writes the following: "...I am compelled to be away from the school a large part of the year and I am compelled to perform my work almost wholly through the members of the Executive Council and there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." First, Booker T. Washington's travel often took him away from the home front so that he might represent the interests of the institution both near and abroad. No leader can ever feel comfortable when absent from the organization unless he or she is most certain that affairs will be conducted in a manner that reflects his or her management when they are present. Second, the broadest and widest tents have more than one pole. It is a poor leader who seeks to be the sole source or "pole" of leadership within an organization or unit. (How shall a tent become enlarged with only one pole?) The more poles, the larger the tent, and the selection of many poles enable a leader to expand and "work almost wholly through the members" of his or her "Executive Council." Third, Mr. Washington suggested, "there must be only such persons as I have my complete confidence in and share my desires as to the policy and work of the institution." Note, competence is good but character plus competence is better. (Here again, integrity is the greatest 9-letter word.) Men and women who work with integrity will perform their work in view of the organization's mission and vision, its tradition and trajectory without regard to the presence or absence of the leader. Moreover, these men and women must possess the confidence of the leader. (How can a quarterback call plays in a huddle of teammates only to discover that the teammates are giving the plays to the opponent?) Much rather, teammates are selected on the basis of their commitment to a common goal, and a leader's selection of teammates suggests much about who he or she has "complete confidence in," and who "share[s] [his or her] desires." For it is "the policy and work of the institution"-not the individual leader or team member-that makes for a highly functional and highly successful organization like Tuskegee Institute (University) during the 34-year tenure of Booker T. Washington. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 30, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Mr. N.B. Young: Please send into my office by the 16th of Dec. a report showing what progress has been made in dovetailing the academic work into the industrial in the manner that I suggested to you and Mr. J.H. Washington sometime ago." - "December 4, 1895," -Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Among the many other documented and demonstrated leadership qualities he possessed, Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee University, was consistent, communicative and collaborative. Apparently, Mr. Washington had offered a suggestion or idea in the direction of "dovetailing the academic work into the industrial." Mr. Washington's consistency amongst his constituency-great or small, brother or stranger-enabled him to routinely make request of others for he was without respect of those within his charge. Moreover, great leaders do not only make requests but also offer suggestions about how one might carry out such a request. It was clear that he provided guidance about how Mr. Young might proceed. Besides this, great leaders inspect what they expect. One of the cardinal mistakes leaders can make is to make assignments without any regard to checking the progress of completing such assignments. (This was not the case of Booker T. Washington.) For this man would not permit anyone to remark, "I did not know what you expected of me." Rather, he committed to writing his expectations, and most importantly he communicated a deadline. Lastly, he was collaborative. What some employees consider "extra work," other employees consider "opportunity." When a supervisor gives an employee an opportunity to demonstrate his or her value to the organization, it is an opportunity to take heed to. For it provides a documentable opportunity to "let your light shine." For lights are not designed to nor ever can be hidden. And Booker T. Washington was such a light during his 34-year long tenure at Tuskegee Institute (University), and he had a great many other lights to come along to assist him.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 29, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"My position in respect to the students and the public is peculiar, and I must see that everyone does the highest service in benefitting the students, and must get rid of any obstacle that prevents this result." "March 26, 1895," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

There is no clearer statement that ought to mark both the mission and vision, the tradition and trajectory, of any institution of higher learning-especially as evidenced here from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University)-than one that has its first and foremost focus upon STUDENTS. Student success, student engagement, (parent)-student satisfaction within a university environment is akin to a business's focus being squarely upon its customers. (Who would offer a different focus for where an institution of higher learning's resources should be otherwise directed?) Any alternative suggestion flies squarely in the face of the work and function of a university and reveals far more about the individual who offers an alternative suggestion as opposed to the mission and vision of an institution. At many American institutions-except for the most exceptionally endowed ones-the institution's primary revenue stream derives from the net tuition revenue received from its students. To be sure, faculty research and philanthropic giving also provide additional streams of revenue, but even here these opportunities are largely premised upon the business of educating students in a living-learning environment. For where there are no students, there is no university, and where there is no university there is no purpose. A university's mission is to educate her students, and Mother Tuskegee is committed to educating her students-the sons and daughters of Booker.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 26, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Mr. Logan: I am very sorry about the loss of the barn and especially the cows and feed. We have needed for some time a larger and better barn and now I hope we shall get it. I leave matters regarding the barn to your judgment. I am going to have the loss published in all the papers and I hope there will be gifts to make up the loss. Will write more fully later. Yours truly." - "November 24, 1895," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One can either confront challenging situations with a sense of despondency and despair or with a sense of unbridled hope and optimism, and the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) chose the latter in the incident of "the loss of the barn." Without question, the loss of a barn in the late 19th century was a significant financial loss. Mr. Logan, Mr. Washington's treasurer-a modern-day chief financial officer-had indicated to him in a prior communication that the "insurance" loss was totaled at "fifteen hundred." All the same, note Mr. Washington's response to his CFO. First, he empathized with his colleague over the loss. He knew that Mr. Logan was both faithful and loyal to the university, and that had probably taken the loss personally. He recognized this in Mr. Logan but did not dwell up the darkness; he proceeded to the decision. Second, Mr. Washington took action. Creatively, he turned a negative incident and made it positive. He went to the papers to publicize the loss. One's supporters-true supporters in both words and works-are often anxious to provide support if they are able to understand what the difficulties are. Lastly, he possessed hope that the loss might be leveraged into gain. He hoped that "there will be gifts to make up the loss." Here again, the "Wizard of Tuskegee" was not merely a manager of the micro matters confronting the institution. Behind the curtains, indeed, he was a wizard at communications via the media to leverage a negative into a positive, which is the attribute of every successful leader of any successful organization.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 25, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"In the early days of freedom, when education was a new thing, the boy who went away to school had a very natural human ambition to be able to come back home in order to delight and astonish the old folks with the new and strange things that he had learned. If he could speak a few words in some strange tongue that his parents had never heard before, or read a few sentences out of a book with strange and mysterious characters, he was able to make them very proud and happy. There was a constant temptation therefore for schools and teachers to keep everything connected with education in a sort of twilight realm of the mysterious and supernatural. Quite unconsciously they created in the minds of their pupils the impression that a boy or a girl who had passed through certain educational forms and ceremonies had been initiated into some sort of secret knowledge that was inaccessible to the rest of the world. Connected with this was the notion that because a man had passed through these educational forms and ceremonies he had somehow become a sort of superior being set apart from the rest of the world [...]" - Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education__(1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

While the term "esoteric" is not entirely pejorative-it can mean that members within a certain profession or group understand and converse sharing many of the same assumptions or terminology-it is sometimes used to denote exclusivity meaning that information and knowledge is understood by a chosen few. In the present passage, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee University speaks to this latter formulation. Here he laments that often education-the act of teaching and learning-resembles the closing off of knowledge from others as opposed to its wide dissemination among many. Mr. Washington's idea is that such knowledge ought to have relevancy and application for others beyond the sole possessor of this knowledge. Imagine that. The idea of education should not be exclusive to a limited few but should enlighten and have impact upon others in beneficial ways. Thus, not only are the recipients all the better for having received this knowledge but also the giver of this knowledge is made better. For this man or woman has completed the complete cycle of education. First you learn, master and apply for yourself. (It is is a poor teacher whose words do not resemble his or her works.) Then you proceed to teach others. And such an education can be found at many institutions of higher learning including Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 24, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"When I left school at the end of my first year, I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out. It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid. I economized in every way that I could think of-did my own washing, and went without necessary garments-but still I found my summer vacation ending and I did not have the sixteen dollars" - Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One not only finds lessons in Mr. Washington's management of a university, his stewardship and cultivation of transformative gifts and donations, his passion as an educator or his affectionate love for his wife and children, one also learns from his life as a student. And here is one lesson that students can learn from the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University): "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt. I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid" To be sure, the price of a university education-particularly an education received from an university as eminent as Tuskegee-is costly. Yet, it is equally costly to have no such education. All the same, Mr. Washington knew what all graduates of post-baccalaureate and graduate institutions either know or comes quickly to know: Education costs and paying for your education is a responsibility for all who desires one. We learn the following from his own experiences at Hampton Institute. First, "I owed the institution sixteen dollars that I had not been able to work it out." Much like a creditor, an institution is not always able to "work it out" for students. When it does so largely though discounting the tuition bill it does so to its own detriment and opens itself to other criticisms from many of the same students as to why the institution is often unable to provide other services. Second, "It was my greatest ambition during the summer to save money enough with which to pay this debt." He knew that a tuition bill would be there when he returned to school in fall. In spite of his obvious poverty as a formerly enslaved person, he did not expect that he would be able to "work it out". Rather, he worked and "saved". Whether an internship, summer research program or any other noteworthy summer endeavor, each student should bear in mind that fall is coming and any unpaid tuition bill will await them. Third, "I felt that this was a debt of honour, and that I could hardly bring myself to the point of even trying to enter school again till it was paid." Honor is nothing but integrity. Hear again: "Integrity is the greatest 9-Letter word." Mr. Washington would not allow his words to be inconsistent with his works for he had received an education at the expense of the institution that paid the salaries of the professors who educated him. This was a transaction. He received the education and in turn he owed the institution its money so that it might continue to pay his professors to educate others. Last, he "economized in every way that I could think of." The founding principal and president did not frivolously spend his summer monies knowing full well he owed on his tuition bill. Rather he "economized." He counted the cost and did his best to make it right. In the end, Mr. Washington did secure sufficient monies. He did not give up. He was resourceful, and he went on to not only graduate from Hampton Institute but to go on to lead from 1881 to 1915 what remains one of the finest institutions in the nation-Tuskegee University-"the pride of the swift growing south."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 23, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Think, though, how frequently it is the case that from the first day that a pupil begins to go to school his books teach him much about the cities of the world and city life, and almost nothing about the country. How natural it is, then, that when he has the ordering of his life he wants to live it in the city." - "Industrial Education for the Negro," (1903) Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In a relatively unknown moment in the history of all American and African American literary history, a cadre of celebrated African American leaders and intellectuals--including but not limited to--Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Chesnutt and T. Thomas Fortune, allowed their essays to be jointly published in a book called _The Negro Problem_. Each essay written from the perspective of an accomplished university president (Washington), a prominent scholar and activist (Du Bois), a well regarded poet (Dunbar), a successful journalist and editor (Fortune) and, widely regarded as the first African American novelist, (Chesnutt) offer each respective writer's views on how to solve what had commonly come to be known as "The Negro Problem." All the same, a passage taken from the founding principal and president is particularly intriguing about the nature and influence of books. What one consistently reads, one becomes. Whether "muckraking" books written about mess and mire that tend to stir the base appetites of men and women who read them or awe-inspiring books designed to spurn and stimulate the minds of men and women who read these books instead to higher heights, the influence of books knows no bounds for they shape the thinking of the men and women who actually read. (How much more will one's thinking be shaped when the person in back of the book-its author-has lived a life worthy of some emulation such as these men?) For what is most amazing about these men-including Tuskegee University's founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington-is that they did not simply write books worth reading, they lived lives worth reading. And perhaps W.E.B. Du Bois describes each of their lives best: "Progress in human affairs is more often a push then a pull-the surging forward of the exceptional man and the lifting of his duller brethren slowly and painfully to his vantage-ground."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 22, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"The school was growing rapidly. The number of productive industries carried on by the school, the large amount of building we were engaged in, and the large amount of business carried on between the different departments made the accounts of the school particularly complicated and the problem of a proper business organization a most important one." - "My Larger Education" (1911) Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

