Category Archives: Commentary

A Day In the Life

It’s been a productive and interesting day, for sure.

I woke up, as usual, in a darkened parking lot, this time, not far from a MacDonald’s.
At the other end was Planet Fitness, my “shower, shave and workout” location of choice.
Off to Starbucks to recharge the batteries in my Macbook, iPhone and me.
Then to a library to work on paperwork and avail myself of their printer before going off to speak with middle school administrators to talk about Booker T. Clubs.

An enjoyable lunch at the Columbia West Rotary Club provided me with an opportunity to share my mission with a couple of members who kindly pointed me int the directions of “folks I need to meet”.
So off to meet the Pastor at Brookland Baptist Church, a 4,500 member congregation.
He was not in, but with the initial contact made, I’ll follow up later.

Next, to visit with Earl Brown, Jr., the Deputy District Director (and Rotarian) of a US Congressman.
It turned out, he was associated with the Booker T. Washington Foundation of Columbia SC!
These are the remaining members of Columbia’s BTW HS.
Years ago, it was absorbed by the University of South Carolina when it expanded and was ultimately torn down. He informed me its bricks were re-used (BTW would have been proud!) to form a “Horseshoe” and special walkways at USC.
He was especially proud that the BTW HS trained so many in industrial arts, and instilled character in all.

He promised to put me in touch with the Foundation’s leaders so that to further explore their forming a Chapter of the BTW Society.

But my day wasn’t done.

At Applebee’s I joined folks at the bar for some good natured banter and… lo and behold!
A person I had met three days earlier at MacDonald’s walked up and introduced me to his family! He will introduce me to his daughter’s middle school principal today.

Last note: Before I left, Jennifer mentioned I would find several lovely ladies along the way.
Well, she was right! Here’s me with Chico Power’s youngest daughter.

It doesn’t get any better than this!

Best, Ron

Trip, continued

by Ronald Court

      After New Haven on Thursday, it was on to Harlem in New York City to meet a man who happened on our website several months ago. He discovered the Booker T. Way then and has been championing it among friends and acquaintances ever since.
      He even stood up at his co-op meeting to read an editorial I had written that posed the question, “Is there a need for a Black History Month?” here.
      As he read the opening paragraphs aloud, some hasty listeners jumped to the conclusion that it (and he) were ‘against’ BTM and nearly caused a riot.
      So I was very much looking forward to meeting Mr. Herman Amos, a gentleman who risked his own safety to promote the Booker T. Way. He had even kindly taken the day off from work to show me around town.
      First stop of the day, The NY Public Library’s Schomburg Library on Malcolm X Blvd., up by 135th street in Harlem. To get a grounding in African-American (AA) history, this is a good place to start, …except that references to Booker T. Washington were notably absent. I hope to change that, but this is (at least momentarily) Charlie Rangel country, a man who represents (if anything other than his own self-interest) just about everything Booker T. Washington does not.
      Let’s be clear, Booker T. spoke to economic independence and good character, whereas “Representative” Rangel, long under investigation by the Ethics Committee, is a poster child for government dependence. I noticed a campaign sign in a store window that aptly sums up his strategy and perspective: “Charlie Rangel. He delivers.” It’s all about taking, not empowering.
      So there he was, Herman Amos, my guide for the day to NYC, and much more. I discovered “Striver’s Row” a street of elegant brownstones occupied by folks who clearly were enjoying the better life. Then on to the Abysinnian Baptist Church, built by Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee-trained students, and about whom its famous preacher, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. wrote a testimony to Booker T.’s educational philosophy here.
      From there to Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace and finally, to meet Mr. Hector Torres, a gentlemen about to be the first charter member and leader of the Booker T. Club of New York City. Another outstanding individual (introduced by Mr. Amos to the Booker T. Way), and a man who put himself through college, built a career, and has gone on to exercise his entrepreneurial abilities by forming his own security training organization, an ideal candidate for forming and leading a Booker T. Club.
      I’m looking forward to working with Mr. Torres and Mr. Amos as they develop the Booker T. Club of New York City to encourage and equip young Americans to live, learn and lead the Booker T. Way.