An institution that is as large, vast and prosperous as Tuskegee Institute (University) possesses many problems but "the problem of a proper business organization [is] a most important one." Known in its heyday as the "Tuskegee Machine," the designation was partly attributed to Booker T. Washington's highly efficient and organized administrative management of Tuskegee Institute (University). While the "machine" designation was a fair and complimentary designation used to describe such a well-run institution-for it alluded to an emphasis upon function not feelings-the designation, "organization," as opposed to "machine," is perhaps a far better one used when describing it as "business." For a business is made up of people that serve people-thus making an organization a living, breathing organism with interchangeable people-not parts-who are organized to the maximum effectiveness of the enterprise. (This is what makes the principal "problem of a proper business organization a most important one.") Effective management of a business organization is not the mere management of its monetary resources situated in "accounts" but its people situated in "departments" that together make the overall enterprise "productive." And productive people are the highest testament of a fully functional and healthy business organization. For proper planning in business aligns the right people for the right positions to accomplish precise purposes for both the individual, as well as the organization.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 19, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mr. Jenkins: I have received your note which I consider one of the few disrespectful communications that I have received during my connection with this institution as its official head. I have neither time nor inclination to debate the matter with you of your attending devotional exercises and even if there were a disposition to debate the matter or of the school to change its policy, the attitude assumed in your communication leaves, the school, but one course to pursue. I have stated plainly the wish and policy of the school to you, it now remains for you to make your choice." - "February 29 [March 1], 1895," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Above is the third of three letters sent between the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, and an employee at the institution, Mr. William Jenkins. In the first communiqué sent to Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Washington sought to "remind [him] again that it is the policy of this institution for its academic teachers to be present in the chapel...". In the second correspondence, Mr. Jenkins explained to his employer, "If you will give me some place to prepare my lessons instead of my bedroom I shall be only too glad to comply with your order." (Mr. Jenkins believed that unless the institution provided him with adequate facilities for lesson preparation, he would continue to not comply with policy.) Hence-the third and final piece of correspondence was Mr. Washington's response above. Now, one must remember that the 19th century was altogether different from the 21st century. Every institution of higher education in the 19th century possessed policies that persons in the 21st century would hardly think appropriate in our contemporary society. Notwithstanding, all 21st century institutions and organizations-at least the most thoroughly efficient and well-organized ones-possess policies designed to help promote the general interest and welfare of the organization, and if one employee habitually-even openly-flaunts his or her failure to comply with policy then this promotes organizational disarray. Among many other considerations, other employees note partiality with respect to the employee, and are discouraged from following policy by the institution's bad precedent. (If an institution fails to follow and enforce its own policies, it does so to its own detriment and needlessly contributes to institutional discord.) In the end, however, we do not know what choice Mr. Jenkins or Mr. Washington made when the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) stated thus: "I have stated plain the wish and policy of the school to you, it now remains for you to make a choice." Yet, when one considers the length and success of Mr. Washington's 34-year presidency, it is not unimaginable to deduce that Mr. Jenkins either complied with institutional policy or found employment elsewhere.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 18, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mrs. Bond: Your communications have been considered. With your present feelings toward the official head of the institution I cannot see how you can be of that service to the institution that a teacher should be and am surprised that you even thought of remaining in your present condition of mind. You say in so many words that you have no confidence in the institution yet you are willing to use it as a convenience for the time being. As above stated it seems to me that with your present feelings it will be best for all concerned for you not to be connected with the institution. Respectfully, Booker T. Washington." - "February 16, 1895," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While we do not have in our possession Mrs. Irene Bond's communication to the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), it is clear in Mr. Washington's response to her that she was none too pleased with the present direction of the institution under his leadership. To be crystal clear, no man or woman in leadership will ever be free from detractors-especially when their leadership implements change in areas of institutional culture that have proven beneficial to such detractors while being detrimental to the institution as a whole. All the same, the surprise here is not that Mr. Washington possessed critics within Tuskegee Institute (University) or beyond, the surprise related to Mrs. Bond was as follows: "[I] am surprised that you even thought of remaining in your present condition of mind." Whether in the 19th, 20th or 21st century, the very real need for "bread" or salary, often leads individuals to remain in organizations where they would otherwise leave, and such decisions often create a toxic work environment for other employees who not only remain for the bread, but remain because they believe in the institution's mission and vision-its tradition and trajectory. And Mr. Washington's "surprise" at a person remaining who thought so harshly of the institution or its leader speaks to the notion of vocational integrity. "Integrity," involves harmony and union between one's word and one's work. When applied to one's job, career or "vocation," it means that there is an implicit understanding between employer and employee that the commitment to the institutional cause is something higher than the opinion of a singular individual-including the leader or the employee. Where there is no integrity in leadership or followership, there can be no trust, and where there is no trust, there can be no organizational success. Thus, trusting an institution's tradition and trusting an institution's trajectory requires integrity, and "integrity" is the single greatest 9-letter word.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 17, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"My dear Dr. Grimke: You cannot realize how much satisfaction your kind words of congratulation bring to me. I know that no utterance comes from your lips that are not sincere. The reception given my words at Atlanta has been a revelation to me. I had no idea that a Southern audience would treat a black man's utterances in the way that it did. The heart of the whole South now seems to be turned in a different direction. You can easily see that I had rather a difficult task. First I wanted to be very sure to state the exact truth and of not compromising the race. Then there were some things that I felt should be said to the colored people and some others to the white people; and aside from these considerations I wanted to so depart myself as not to make such an impression as would prevent a similar opportunity being offered to some other colored man in the south." - September 24, 1895, Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In the days and weeks following Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Address (1895)," he received several commendations and congratulatory messages from a host of well wishers for this now historic address. In addition to remarks received from Francis James Grimke who was instrumental in the founding of the NAACP, W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois-his noted rival-remarked, "My Dear Mr. Washington: Let me heartily congratulate you upon your phenomenal success at Atlanta-it was a word fitly spoken." In deed and in truth, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) "had rather a difficult task" in delivering such an address that has profound reverberations, even in this present century. Mr. Washington's detractors-including many who praised him in private-decried against the address calling it the "Atlanta Compromise" because of its emphasis upon industrial education and developing economic independence for African-Americans as opposed to pressing for social justice during that volatile period. Yet, what many failed to appreciate then about Washington-and fail to appreciate now about men and women in leadership situated similar to Washington-is that such men and women have multiple constituencies and audiences to appeal to. In 1895, in the Deep South, where Mr. Washington had spent 15 years building an institution of higher learning for formerly enslaved African-Americans, he needed to be especially keen, prudent and cautious about enflaming the fires of lynching, unprovoked beatings and murder, and the burning down of his facilities during a dark and infamous period in American history that is all too well documented. (For this man, unlike many of his detractors was in a position of leadership over students whose parents entrusted them to him, and if the institution were burned to the ground with several casualties because he spoke what others thought he should speak, one need only have a rudimentary historical imagination to understand the consequences of this.) On the other hand, he could hardly deny that the racial atrocities and social injustices committed against African-Americans solely based upon their ancestry and skin color could go unnoticed or unspoken on such a prominent platform. Thus, he-like most persons who have ever successfully led or spoken to diverse and multiple constituencies-followed a three-prong approach in his address: 1. "First [he] wanted to be very sure to state the exact truth..." (One will never go awry in speaking a plain statement of facts to audiences without regard to how such facts are received. As J.K. Miller wrote: "It is not the truth that people cannot handle. It is the consequences that stem from that truth.") 2. Second, "there were some things that I felt should be said to the colored people and some others to the white people;"(It is a poor, paltry and partial speaker or leader indeed who makes one-dimensional arguments and directs messages of truth to one racial, socioeconomic, ethnic or cultural group or another.) The greatest speakers and leaders transcend such categorizations and will inevitably share truth that falls wherever it may. 3. Third, "aside from these considerations [he] wanted to so deport [himself] as not to make such an impression as would prevent a similar opportunity being offered to some other colored man in the south." (Make no mistake, one's words and actions in leadership always set precedents for those who come afterward. While one's conscience and sense of "speaking one's mind" may lead one to offer a torrent of remarks without regard to one's constituency, the prudent leader exercises restraint for he or she knows that his words and leadership impacts someone other than himself.) And this final regard is the hallmark of Booker T. Washington's leadership at the helm of Tuskegee Institute (University). Possessing real and actual responsibility with respect to others deepens one's commitment and capacity for serving others and lessens one's commitment and capacity for serving one's self.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 16, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mr. J.B. Washington: You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office. If you do not know it is your own fault. I entrusted to you the mailing of the Advertisers which were purchased at quite an outlay, and I find that the whole expenses, and work in connection with this work, are to a large extent, thrown away by reason of the fact that the papers were not properly wrapped. I did not suppose it was necessary to go into each detail and tell you how to wrap these papers. They have been wrapped, I find, with no idea of making the marked article conspicuous, and at least half of the person whom the papers will go will not see the article owing to your carelessness. It seems to me just that a part of the expense connected with purchasing these papers should be charged to your personal account." - "February 27, 1895," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is amazing to continuously read the administrative and management philosophy that Mr. Booker T. Washington demonstrated in his correspondence and writings from 1881-1915-his 34-year long tenure as founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). For this man's philosophy was truly without respect for persons and such persons included his very own brother-his younger adopted brother-Mr. James B. Washington. Washington Baseball Field at Tuskegee University was named after James B. Washington who came to Tuskegee from Hampton Institute in 1890. He is affectionately referred to as the "Father of Athletics at Tuskegee." Washington, the adopted brother of Booker T. Washington, organized the first Tuskegee baseball team in 1892. In the present communiqué, Mr. Washington's remonstrations directed towards this employee, his very own brother were premised upon the following: "You have been connected with the office now five or six years, and should know how to perform, at least common duties around the office." 

If an employee has been at an institution for less than a year, one year or possibly two, one may readily concede a person's relative unfamiliarity about the unit they have been given the charge over or have inherited from a predecessor. (The very best leaders do not rely upon such concessions for they immediately assume the charge over their unit and/or organization without regard to their longevity in the post.) All the same, Mr. James B. Washington had now possessed the charge of the unit he was leading for a full "five or six years," and the expertise required for leading his unit ought to have been either been acquired by diligent acquisition or pursuit, or he might have relinquished his post and simply acknowledged before his employer-his older brother-Booker T. Washington that he did not possess the requisite talent, skillset or ability to do what the institution needed from him in his present capacity. (If it were a matter of lack of institutional support for what he had needed, he might have communicated this as well.) Notwithstanding, it is not an admission of weakness or non-strength to concede that one cannot do what is expected of him or her. Rather, such admission is the surest sign of both professional maturity and vocational integrity, and might possibly lead such an employee to a better position, within the institution or otherwise, more properly aligned to his or her skill sets and capabilities. We know that Mr. James B. Washington ably served alongside his brother Booker, and well after the passing of the university's first president. Nevertheless, for the post he held in the capacity described above, Mr. James B. Washington's efforts did not meet with the expectations of his employer-his older brother, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 15, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Ever since the beginning of this school, we have made it a point to try to secure teachers who would be willing to work wherever and whenever duty called, and in this respect I feel that we have been unusually successful. This school is supported almost wholly by people who make sacrifices of personal conveniences in order that they may give to us, and I cannot feel that it is right to allow a teacher to refuse, without adequate reasons to give a small sacrifice of her time to work that has the good of the girls in view, while at the same time our Northern friends and others are doing all they can to support the school in the belief that each teacher is willing to perform her duty in the same spirit that they give the money. We have a large number of girls whose mothers have entrusted them to our care [and it] seems to me that you should count it a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task." - "February 9, 1895," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

No single individual can ever be fully and thoroughly compensated at the level he or she deserves especially for all the good that one is able to do for students when working in an institution of higher learning. From attending events that celebrate student success in the classroom to cheering students on as they represent the institution's proud brand and heritage in extracurricular activities, there is not a price that can be put on these interactions. And this was precisely Mr. Washington's point in his communiqué to one of his teachers at Tuskegee Institute (University). Non-profit work, which includes higher education, is indeed a revenue-generating endeavor but revenue and high salaries are not the principal reasons for the existence of such organizations. The mission of non-profit organizations like Tuskegee University serve humanity in a number of ways, and the work of the university is to provide an education both inside and outside the classroom to equip a student for future employment and life-long living and learning. This is why it is generally "count[ed] a privilege to go into their rooms once in a while and get acquainted with them and help them in a way that will impress them all through their lives. Such work should not be counted a task." For the man or woman who helps a single student on his or her pathway to full adulthood during such an impressionable period will be rewarded with something greater than mere money. This man or woman will be rewarded with the sense of knowing that his or her work has impacted not only the future of a single student but the lives of many others who will also become impacted through the single life of a single student. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 12, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Mrs. Scott: I am informed by Mrs. Kaine that you do not cooperate with her in the proper spirit in relation to the changes and improvements to be made in your department. I am very sorry to hear of this. I have stated more than once that Mrs. Kaine's suggestions and orders are to be carried out, and I can certainly make no exception in your case; in fact, I am sorry that you take my time in compelling me to repeat an order which has already been given more than once. Mrs. Kaine is not here for the purpose of begging teachers to do what she asks, nor should it be required to repeat an order. I hope you will look at this matter calmly, and when you have thought it over, I think you will find that it is best for you as well as for the school to obey Mrs. Kaine and carry out her suggestions in the proper spirit. The school will be will satisfied with nothing less than this. I hope the matter will not come to my attention again. Yours Truly. - "December 28, 1894," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In an earlier "Washington Digest" or "Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary" appearing just this week, we found the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, seeking the services of one Mrs. Kaine to come alongside him to assist him with the mission and vision-the trajectory and tradition of Tuskegee Institute (University). And a quote recently taken from Forbes Magazine speaks profoundly to this dynamic of selecting capable leaders: "A leader's job isn't to be the smartest person in the room, but to fill the room with the smartest, most creative and most capable people. It's when the leader gets out of the way that the real magic happens." Yet, in the present correspondence, Mr. Washington was unable to "get out of the way [so] that the real magic happens." Having sought out and selected a capable colleague to come in to assist him, Mr. Washington directed this communiqué to an apparent recalcitrant employee who simply refused to "cooperate with [Mrs. Kaine] in the proper spirit in relation to the changes and improvements to be made in [her] department." It is a poor leader indeed who attempts to fix what is not broken; but, when there are clear and obvious needs for change and improvement-needs that all agree to but either have lacked the courage or competence to implement-and the leader assigns a capable and competent person to implement such change then it is incumbent upon the employee-no required of this employee-to comply with the dictate and direction. Moreover, when a leader of a large organization has to be engaged in matters already decided upon, it takes him or her from far more pressing matters requiring the attention of the chief executive officer. (This is why the leader selects competent persons to assist him so that he does not have to do both his or her job and the job of others.) And this indeed is where the "magic happens." For when any leader selects or endorses the leadership of a particular unit, it is his or her strongest "hope [that] the matter will not come to [their] attention again."

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 11, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"The more I come into contact with wealthy people, the more I believe that they are looking upon their money simply as an instrument which God has placed in their hand for doing good with. I never go to the office of Mr. John D. Rockefeller, who more than once has been generous to Tuskegee, without being reminded of this. The close, careful and minute investigation that he always makes in order to be sure that every dollar that he gives will do the most good-an investigation that is just as searching as if he were investing money in a business enterprise-convinces me that the growth in this direction is most encouraging." - Up From Slavery (1901), Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Although this historical fact is rarely heralded, the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), Booker T. Washington, ranks at the very top of all higher education fundraisers in American history. Mr. Washington's letters and writings are replete with examples of his dealings with men and women who gave both large and small donations to the work of Tuskegee Institute (University). And it appears that Mr. Washington quietly and quickly-and the results indicate that he did so with accompanying quality-came to understand two of the single most important characteristics of those who are deeply engaged in philanthropic activity: stewardship and investment. The first of which is stewardship. No matter how wealthy an individual, organization, corporation or foundation may be, they will not simply give money to another to be wasted. (The individual or organization has not wasted its own monies nor the monies of others to achieve its great success so why should the individual or organization begin doing so now?) The guiding principle of stewardship often leads to the accumulation of great sums of wealth, and the notion that simply because an individual, organization, corporation or foundation has achieved great amounts of wealth will now, in turn, give away such wealth to any and every cause is unfounded. Proper stewardship in accumulation of wealth necessarily required decision-making and care in recognizing the individual or organization's priorities and interests; thus, the mere giving away of money on the singular basis that the individual or organization has wealth is absurd. Investing is the second characteristic of philanthropic activity. One never seeks to invest in what will inevitably become a failed cause or enterprise. The very idea of investing is to receive a return. Whether this return is in furthering the individual or organization's own cause being advanced in the investment or merely to have the return satisfaction of seeing the recipient actualize its own success, investment always seeks a return. Moreover, philanthropic investment into an institution is a way to become associated with its brand, cause and/or undertaking. What individual or organization seeks to be associated with a failed brand or cause? Rather, an investment in an institution is generally associated with investing in the documented and demonstrated-or soon to be-success of an institution. (In the latter regard, the earliest investors in new undertakings always receive the greatest return for they saw, believed and invested early on in what would eventually become a successful enterprise. And they did so before others who preferred to "wait and see.") In sum, stewardship and investment are not only the hallmarks of givers but recipients as well. For if recipients are to every rise to the ranks of givers-indeed it is more blessed to give than receive for it indicates that one has resources to give-then stewardship and investment are individual and organizational traits that they must learn quietly, quickly and with quality. And Mr. Washington established the blueprint for this at Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 10, 2014



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Madam: Replying to yours of August 22nd, I would say that we wish to employ some woman who can assist us in improving our Household Departments. We wish a person who can stay with us long enough to get each department in the best possible condition. We wish one who understands the science of the household economy in the broadest sense, who will be frank in all her criticisms, and have the executive ability to have matters properly adjusted. It is my idea to have the one employed to take each department in turn, and remain in it long enough to make whatever improvements are necessary, all, of course, to be done in connection with the teacher directly in charge, who, I am sure, will be willing to cooperate in the right spirit." - "September 5, 1894," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The search for new employees to come alongside in service to a mission both broader and larger than any one person was not an unfamiliar undertaking for the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). Mr. Washington was always looking for talented and competent leaders to assist him in the carrying out of both the mission and vision-the tradition and trajectory of Tuskegee Institute (University) that he became the principal architect of. In a period where the tidiness of departments bore a direct impact upon the institution's ability to court donors to help support the growth of the institution, Mr. Washington needed someone of Mrs. Alice J. Kaine's with skillsets. First, he needed someone "who understands the science of the household economy in the broadest sense." Depth and breadth is the greatest 5 and 7-letter word combination. Mr. Washington needed an employee who had more than a passing familiarity or cursory knowledge of household science; he needed someone who can both identify problems and implement the necessary changes needed to bring departments in compliance. Secondly, he desired someone who could be "frank in all her criticisms." (Hear again, frankness and directness is the surest way to ensure transparency when instituting change where it is needed, and a new employee arriving in an environment where such change is needed can ill-afford to be something other than "frank.") Third, she absolutely must have "executive ability." Try as one might, there is no way to be an effective and efficient administrator or leader without "executive ability." Whether these talents are inherent or learned through the crucibles of experience, this trait is a combination of many things but is summarily described as effectiveness. (Busyness is not the same as effectiveness. For the true sign of efficiency and effectiveness in leadership is getting deeds done without direction.) And finally, this new employee must be committed to remaining at it "long enough" to see the transformation to its completion. Possessing the appropriate fortitude, endurance and perseverance in seasons of both success and disappointment requires patience. It would be no quick work to turn around "household departments" that have long been stagnant or unattended to. This new employee would need the same patience and long-term service that her future employer had exhibited in his very long and very impressive 34-year long presidency of Tuskegee Institute (University).