Booker T Washington for the Nobel Peace Prize

Think about it.
The 14th Dalai Lama received the Nobel in 1989. He led 2.6 million – but lives in exile.
The Dalai Lama’s philosophy (meaning of life): “To be happy and useful.”

Booker T. led over 3 million – and never exiled himself.
Booker T’s philosophy was to live a useful life and overcoming adversity.

Of course he won’t get it. But he deserved it nevertheless.

Too Many People Go To College

Issues & Views Editor Elizabeth D. Wright has graciously allowed us to reprise timeless articles from her Newsletter. This article suggests that it’s time to reconsider the benefits of a practical, entrepreneurial education.

by Leon Podles

Despite today’s worship of the college credential, most real wealth in our society is still gained not through education and the professions but through entrepreneurial activity. Higher education as it now exists in America simply doesn’t develop the qualities of initiative and aggressiveness necessary to succeed in business. Often it undermines them.

American education can be particularly inhospitable to males. Patricia Sexton in The Feminized Male shows how energetic and assertive boys are punished because they cannot function in classrooms taught by women wl assume that the quiet, non-physical behavior of a girl is the only type prop to school. Active boys consequently often do poorly in school. This is an especially massive problem in America inner cities, where the boys grow t with fewer civilizational restraints c their innate male natures.

Few of these overactive boys will ever become great successes in a world of conventional academic schooling They could excel and become productive citizens, however, if directed instead toward work, practical vocation and business. Consider that when teacher describes a student as aggressive or physically active, she is saying he is a problem. But if a businessman or trades employer describes a worker as aggressive, he is paying a compliment.
The most aggressive boys have always gone into business. Today, the poor ones often end up dealing drugs.

Boys who go the legitimate route, however, can end up being very productive indeed. In 1995, the U.S. Trust Company surveyed a sample of America’s biggest earners and found that less than half of them had completed college, while 29% never went at all. Instead of learning to conform to academic expectations, they were out adding value, making products, and earning money—in ways that are not taught in schools today.

(from: I & V summer ’95; orig: American Enterprise: Sep/Oct, ’95)

Black History Month – Yadda Yadda

by Ronald Court

When famous soprano Leontyne Price was hailed by an opera critic as, “perhaps the greatest black opera singer of all time, ” she responded with, “What’s black got to do with it?”

Exactly.

Her fierce dedication, discipline, training and hard work – in a word, her character – not color,  defined her.

Yet news & feature editors around the country today are still rummaging through their archives for old columns to recycle in commemoration of February as “Black History Month.”

Expect articles on the usual suspects:  Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr., and my favorite, Booker T. Washington. Still, it seems a bit patronizing to ‘commemorate’ one month in twelve to a few famous people who happen to be of a particular race.

Maybe it’s time to emphasize color less and character more.

According to John Adams, the American Revolution occurred in the hearts and minds of the American people years long before shots were fired at Concord and Lexington. He saw the War for Independence as merely an “effect and a consequence” of the real American Revolution.

Similarly, the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is merely the “effect and a consequence” of changes that occurred in the hearts and minds of people over several years (decades) leading up to the election. Note also that Michael Steele, a black American, was just elected to lead the Republican Party. Both events underscore that America has at last entered a post-racial age.

It is not how we look, but how we live that defines us.

Maybe it’s time to emphasize color less and character more.

Though Dr. King’s dream that people not be judged on the basis of color has been realized, his dream had a second part: that people be judged on the content of their character. In this, he echoed the practical vision and teachings of Booker T. Washington. When it comes to character, Booker T. wrote the book. Literally. His book, “Character Building,” a compilation of Sunday evening talks he gave to Tuskegee students is online and free for download at www.BTWsociety.
Sadly, much of Dr. Washington’s timeless wisdom and plain advice has been ignored by too many for too long. And we all, to one degree or another, suffer the consequences.