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 9, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"We frequently hear the word 'lucky' used with reference to a man's life. Two boys start out in the world at the same time, having the same amount of education. When twenty years have passed, we find one of them wealthy and independent; we find him a successful professional man with an assured reputation, or perhaps at the head of a large commercial establishment employing many men, or perhaps a farmer owning and cultivating hundreds of acres of land. We find the second boy, grown now to be a man, working for perhaps a dollar or a dollar and a half a day, and living from hand to mouth in a rented house. When we remember that the boys started out in life equal-handed, we may be tempted to remark that the first boy has been fortunate, that fortune has smiled on him; and that the second has been unfortunate. There is no such nonsense as that. When the first boy saw a thing that he knew he ought to do, he did it; and he kept rising from one position to another until he became independent. The second boy was an eye-servant who was afraid that he would do more than he was paid to do-he was afraid that he would give fifty cents' worth of labour for twenty-five cents [...]The first boy did a dollar's worth of work for fifty cents. He was always ready to be at the store before time; and then, when the bell rang to stop work, he would go to his employer and ask him if there was not something more that ought to be done that night before he went home. It was this quality in the first boy that made him valuable and caused him to rise. Why should we call him 'fortunate' or 'lucky'? I think it would be much more suitable to say of him: 'He is responsible." - "Individual Responsibility: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

At the onset of receiving an entering incoming freshmen class into a university, one becomes awed and buoyed by the extraordinary sense of possibility that each student has in his or her future. Whether they were 4.0 student or 2.8 students in high school, the beginning of freshman year matriculation is a unique opportunity in their lives to start anew and afresh. And Mr. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University), provides an example of two young boys who possessed the same opportunities, but had very different outcomes 20 years later. It is all too easy to pass off Mr. Washington's telling as some moralizing tale designed to motivate his students during one of his Sunday evening talks. Yet, we must be inclined to think that either Mr. Washington himself experienced this so-called tale directly-his autobiographical narrative Up from Slavery (1901) suggests as much-or he observed this in the lives of two of his students in his 34-year long tenure at the helm of Tuskegee University. Washington's telling of such a tale might also raise the ire and suspicion of those who might argue the following: "It is roundly unfair for Mr. Washington to ascribe lacking personal responsibility to the woes of the second boy's life because he doesn't know what happened to him." Notwithstanding any such dismissals, what Mr. Washington seeks to convey in this talk was the sense of a very real distinction between two young men who approached life matters-whether in the classroom or beyond-quite differently. The first young man was likely accused of being too punctual, too exact or just plain too serious. He often heard the now common proverbial expression: "It doesn't take all of that." And in spite of all attempts to justify the many failures of the second boy, all such attempts are undergirded with a profound sense of irony. (The very individuals who defend or make excuse for the second lad will also not hire him nor give him any responsibility regarding that, which is their own.) Wholly consistent with his reputation for being frank, honest and giving 'straight talk," Mr. Washington would not allow any such misgivings about his impressions of the success-or relative lack thereof-of the two boys described here. For Mr. Washington believed that "it does take all of that" to reach any desirable outcome, and one will be subject to the envy and criticism of others while doing it. Yet, enduring the sort of suffering experienced by the first boy is far better than experiencing the suffering of the second. We all experience one form of suffering or another, and if one learns how to suffer-to truly know how to suffer well in the thing that is good-one will learn how to succeed.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 8, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Dear Sir: Your kind favor of May 2nd, asking if I could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College is received. I am pleased to know that you should think of me in this connection, and of course feel complimented in the highest degree, but I think it best to say in the beginning that I do not think I could be induced to give up my present position. The salary you name is much larger than I am present receiving but I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere, and for the further reason that there are a number of individuals throughout the North who have given and are giving rather large sums of money to this work, based on their faith in my devotion to this work [...]" - "May 9, 1894," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Highly successful men and women of character, competence and credentials are rarely without suitors for their services. And the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University) was no exception. Mr. W.B. Murdock of Alcorn College approached Mr. Washington hoping that he "could be induced to accept the position of President of Alcorn College." And what is most remarkable in Mr. Washington's reply was not his gracious recognition of the "compliment," but rather his reasons for not acquiescing to the offer and to remain at Tuskegee Institute (University): "[...] I prefer to remain for the reason that I think for some years to come I can do MORE GOOD here than elsewhere...". Imagine that. A person electing to remain at an institution on the basis of the GOOD he or she might be able to do as opposed to having a larger salary? Perhaps this is an old-fashioned 19th Century notion or perhaps Mr. Washington and men and women of his ilk-unlike many in the present century-were men and women of purpose. And "purpose" is the single greatest 7-letter word.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 5, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"Mr. J.H. Washington, Supt. of Ind. Not later than this week I wish you to go over the whole subject of the wages of students and recommend whatever reduction you think should take place. I wish a reduction of not less than one-third to be made. Small boys whose work can be of almost no service need special attention." "September 4, 1894," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The fiscal management of student financial assistance or aid was not beyond the managerial scope of the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). For many institutions, net tuition revenue received from students-not the headcount of students visibly present-is the principal driver of an institution's annual budget. In addition to federal and state aid in the form of grants and loans-and a host of other resources that students may receive including scholarships or personal resources. Institutions provide a number of options to assist students in the form of institutional scholarships, which are often "discounts", alumni scholarships, donor scholarships and work-study. All the same, a university's ability to provide on-going and continuous improvements to its technology, infrastructure and services available to students is partially contingent upon the monies these students pay in tuition billing to attend and secure a baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degree. (Deep discounting or mis-managed discounting of tuition bills often leads to discounting the quality of the student experience at the institution. And this did not occur on the first president of Tuskegee University's watch.) Mr. Washington requested a full review "over the whole subject of the wages of students" and he recommend[ed] whatever reduction you think should take place." It is well known that the early Tuskegee Institute students received monies in the form of wages to help pay their tuition bills so that they could remain enrolled. (Even the founding principal and president found work as a janitor at Hampton Institute to remain enrolled.) An institution has both a moral and civic duty to help her students but it also has a fiscal duty to itself. Moreover, this review also included the discounting of "[s]mall boys whose work can be of almost not service need[ed] special attention". Presumably, there were "small boys" who were receiving "wages" from the institution-or in 21st Century nomenclature, "financial aid"-that did not demonstrate a reciprocal benefit for the institution. Perhaps they could not lift the bales of hay? Perhaps they could not lift the well-known bricks that Tuskegee Institute students were known throughout the region for? All the same, Mr. Washington requested a review of their work to determine whether the aid given to them in wages is the appropriate use of institutional monies. For the milk of Mother Tuskegee is available for all of her children, yet the institutional responsibility to steward her resources while simultaneously replenishing them is what will ensure that the milk continues to flow.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 4, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"You are going to get rooms that you do not like. They will not be, perhaps, as attractive as your desire, or they will be too crowded. You are going to be given persons for roommates with whom you think it is going to be impossible to get along pleasantly, people who are not congenial to you. During the hot months your rooms are going to be too hot, and during the cold months they are going to be too cold. You are going to meet with all these difficulties in your rooms. Make up your mind that you are going to conquer them. I have often said that the students who in the early years of this school had such hard times with their rooms have succeeded grandly. Many of you now live in palaces, compared to the rooms, which those students had. I am sure that the students who attend this school find that the institution is better fitted every year to take care of them than it was the year previous." - "A Sunday Evening Talk: Some Rocks Ahead," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Among the many priorities Mr. Washington had in relationship to his duties as president of Tuskegee Institute (University), fostering a relationship with his students was high among these. The Sunday evening talks were designed for students to engage the founding principal and president in less formal ways than at official gatherings such as convocations, commencements and formal student body association meetings. Moreover, he used these times to try to instill in them something of the "Tuskegee spirit." Yet, try as one might-and in spite of the many positive aspects of the institution that are hardly ever touted-there are always areas of on-going concern for students, or "some...rocks ahead" for students within a university living-learning environment. Here, Mr. Washington addresses one of these: residential living. To be sure, this address was for Tuskegee Institute (University) students in the 19th century as opposed to the 21st century. (And it is clear that the 21st century institution has a fiscal duty to ensure the best facilities available to its students.) Notwithstanding, there are simply some matters in residential living that are common to all persons living within a university environment that are entirely unavoidable, and a student must simply "conquer them." First, the room may not be as "attractive as you desire." The living-learning environment is by no means the culmination of one's career. It is a stop en route to a glorious career path that has as its ultimate destination a home purchase consistent with one's desires and affordability. (This is often dependent upon your academic success as a student.) Second, "roommates" may not be "congenial." Everyone recalls meeting strangers for the first time and though the initial meeting was uncomfortable, these strangers became life-long friends. (Many of our best, life-long friends are cultivated in the college and university living-learning environment, and had we not endured, we would have missed a valuable relationship that might be instrumental in our future successes.) Third, heating and air challenges are often the case even with respect to one roommate preferring it cold while the other hot. (Universities do their very best to address these situations upon proper reporting to the designated resident advisor, residential hall director, facilities director and Vice President for Student Affairs. It is not the university president who one contacts for these matters until the lines of authority are exhausted.) Lastly, a balanced perspective recognizes that "many of you now live in palaces, compared to the rooms which [previous generations of] students had" and for most universities, "the students who attend this school find that the institution is better fitted every year to take care of them than it was the year previous." While the "struggle" of residential living within a university environment is oft-times a real and verifiable one, students would do well to remember the following adage: "Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal." And the goal is the successful completion of a baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree-preferably a Tuskegee University baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 3, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"He is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops." - Booker T. Washington, "My Larger Education (1911)"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

There is nothing more painstaking to endure than one who talks simply for the sake of talking. For such a person rambles until-hopefully-someone picks up upon perhaps a word, a phrase or a sentiment that would justify the many other poorly thought or mis-spoken ideas that the rambler has already proffered. This is entirely unlike the man or woman that the founding principal president of Tuskegee Institute (University) describes when he states the following: "he is the kind of man one likes to listen to because he always says something that goes straight to the point, and after he covers the subject he stops." And this is the quality of a man or woman of "substance". Unlike a rambler, a person of substance stands pat, ready to answer-no substantiate-every word uttered or written. This is not so for the rambler. A rambler excuses every utterance he or she has offered except for the singular one or two statements--out of a great many-that have received approbation from one or two of his or her hearers. (Even in this, the substantiation is grounded in the nodding heads of others as opposed to deeds done or objective and impartial evidence.) Contrarily, going "straight to the point" requires past, present and future knowledge of what can be verified or plausibly deduced-without regard to the approbation of "nodding heads". For all persons "like to listen to" one whose thoughts and opinions are supported by facts instead of feelings. 


Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
September 2, 2014



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Until late I have been trying to persuade Mr. J.D. McCall, who has had charge of our scientific work for some time, to transfer to the department of mathematics in lieu of the sciences, but he has not as yet consented to make the transfer. Of course I could make the change without his consent, but with a teacher who has been here for sometime and who is faithful in doing the best he can, I dislike to make a change that is not agreeable to Mr. McCall. We are pushing more and more our scientific work, and it has now gotten to the point where it is entirely too much for any one person to do acceptably. I have just had a talk with Mr. McCall about this, and he agrees with me thoroughly on this point." -"May 1, 1894," Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

It is sometimes with great difficulty that a chief executive officer-particularly a newly minted one-institutes change. For oftentimes, such change comes at the expense of substituting-even supplanting--long-standing practices (or culture) with innovation. This is precisely what the founding principal and president, Booker T. Washington, was doing in his communiqué to Mr. Hoffman concerning one of Mr. Washington's faculty members-Mr. McCall. As Mr. Washington indicated, "of course I could make the change without his consent," he thought it best not to for this was "a teacher who has been here for some time and who is faithful in doing the best he can." Clearly, Mr. McCall's works were well-regarded at Tuskegee Institute to be treated in such a manner to receive such treatment from Mr. Washington. (For Mr. Washington's letters and correspondence are littered with terminations, replacements and administrative decisions made in the interests of the institution that held no similar regard to others as opposed to what he says about Mr. McCall.) All the same, Mr. Washington was clear in his suggestion that the institution was "pushing more and more our scientific work" and it was necessary for change to be had. And while in this communication Mr. Washington opted instead to employ another-Mr. Hoffman was being requested to come work for Tuskegee as a faculty member in the sciences where he taught in agriculture chemistry and biology from 1894 to 1896-he still exercised excellent management in the course of this decision. First, he evaluated Mr. McCall against his record at the institution and found it satisfactory enough to not demand any change. (Unlike his many other decisions, the decision was made to retain Mr. McCall in view of this assessment of his past record and its impact on the present direction in the sciences.) Second, he discussed it directly with Mr. McCall. (Mr. Washington was no "dark decision-maker". He made the decision in the light. He dealt directly so there would be no second or third-guessing about his assessment of the matter and the employee.) Third-only after his assessment of Mr. McCall's station and a discussion-he reached out to another for employ. Here again, Mr. Washington demonstrates that the "wizard of Tuskegee" was neither a mystic, magician nor a miracle-worker. He was simply a manager-all while being marvelous at the macro-during his 34-year long presidency of Tuskegee Institute (University). 


Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 29, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I hope, for instance, that a large proportion of you-in fact all of you-will make it a practice to give something yearly to this institution. If you cannot give but twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or a dollar a year, I hope you will put it down as a thing that you will not forget, to give something to this institution every year. We want to show to our friends who have done so much for us, who have supported this school so generously, how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess. I hope that every senior, in particular, will keep this in mind. I am glad to say that we have many graduates who send us such sums, even if small, and one graduate who for the last eight or ten years has sent us ten dollars annually." - "Sunday Evening Talk," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

When potential donors inquire with an institution concerning its alumni giving participation, the percentage of total alumni giving not the amount of alumni giving is the foremost consideration. Even if a single alumnus gives $1M per year, the following questions are immediately begged: What is the giving and interest level of the thousands of remaining alumni that the institution has graduated? Was this a single aberration? Is alumni giving limited to the eminently successful alumni? or does it extend from small to great-all of whom are recipients of Tuskegee Institute (University) baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate degrees? And interest level goes well beyond public professions of love for one's alma mater "our nourishing mother," but the expression of this love in tangible gifts and donations. Mr. Washington, founding principal and president, understood this well when he spoke the following to students who would become future alumni during one of his Sunday evening talks: "We want to show to our friends...how much interest we take in the institution that has given us so nearly all that we possess." Although the sons and daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee are the institution's most precious value claim to the world-its most precious commodity-the gifts of those interested, including alumni, in the advancement of the institution are what established-and continues to establish-Tuskegee Institute (University's) reputation as one of the finest campuses and strongest academic destinations in the nation and the world. Friend-raising and fundraising begins at home. And if those who are most intimately familiar with and profess support or love for the institution will not give to it, why would a stranger who is not familiar with and professes no support or love for the institution give to it? Thus consistent giving whether small or great, regularly (monthly or annually), from 100% of graduated students or as Mr. Washington pronounced, "all of you," is the clearest indicator of alumni strength.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 28, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"When I speak of humbleness and simplicity, I do not mean that it is necessary for us to lose sight of what the world calls manhood and womanhood; that it is necessary to be cringing and unmanly; but you will find, in the long run, that the people who have the greatest influence in the world are the humble and simple ones." -"The Virtue of Simplicity: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Generally speaking, the smartest, wealthiest, strongest and most talented among a community of his and her fellows would hardly ever pronounce it. (For he and she already knows it.) And therein lies the "influence" generally found in the "humble and simple ones"-that Washington describes. In one of his earlier writings, Professor Cornel West writes: "To be humble is to be so sure of one's self and one's mission that one can forego calling excessive attention to one's self and status." Knowing with complete certainty one's self and status is akin to knowing one's name. Unless one is patently-even absurdly-insecure, a person would never enter into quarrels about his or her own name. On the other hand, the sense of absolute certainty that accompanies the sense of knowing one's name and identity reeks of humility, sincerity and simplicity; Such a posture leads to the greatest influence among men and women because arrogance tends to repel and humility tends to invite. And men and women of humility and simplicity always invite others into their ever expanding circles--thus gaining influence that has no boundaries.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 27, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"[Mr. Hutt][...] I do not think that you are doing yourself justice here and I hope you will excuse me if I speak to you rather plainly. I very much hope that you will be able to remain here until the end of the year with credit to yourself and profit to the school. The main trouble is that you do not push ahead; you wait too much for somebody to direct and lead you. You ought to see, it seems to be me, the difference between your work and that of Mr. Taylor, who has had about the same course of training as yourself. Mr. Taylor is constantly leading in his work, working in season and out of season. Instead of having someone to lead him he is constantly making suggestions as to what should be done [...] You may think that I speak to you very plainly; but it is a good deal better to speak to you this way now than wait until the end of the term and say to you that we do not wish your services longer. I hope very much that we can keep you in the employ of the school, and shall do so if your prove worthy, but certainly if you do not, you cannot expect to be re-employed next term [...] I do hope that between now and that time you will put your department in shape to be inspected, but in order for you to do yourself justice it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before." - "February 3, 1894," Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The "Tuskegee Machine" was no mere designation describing Booker T. Washington's and Tuskegee University's political and economic strength across the nation. Instead, it also referred to the systemic administrative and management philosophy of its founding principal and president, and his insistence upon the effectiveness and efficiency of every function within the organization. And this letter to Mr. Will Eugene Hutt is no exception. First, Mr. Washington-as he does so in all of his writings and speeches-"speaks...plainly." All too often hearers attribute rudeness to plain speech, frankness and honesty when hearing truths that are unpleasant to the recipient. Second, Mr. Washington did not take the road most often travelled in leadership. Such leadership avoids difficult discussions and makes decisions in the dark. Mr. Washington might have easily hid his concerns-wait him out-and grant this employee no opportunity to correct the deficiencies within his department. What one expects, one must inspect, and it is clear that Mr. Washington was not sitting on the mountain top of "Tuskegee Machine." Rather, he was a very real participant in the affairs of Tuskegee Institute (University) to make the pointed suggestions he offers to Mr. Hutt. Third, he provides an example of an employee who does not wait to be "push[ed] ahead" or "for somebody to direct and lead" them. To the contrary, Mr. Taylor, another employee in the same rank and class, was value-added to Mr. Washington. He took initiative "constantly making suggestions as to what should be done." (One could rightly criticize Mr. Washington if he did not point to any employees who fulfilled his expectation but instead he provided an example to Mr. Hutt-one of his peers and colleagues-to demonstrate that the expectations he had for employees could not only be received but also achieved.) Lastly, he reminded Mr. Hutt that he had not exercised his right to remove him but instead was speaking plainly and frankly to encourage him, perhaps even to motivate him. And he did so with the understanding that Mr. Hutt might have never had such expectations, for he completed his correspondence with a parting admonition that "it is going to require hard and constant work on your part, and you will have to apply yourself in a way that you have never done before." Perhaps Mr. Hutt had never had such a supervisor provide such clear expectations? Perhaps Mr. Hutt's previous supervisors merely discussed his poor performance with others as opposed to Mr. Hutt directly? Perhaps Mr. Hutt responded and eventually became one of the greatest employees in the annals of Tuskegee Institute (University)? Whatever Mr. Hutt's response might have been, it is clear that he fully understood Mr. Washington's expectations of him, which is what real leadership looks like: Transparent, Consistent, Communicative and Collaborative.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 26, 2014



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"It seems appropriate during these closing days of the school year to re-emphasize, if possible, that for which the institution stands. We want to have every student get what we have-in our egotism, perhaps-called the "Tuskegee spirit"; that is, to get hold of the spirit of the institution, get hold of that for which it stands; and then spread that spirit just as widely as possible, and plant it just as deeply as it is possible to plant it." "Last Words: A Sunday Evening Talk," - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Upon the last Sunday evening talk given at the close of the academic year, Booker T. Washington encouraged his hearers to come to learn of, embrace and finally disseminate the "Tuskegee spirit." (There is something different about Tuskegee University.) It cannot be singularly explained by the eminence of its founding principal and president. It cannot be explained by the eminence of George Washington Carver. It cannot be explained by the aura associated with the "Tuskegee Airmen" whose feats are now known and respected worldwide. One simply cannot come upon the campus of Tuskegee University and not immediately be confronted with an overwhelming sense of the past meeting the present in deeply profound ways. For the "Tuskegee spirit" is what bounds not only its students and alumni but also its faculty, staff, administrators and presidents. It is a living, breathing pride in its beginnings, its present and its future-a future that is interwoven within the lives of every individual that has come upon the grounds of this sacred land. The "Tuskegee spirit" is none other than the spirit of a people-a great people embodying the very best and brightest in any and every tradition the world has ever known.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 25, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance." - "Substance vs. Shadow: A Sunday Evening Talk" - Booker T. Washington

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Shortly after beginning his presidency, Booker T. Washington began a series of "Sunday Evening Talks" to students and teachers. When compiling these in a book for compilation in 1901, he wrote in his preface: "These addresses were always delivered in a conversational tone and much in the same manner that I would speak to my own children around my fireside." Unlike a well-prepared lecture or speech that any might be able to prepare, Mr. Washington allowed his hearers to engage him directly in a "conversational" manner to learn who he was as opposed to who he appeared to be. And few other quotations excerpted from one of these talks to demonstrate that he was a man of purpose, not pretension, than the one found here: "The title is the shadow; what you say [and do] is the substance." It would have been all too easy for Mr. Washington to rely upon his fame and renown to fully justify his not appearing before students in such an informal manner. (For he gave speeches across the nation, wrote books read 100 years since his passing and was the force behind what came to be regarded as the "Tuskegee Machine.") Rather-as a man of both words and works indeed-Mr. Washington wanted to fully demonstrate that he was a tangible person whose life embodied what he proverbially preached. He did not simply possess a title, which permitted him to perpetually parade in pomp and circumstance because of it. His work and achievements could be readily deduced and substantively emulated and followed by those he led. In sum, he was the real thing-not the "shadow" but the "substance." And in hindsight these Sunday evening talks is what likely lent even more power to his reputation. For Mr. Washington would have them to understand that he was no pretender but a man of purpose. And in the end, it was the person of Washington that men and women of Tuskegee could follow not the position of Washington-the principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 22, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"[New York City Nov. 10, 1915] [To Alexander Robert Stewart] Be sure my yard is well cleaned." - Booker T. Washington 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In all likelihood, this was the final letter written by the eminent founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). (For Booker T. Washington died on Sunday morning November 14, 1915-not 5 days later-after requesting to return to Tuskegee, Alabama to spend his final days.) Until his death, Mr. Washington wrote several short letters with instructions to his colleagues in Tuskegee with the above being the last: "Be sure my yard is well cleaned." While one may regard this final communiqué as someone who regarded his yard more important than his soul, this is not so. For this final writing was a reflection of his soul indeed-a soul devoted to his work. Tales abound in the Tuskegee community about Mr. Washington's intense devotion to work, and there is no greater joy for a man or woman than to be engaged in a line of work that honors both the souls of men and their own. Mr. Washington spent countless hours in the yard and in the garden working, when time and travels permitted. Mr. Washington took great pride in the now world-renowned "Oaks,"-the president's home at the time, located on the Tuskegee University campus, the only national park on a fully functioning college campus. Annually, thousands of visitors trek across the nation and the world to visit the home site of Tuskegee's founding principal and president. So perhaps Mr. Washington's final concern for his yard being cleaned was not only for that generation but also for the many future generations that would follow in the 100 years since his death. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 21, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"I said I would take living men and women for my study, and I would give the closest attention possible to everything that was going on in the world about me [...] I said to myself that I would try to learn something from every man I met; make him my text-book, read him, study him and learn something from him. So I began deliberately to try to learn from men. I learned something from big men and something from little men, from the man with prejudice and the man without prejudice. As I studied and understood them, I found that I began to like men better; even those who treated me badly did not cause me to lose my temper or patience, as soon as I found that I could learn something from them." - Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of his many writings demonstrating the magnanimity of Tuskegee Institute's (University) founding principal and president, this sits on top. For the most learned men and women are those who continue to learn, and there is no greater "text-book" to learn from than the lives of men and women. And Mr. Washington not only learned from great men and women-those who have achieved fame deservedly or not-but he learned "from big men and something from little men." He even learned from his enemies. Any man or woman "with prejudice" is an enemy to humanity because this person has predetermined expectations of what a person within a racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious or organizational group is capable of without regard to examining the merit and makeup of the singular individual. Even in this, Mr. Washington was able to "learn something from them." When one learns about people, you learn about yourself. And this understanding leads to one of the most important facets in leadership and service to others: All people understand and show favor to the leader who recognizes that his or her condition is very much like everyone else's. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 20, 2014

 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"My dear Mr. Fortune: [...] There is no need why every colored man who graduates at college should go to teaching or preaching. If we do not through the instrumentality of the stronger brain in the race, lay hold of the business and industrial openings in the South during the next 10 years these opportunities will pass beyond our recall." - Booker T. Washington, March 1, 1899.

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

While, in hindsight, one may argue that Mr. Washington's platform lent itself to "accommodationist" thinking-though several scholars and historians have revisited and reinterpreted this view of Mr. Washington-the thrust of his assertion that many students have resigned themselves "to teaching or preaching" has strong reverberations for the present. It was untrue then and remains so now, that the highest service one can render to mankind must come in the form of "teaching and preaching." To be sure the nobility and servanthood associated with these two worthy professions are admirable. All the same, what Mr. Washington recognized then is what most university and college graduates have come to recognize now: Calling (vocation) is not confined to a single category. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 19, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header"Dear Sir: Yours of May 2nd has been received and is somewhat of a surprise to me. I would say, however, at the outset that it is against my custom to make reply in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears, and if he permits himself to be influenced by them I find he will impair his usefulness for work, and it has been my rule to neither deny nor affirm such stories [...]" - Booker T. Washington, "May 4, 1892"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Of all the considerations persons fail to consider when they approach the President of Tuskegee Institute (University)-or any leader of a highly visible organization-is perhaps the most obvious of all: "[...] in regard to tales that are floating about in the air. Any man [or woman] who is at all before the public will have any number of stories put into his ears [...]". And Mr. Washington's assertion is one that all leaders and talebearers would do well to take heed to. For talebearers, such an omission does not injure the public figure, but injures the bearer of the "tales" designed to "put into his ears." Unknown to many, the role of President or CEO grants access to a great many details that most persons are not-nor ever will be-privy to. And those who approach a leader with information that he or she is likely already familiar with will generally find that their information is likely-partial at best or faulty at worst. For if a leader allowed himself or herself to be "influenced" by partial or faulty information, it would "impair his [or her] usefulness for work." And, in the end, it would be the leader-not the talebearer-who would be standing alone to explain why he or she relied on "floating" tales as opposed to facts. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
August 18, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"[Dear Mr. Douglass:] According to promise I have delivered your message to Mr. A.C. Bradford in Montgomery to the effect that you would speak there on the night of the 26th of May, and not on the 25th, leaving here after our Commencement exercises in time to reach Montgomery for the lecture there. This arrangement I find can be made to work, and for this arrangement I have said to Mr. Bradford would be final. For you to speak in Montgomery before coming here, would defeat one of the main objects which I have in view in having you at Tuskegee, and I hope you will not consider for a moment any proposition to appear at any meeting in Alabama before coming to Tuskegee. I shall go ahead with our arrangements with the understanding above stated. We shall look for you here on the 24th. Yours truly, B.T.W." - Booker T. Washington, "April 29th 1892"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Herein lies one of the single most important communiqués in the annals of world and American history. One of the most important figures in world history, Frederick Douglass, receives a letter from one of the most looming personages in the 19th, 20th or any American century-the founding principal and president of Tuskegee Institute (University). Mr. Douglass, who would die three years later in 1895, the same year of Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Exposition Address," also has correspondence directed to the young leader of Tuskegee. All the same, the current communication involves Mr. Washington seeking to ensure that Tuskegee's thunder was not usurped by a competitor in Montgomery, Alabama, who was attempting to secure Douglass' services prior to his speech in Tuskegee. Mr. Washington responded quietly and quickly to rebuff this attempt. For Mr. Douglass was not merely being brought to Tuskegee for appearances' sake, but to genuinely help advance and develop the institution with both his presence and-no doubt-his ties in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, where he would ultimately spend the remainder of his life. Apparently, some organization in Montgomery sought to secure Mr. Douglass' presence when it learned of his pending engagement at the institution. Tuskegee was preeminent amongst similarly situated institutions at the time of Douglass' appearance on campus. As a steward of the Tuskegee Institute (University) brand and reputation, Mr. Washington was particularly careful that the words and works of Tuskegee and its principal and president would go to the renown of Mother Tuskegee and not to another. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 15, 2014


"Miss Bolling: The Faculty has decided to ask you to have the girls' rooms given a thorough cleaning this week with a view of trying to get rid of the bed bugs that are to be found in all the buildings. It is not to the credit of the school and much to its hurt to have the constant report of bed bugs existing in the rooms. The girls not only talk about the matter but report it to their parents, and it brings disgrace to the institution. The cleanliness of the rooms is in your hands and we hold you responsible for this. Miss Murray says that she has spoken to you about the matter several times and given you a girl to do the work, but it has not been done. I have told Miss Murray to let you have as many girls as you desire. Dr. Dillon will help you in making any mixture to help eradicate the bed bugs. This must be attended to right away. I wish to have the building cleaned this week. The cleaning must be done once a week during the remainder of the term so that we can get rid of this pest. In this connection I wish to say that it will amount to nothing without your remaining constantly with them while they are doing the cleaning." - Booker T. Washington, "May 3rd, 1892" 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The management and condition of university's residential housing and its facilities is as important as the university's academic programs. This is why faculty and staff members alike play an equally important role in the success of an institution. There are several noteworthy considerations in Mr. Washington's communiqué to Miss Bolling. First, it did not matter how great the instruction might have been at Tuskegee Institute (University) if the 'daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee' not only talk[ed] about the matter but report[ed] it to their parents[;] it brings disgrace to the institution." (The concern and care that an institution shows beyond the classroom is often the most important consideration that parents deliberate upon when deciding to send their children to a university.) Second, it was not Mr. Washington that was to be held chiefly responsible but the person who possessed oversight of the area. (Indeed the university president possesses ultimate responsibility in the governance of a university. However, he or she must rely heavily upon those within his or her charge to ensure that their areas reflect the expectations of the president. Thus, Mr. Washington's reminder to colleague: "We hold you responsible for this.") Third and last, Mr. Washington had not only provided additional resources to assist with this problem but was also willing to provide more "to help eradicate the bed bugs." Moreover, he provided Miss Bolling with first-rate management advice: "...it will amount to nothing without your remaining constantly with them while they are doing the cleaning." (What you expect, you must inspect. And if one has units that you are being held responsible for then it is not unwise to personally inspect those units so that you are not held accountable for the performance of others.) Let no university employee believe that his or her work does not impact the success of an institution. For the individual's success will ultimately become the university's success.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
August 14, 2014


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"[To William Addison Benedict]...You remember you said in one of your previous letters that you could raise $30,000 per year for the institution and we were led to believe that your experience and acquaintance with people would enable you to secure funds without having to go through the long "breaking in" process that a man unacquainted with the ways and means would go through, and when you sent your report for December you said the one for January would show quite a different state of things. The time has now come when we must look facts squarely in the face in a business way. So far as the figures before us show you have collected in all $269.21, $25 of this comes from Miss Amelia H. Jones of New Bedford, who for the last six years has given us regularly every year $50, but her last address was put down Boston, so in this way you were misled; but up to the first of February this institution owes you $625, and you have collected of this amount $269, thus leaving the institution in debt to you in the sum of $356. So you see we are poorer by this amount than we were this time last year and the same time our salary account is very much enlarged by your being employed thus making the appropriation of money spent for securing funds very much larger than it should be and throwing us open to the criticism of the public cannot escape. I hope you will not understand that I mean to speak in an unkindly spirit. I think we will both understand each other by being business-like and frank." - Booker T. Washington, "February 8, 1892"

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Whether in the 19th, 20th and 21st Century, the Tuskegee Institute (University) President is often presented with proposals from outside vendors designed to benefit the university's interest. And in addition to the task of discerning between profitable and unprofitable proposals, the Tuskegee Institute (University) President must also decide when existing agreements are no longer beneficial to the university. This was the case in Booker T. Washington's communication with one William Addison Benedict. Mr. Benedict indicated in one of his "previous letters" that he could raise "$30,000 per year for the institution." Moreover, the institution was "led to believe" that his report for "January would show a quite different state of things." Unfortunately for both Mr. Benedict and Tuskegee institute (University), this was not the case. One of the more unpleasant sides to business is the necessary parting of ways when one party does not live up to or honor what was agreed upon. While there are a host of factors that might have led to Mr. Benedict's poor record of performance as opposed to what he had promised, it was clear to Mr. Washington that Tuskegee's "salary account [was] very much enlarged" by paying for his additional services unaccompanied by his expected performance. And herein lies Mr. Washington's appeal to Mr. Benedict to "understand each other by being business-like and frank." For what university President in any century continues to perpetually make payments based upon promises as opposed to performance?

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition

August 13, 2014
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"I have found that strict business methods go a long way in the securing the interest of rich people. It has been my constant aim at Tuskegee to carry out, in our financial and other operations, such business methods as would be approved of by any New York banking house." - Booker T. Washington, _Up From Slavery_(1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

One of the surest indicators of how an organization might manage another's resources-fiscal or otherwise-is to consider how this same organization manages its own, and Mr. Washington's desire to manage Tuskegee Institute in a manner that "would be approved of by any New York banking house" is quite telling. In both its "financial and other operations," Mr. Washington wanted to ensure that the practices of Tuskegee Institute (University) were such that it would appeal to the persons who could help fiscally advance and develop the University the fastest-"rich people". While it is true that Mr. Washington received a great many gifts from persons who were not wealthy-make no mistake-many of the most pivotal and significant gifts came from persons with wealth. For the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) well understood that if he was going to attract the "interest" of persons with means then he would have to follow the very practices that were used in managing such means.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
August 12, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


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"To John Henry Washington [Booker T. Washington's older brother who also worked at Tuskegee Institute]. Mr. J.H. Washington, Supt Industries: As to the Barn I notice the plows, wagons &c under the barn are not kept in an orderly systematic manner. They are thrown here and there much as one would see them on an ordinary country farm. This should not be so." - Booker T. Washington, [Tuskegee, Ala.], August 31, 1891

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

In the lore of Tuskegee Institute's illustrious history, there are scores of accounts, stories, and anecdotes about the meticulous management of its founding Principal and President Booker T. Washington. (This was all in addition to his visioning and planning at a macro level.) From his daily rounds around campus on his horse to his quick admonition of a student who was not properly attired, Mr. Washington's attention to all things Tuskegee is often unknown to persons beyond the Tuskegee Institute (University) family. And this piece of correspondence directed to his own older brother speaks volumes about how his management was without "respect of persons." Mr. John Henry Washington played a pivotal role in the founding and development of Tuskegee Institute (University). Moreover, he played an important role in the life of his little brother Booker. For it was he who assisted younger Booker's efforts to receive a formal education. All the same, Booker played no favorites in communicating with his brother-his older brother-concerning those matters that lie within his charge. And in order to provide such correction, Mr. Washington must have went out from his office and home to observe and inspect those things within his brother's charge. Imagine this, in addition to all of his activities, the founding Principal and President made time to visit and inspect both the barn and underneath the barn-even his own brother's barn. Such a tenacious commitment to consistency surely must have resonated with all other employees within Tuskegee Institute. For surely if the Tuskegee Institute (University) President found the time to inspect, correct and communicate with his own older brother about his area, he would surely make the time to inspect, correct and communicate with anyone else about their areas. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 11, 2014



Daily word_header"Dear Taylor: This letter may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I hope you can see your way clear to aced to our request. After deliberating for a good deal of time over the matter, we have determined to put some one of our graduates in the field in the North to collect money for the school; interest and instruct the people about our work, and we have settled on the conclusion that we can get no better person to represent us than yourself." - Booker T. Washington, June 9th 1893

---------------------------------------------------------

"Dear Friend: your letter of recent date was the greatest surprise imaginable. I have thoroughly considered the offer made to me and have decided to off-set my ideas of going to school next term, so as to comply with your request. As you know Alma-Mater means nourishing Mother. From an intellectual stand-point I consider Tuskegee my mother-so I am perfectly willing to act in the capacity of a child." - R.W.Taylor June 14th 1893

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Aside from her students, there is no more important constituent group for Mother Tuskegee than her students who have graduated from Tuskegee Institute (University). And this correspondence between Booker T. Washington and Robert Wesley Taylor illustrates the strong ties and affinity within the Tuskegee University Family. Note, the Founding Principal "deliberated for a good deal of time" when considering who among "the Sons and Daughters of Booker and Mother Tuskegee" would best represent the institution. Among the many shining arrows in their quiver, Robert Wesley Taylor was preeminent among the family's best and brightest. Although familial relations dictates equal filial love among siblings, when parents have a need it is not unusual for the strongest, most diligent, most generous and most capable son or daughter to respond. This describes the character of Mr. Taylor. Hearkening to the true spirit of Alma Mater, he regarding Tuskegee as his "intellectual nourishing mother." For Mother Tuskegee had nourished his nascent personal, intellectual, social and spiritual appetite with the milk of George Washington Carver among countless numbers of eminent professors, scholars and staff members who are still nourishing students today. Mr. Taylor did not stop at child-like professions of love for his mother. He exhibited the attitude of a full-grown son who responded with a ready reply when he was called. And "while children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children," a child does well when he or she has left home to help restore the nourishing ability of his or her mother so that mother is able to continue nurturing many, many more sons and daughters for years to come.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 8, 2014


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"Some people may say that it was Tuskegee's good luck that brought to us this gift of fifty thousand dollars. No, it was not luck. It was hard work. Nothing ever comes to me, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work. When Mr. Huntington gave me the first two dollars, I did not blame him for not giving me more, but made up my mind that I was going to convince him by tangible results that we were worthy of large gifts. For a dozen years I made a strong effort to convince Mr. Huntington of the value of our work. I noted that just in proportion as the usefulness of the school grew, his donations increased." 
- Booker T. Washington, _My Larger Education_ (1911)


Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

Nothing is more disturbing to hear about individual or organizational success-especially if you have contributed to such success-that such success should be attributed to "luck" and not "hard work". Hard work involves deliberate and persistent effort directed towards a designated end that is often easy to gloss over when witnessing the outcome and not the work preceding it. And such was Mr. Washington's work in the advancement and development efforts of Tuskegee Institute (University). Here was a man who did not scoff at any amount received into the coffers of Tuskegee whether great or small. Without regard to the amount, he "made up [his] mind" to be resolute about his pursuit for even larger ones with his chief aid being "tangible results." Or, as he wrote elsewhere, "Let[ting] Examples Answer." For when an organization's "examples answer," it becomes easier to proceed from strength to strength because past successes are often the surest indicators of future successes.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 7, 2014




Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


Daily word_header
"[...] After the man was shot his son brought him to my house for help and advise, (and you can easily understand that the people in and about Tuskegee come to me for help and advice in all their troubles). I got out of bed and went out and explained to the man and his son that personally I would do anything I could for them but I could not take the wounded man into the school and endanger the lives of students entrusted to my care to the fury of some drunken white men. Neither did I for the same reason feel that it was the right thing to take him into my own house. For as much as I love the colored people in that section, I can not feel that I am in duty bound to shelter them in all their personal troubles any more than you would feel called to do the same thing in Washington. I explained my position fully to the man and his son, and they agreed with me as to the wisdom of my course. And I now state what I have not to any one before. I helped them to a place of safety and paid the money out of my own pocket for the comfort and treatment of the man while he was sick. Today I have no warmer friends than this man and his son. They have nothing but the warmest feelings of gratitude for me and are continually in one way or another expressing this feeling. I do not care to publish to the world what I do and should not mention this except for this false representation. I simply chose to help and relieve this man in my own way rather than in the way some man a thousand miles away would have had me do it." - Booker T. Washington, "To Francis James Grimke," November 27, 1895

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

A man of Booker T. Washington's eminence, position and stature was often criticized on a great many matters from persons who perhaps had his interest-or their own-at heart, but were wholly removed from the facts. Often in the case of leadership-particularly in the leadership of a vast organization such as Tuskegee Institute (University)-one must exercise tremendous restraint in responding to erroneous opinions, ill-informed recommendations or ill-advised suggestions. However, Mr. Washington's response to what he perceived was a "false representation" of his character was another matter altogether. During the difficult period of "Jim Crow," many persons-white and black-held opinions about how the Tuskegee Principal should respond and react to racial atrocities as described in his letter to Grimke. In the present circumstance, Mr. Washington is responding to a letter from Grimke wherein the writer indicated that someone-"whose name [he had] forgotten"-relayed the circumstances of this event during a Bethel literary society meeting in Atlanta and that the founding Principal "refused to allow him to be brought in or the physician to attend him." To Grimke's credit, he went on to inform Mr. Washington that he felt it his "duty to apprise [him] of what was said." All the same, aside from Mr. Washington's detailed correspondence communicating the circumstances aright to Mr. Grimke, he went on to provide additional facts concerning his activities that were intentionally not designed for public consumption or publication. It would be remiss to think or believe that Mr. Washington's advocacy of industrial education or internal uplift and reform, was free from sympathetic interest to the political matters of his day. Rather, Mr. Washington's approach-as sound approaches often are-was marked by tact, sagacity and, most importantly, prudence. For Mr. Washington's true audience was not political constituents who suggested what ought be done but the father and the son who were the beneficiaries of what needed to be done.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 6, 2014


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“Mrs. Rumbley: When I made arrangements with you to return this year and take the present work, of course I did not mean that you would be retained in the position throughout the year regardless of the way you perform the service. When I said to you a few days ago that no change would be made to interfere with your plans it was on the supposition that you would do the work properly. When you returned from Mrs. Adams’ I had a conversation with you in which I told you plainly that the teachers department went more smoothly while you were away, because Miss Jones gave more personal attention to the work. You seemed to see the point and promised to make it go more smoothly. Since then you have not given the attention to the work that I thought you would. For example, you are almost never present to overlook and see to the preparation of breakfast…Your work needs to be systematized. This can be done by making a study of what will please the teachers. The teachers do not complain of the quality but it is the way the food is prepared. I still think that you can make a success of your work but in order to do this you must become interested. In order to make it a success I shall do all in my power to help you in any reasonable way. Yours.” - Booker T. Washington, [Tuskegee, Ala.] October 10th 1888 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     
 
In addition to his other more externally visible tasks of speaking, writing and advancing and developing the institution, Mr. Washington was also responsible for the internal management of personnel. And this rather lengthy excerpt taken from Mr. Washington’s correspondence to an employee at Tuskegee Institute, who served in the capacity as a cook, is an example of strong yet supportive management of personnel. First, he makes it plain that retention “in the position” was not “regardless of the way you perform the service,” and that the underlining premise of the employee’s appointment was “that you would do the work properly.” (Positions and appointments are rarely perpetual but are contingent upon performance.) Second, Mr. Washington had a direct and honest conversation regarding his assessment of the work. (He did not avoid being earnest with the employee for Mr. Washington was managing a major institutional enterprise comprised of many interchangeable functions. The function-not feelings-is of paramount importance in the successful management of an organization.) Third, he provided an example of what was not being done properly. (It was neither rumor, second-hand observation nor innuendo but a tangible and objective example that could be readily observed.) Fourth, he provided a recommendation to the employee. He recommends that the work should be “systematized” and that a “study” of the employee’s constituents-namely the teachers-would reveal a possible way for solving the problem. (It is important for managers to not simply point to the problem but to provide a solution as well. And what better recommendation than to go to the constituency group who roundly described the services performed as a problem.) Lastly, he provides a final word of encouragement and a willingness to provide additional help. (Though the very best leaders do not avoid tough conversations about performance, it is imperative to provide a sense of hope, help and encouragement to employees who instead of retreating may actually re-double their efforts to set the matter aright.) In the end, Mr. Washington’s correspondence provides an insight into leadership that is rarely seen because of its sensitive nature but is absolutely necessary for managing an outcomes oriented organization in the 19th, 20th or 21st Century.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition
August 5, 2014


Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header“I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking. I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver.” -Booker T. Washington _Up from Slavery_ (1901)

 Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

 
It is a wise and prudent man or woman indeed who does not readily accept-or seek-any and every invitation to speak. Although such restraint is uncommon, Mr. Washington’s recommendation is one that would serve us well to follow. For the best speakers-whether teacher, professor, lecturer or any number of itinerant persons-are those whose words proceed from the works that support them. Mr. Washington was known locally, regionally, nationally and globally for his oratorical prowess and was largely regarded as such for the work he was doing at Tuskegee University. And this work was no mere job for the founding Principal and President of Tuskegee University, but his life’s purpose “deep down in his heart.” When he spoke, men and women could feel the force of someone who was not pretentious but purposeful. And he was able to do so because he spoke concerning those things he was doing or had done. He did not theorize about how to lead an institution. He led one. He did not simply ask of those within his charge to persevere, endure and overcome. He himself had done these things. He did not simply speak about the “race problem” affecting newly freed and formerly enslaved men and women but was engaged in a work to solve this problem in a manner consistent with his beliefs. And all of these things were visible, tangible and remain so nearly 100 years since his passing (1915-2015). Audiences know immediately whether one has done or is doing the things that he or she speaks which is why one should never offer words without accompanying works.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.

7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition



Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header“The more we talked with the students who were then coming to us from several parts of the state, the more we found that the chief ambition among a large proportion of them was to get an education so that they would not have to work any longer with their hands. This is illustrated by a story told of a coloured man in Alabama, who, one hot day in July, while he was at work in a cotton field, suddenly stopped, and, looking toward the skies, said: ‘O Lawd, de cotton am so grassy, de work am so hard, and the sun am so hot dat I b’lieve did darky am called to preach!” -Booker T. Washington “Up From Slavery” (1901)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

In hindsight, it would be all too easy to take issue with Mr. Washington’s late 19th and early 20th century preoccupation with working “with the hands,” or his use of dialect to illustrate a noteworthy principle; however, if we were to suspend judgment we might find an important ideal revolving around notions of “calling,” “vocation,” and the requisite work required for success within a designated “field.” Though stated broadly and not ascribed to the entirety of the ministerial profession, Mr. Washington’s statement that some students elected not to continue working “with their hands”-opting instead to pursue ministry-has profound reverberations for the present. To be sure, many students elected to change their pursuit of one profession to another for a variety of reasons-including seeking congruence with their latent talent, skills and desires. All the same, there are many instances where a student may have not simply had the wherewithal to continue his or her labors due to the proverbial “price of the ticket.” And this is clearly Mr. Washington’s concern in this passage. One simply cannot expect to achieve enduring success in any endeavor or profession without first putting in the requisite work that is often designed to harden and prepare for subsequent experiences in the profession. For demonstrating a proven ability to overcome difficult circumstances-and preferably more than one-is infinitely more impactful than merely communicating the stories of others who have overcome.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

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“[...] I made up my mind definitely on one or two fundamental points. I determined: First, that I should at all times be perfectly frank and honest in dealing with each of the three classes of people that I have mentioned; Second, that I should not depend upon any “short-cuts” or expedients merely for the sake of gaining temporary popularity or advantage, whether for the time being such action brought me popularity or the reverse. With these two points clear before me as my creed, I began going forward.” -Booker T. Washington, “My Larger Education,” (1911) 

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson  
   


While one may have great difficulty in successfully appealing to multiple constituents and interests, the surest way to fail at doing so is pandering to the opinions of all. And there is no better blueprint for negotiating the pitfalls of paltry politics and partisanship than to follow Booker T. Washington’s two-part course of action throughout his 34-year Presidency (1881-1915): 1. Speak clearly, frankly and honestly at all times. 2. Though laborious-and often painstaking-let your work speak for itself. “Integrity,” the single greatest 9-letter word, speaks to the former. Consistency in communication across constituencies produces confidence. (For conversations spoken in one arena are bound to be communicated to other arenas, and multiple constituencies will quickly discover inconsistencies and inequity when conversations are compared to one another.) “Purpose,” the single greatest 7-letter word, speaks to Washington’s latter formulation. Persons consumed with purpose have little time for pandering and cronyism because they are consumed with performance. (For, in the end, performance and accomplishment-not political expediency-is the primary currency needed in communication across constituent groups.) Mr. Washington’s signal accomplishments-best evidenced in the past, present and future testament of Tuskegee University-provides the clearest telltale signs of his philosophy’s success. And it was no “short cut.”

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 


Daily word_header“Dear Gen’l [Armstrong]: Soon after our conversation in Phila.[delphia] I arrived here and found a letter announcing that the Misses Mason had given us $7000. Faith [Washington italics] and hard work [Washington italics] I find will accomplish anything. Yours &c” -B.T. Washington, November 26, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

We all tend to misconstrue notions of the importance of “faith” and “hard work.” For some, “faith” is the single most important attribute-absent any personal diligence, integrity, work and sacrifice-all of which is critical to achievement and accomplishment. And, for others, “hard work” is the all-encompassing personal quality that is sufficient for all things achieved in life. However, Mr. Washington suggests that both are required, and our daily lives suggest the same. There are a great many pursuits that we have diligently “worked hard” towards that have simply not yielded expected results. And there are those pursuits where “faith” exercised towards an expressed desire was all that one could do under the circumstances, and it produced unexpected success. (And such “faith” was more times than not unmerited.) All the same, the two qualities listed here in Mr. Washington’s letter-“faith” and “hard work”-are the highest ideals in daily accomplishment leading towards long-term success. For our words of sincere desire must always work together with our works of sincere effort because when daily difficulties push the one, the other stands ready to push back.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary

Daily word_header“Dear Gen’l [Armstrong]: Mr. [Albert] Howe stayed with us 4 days and no one’s visit has done us the real good that his has. His suggestions were valuable and criticisms frank. He has been especially helpful in his suggestions regarding our land and brick works.”  Tuskegee, Alabama, April 29, 1885

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson 

The founding Principal and President of Tuskegee Institute (University) offers here a noteworthy and rare commendation for one Mr. Albert Howe. While it is true what the Greek Historian Plutarch writes concerning friends and acquaintances-“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better”-it is equally true that simply offering a criticism does not make the criticism valuable. Of the many eminent visitors and well wishers-invited or not-that Mr. Washington received at Tuskegee Institute in the first four years of his Presidency, “no one has done [Tuskegee] the real good that [Howe] has.” Mr. Washington states unequivocally that unlike other suggestions that were offered, Mr. Howe’s were “valuable and criticisms frank.” To be sure, uttering a frank criticism was the not the sole characteristic of Howe’s suggestion when a man of Mr. Washington’s position assessed the value of Howe’s recommendations as compared to those of others. Instead, Howe’s suggestions came directly to bear upon how the institution managed two of its most important resources at the time-it’s “land and brick works.” One has to simply pause here to consider the regard Mr. Washington must have held for such a person who after spending “4 days” with him at Tuskegee, was able to be regarded as the single most helpful visit in his early four-year tenure. For it matters not whether the person offering a suggestion deems it valuable, but whether the person who receives the suggestion regards it as valuable.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


 

Daily word_header“As I have said before, I do not regret that I was born a slave. I am not sorry that I found myself part of a problem; on the contrary, that problem has given direction and meaning to my life that has brought me friendships and comforts that I could have gotten in no other way.” -Booker T. Washington, “My Larger Education,” (1911)

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson

Booker T. Washington had more reason than most to decry the circumstances of his upbringing. (For he was born enslaved.) Yet, Mr. Washington’s reference to himself as “part of a problem” was not owing to any intrinsic qualities of his own person. Rather, it was akin to W.E.B. Du Bois’s expression: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.” All the same, the fact that Mr. Washington was born into such a difficult period did not ultimately deter his ambitions; Instead, it fueled them. And this is clearly one of the most singularly important lessons of Mr. Washington’s life and career-long work at Tuskegee Institute (University) evidenced in his most quoted aphorism: “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” For the satisfaction gained in spending one’s life transforming seemingly insurmountable obstacles into long-standing triumph and achievement is, after all, the definition of an overcomer.

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University 
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 
 

Tuskegee University: The Daily Word from Washington with Presidential Commentary


 

Daily word_header“Editor Mail: I take this method of expressing the thanks of the Tuskegee State Normal School to the Magnolia Hook and Ladder Fire Company, colored, of Tuskegee, for their very generous donation of $25 towards the proposed new building.” – B.T. Washington, April 16, 1884     

Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     

Appreciation expressed for donations or services given to Tuskegee Institute (University) in matters both small and great is a recurring theme in Mr. Washington’s correspondence to donors and organizations who contributed to his work. And such a theme speaks profoundly to the notion of stewardship. While supremely important, stewardship is not simply utilizing resources according to the donor’s intentions. Stewardship is also expressing appropriate measures of gratitude when gifts are received. For if one cannot take the time to express gratitude when a gift is received, it is unlikely that one will take the time to steward over the gifts received in a manner consistent with the donor’s wishes. 

Brian L. Johnson, Ph.D.
7th President, Tuskegee University
#TrustTheTuskegeeTrajectory #TrustTheTuskegeeTradition 


Daily word_header"To Fanny Norton Smith Washington] Dear F. I send you a telegram today so you may know where to write. Write me at once. I shall probably stay here till April 1, when I shall come home. Had a fine a[nd] very large meeting here last night. Love to all. Kiss Portia for me. Yours. B.”  -Booker T. Washington, March 22, 1884

 Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson     
  

Although Mr. Washington’s letters and other writings that reference significant historical personages are most often heralded, his domestic letters revealing his role as both husband and father are equally important. Fanny Norton Smith Washington was the founding Principal’s first wife, and their daughter Portia was born in 1883. While the aforementioned note containing but a simple communiqué informing Fanny of his plans and day in Philadelphia, his expression of love and, finally, a request to pass along a kiss to his year-old daughter is compelling, it was his desire to learn what was taking place in the homestead even as he was engaged in the significant work of advancing and developing Tuskegee Institute (University). For more often than not, the care and concern one has for family members and matters within the private sphere of home, reflects the care and concern one will have for one’s constituents and organization in the public sphere.