If, as WEB DuBois wrote a century ago, “the problem of the twentieth century (was) the problem of the color line,” what will be the problem of the twenty-first century?
The economy? Terrorism? Global warming? Political corruption? Reasonable people may differ as to the degree one presents a more “clear and present danger” than another. But these terms merely describe the effect and consequences – not the cause – of the actions taken by multitudes of individuals.
Each of these problems have at their root, a failure of character by individuals.  Thus, the problem of the twenty-first century will likely be the problem of the ‘character line.’

If the solution to the problem of the color line lay in emphasizing civil rights, I humbly suggest that the solution to the problem of the character line will lay in emphasizing personal responsibility.
Rather than “black history month,” why not, say, “character month?” Though the temptation to have government attempt to change society from the top down will always be with us, history shows that the slower way, by changing the hearts and minds of men and women from the inside out is the only true, lasting way.

This is real hope and change we can believe in.

Sobering Statistics for the New Year

By Ronald Court

Only six hours into the new year, Chicago has its first of several hundred annual homicides. Preliminary police records indicate that in 2008, there were 508 Chicago homicides, up from 442 in 2007.

Those numbers don’t speak very highly of the twenty-years of work as Chicago’s vaunted “community-organizer,” soon to be our nation’s President. We sincerely pray that he does better with the vastly more difficult responsibilities he will assume in his new job.

He might consider the lessons taught by an earlier ‘community organizer’ with a far better track record, even while operating under the view of hateful white racists as well as resentful black racialists. Like Barack Obama, Booker T. spoke eloquently and inspired millions, but he placed little faith in government to ‘do the right thing’ – at least for that times’ near and intermediate future. Rather, he exhorted his audience to develop practical skills and improve their conduct in ways that ultimately, he foresaw, would be recognized and valued. History has shown that his approach works.

He spoke out against and tracked lynching rates, which brings me back to Chicago’s homicides, To put it in perspective, the most lynchings ever recorded in one year (1892) was two-hundred thirty (230). Of these, 69 were white, 161 were black. Nationwide. Adjust for population today and control for black-on black homicides, and lynching pales.

In these few weeks before his inauguration, Barack Obama would do well to learn to emulate the life and methods of fellow ‘community organizer,’ Booker T. Washington.

A Glaring Omission

By Ronald Court

On Christmas Day, George Will wrote of a “Small Successful Government Program“ that purports to tell America’s story through some forty American works of art – primarily paint and sculpture. However, Mr. Will failed to note a glaring omission of this otherwise commendable governmental effort.

Yet again, as with so many liberal interpretations of American History, Booker T. Washington is treated virtually as a footnote–and controversial at that, for how else would interpreters of American History find a place to interject WEB DuBois in it? The fact is, the only notable role Du Bois plays in our history today is only as a footnote to Dr. Booker T. Washington’s significant, productive and immensely more constructive one. Indeed, if not for Washington, DuBois arguably, would have been dismissed and forgotten decades ago.
A Ladder For Booker T. Washington (1995)

Herewith is my comment to George Will’s article:
“Any attempt to tell “America’s Story” by “Picturing America” in forty or so images is bound to omit a significant chapter or two.

However, selecting Puryear’s 1995 sculpture “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” does this country’s “other great American named Washington” a disservice.

A better, more instructive and evocative sculpture would have been “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” (below) sculpted by Charles Keck in 1922.

“Liftting the Veil of Ignorance”

The opportunity to engage students in discussion over differing viewpoints on Dr. Washington’s role in advancing civil rights, given the time and place of Dr. Washington’s efforts, would still be there without reducing Dr. Washington’s legacy to an abstraction that some choose to misinterpret as a ladder leading nowhere.

That American historians have accorded the honor of naming an era (1895-1915) “The Booker T Washington Era” should have clued the designers of this program into BTW’s positive impact on American history. Booker T. deserves much better.

Achievers are Not Robber Barons

By Reggie Jones (Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of the BTWS).

It’s that time again, and I am frustrated. Politicians are heading into the home stretch, blathering nonsense about a segment of society to which we owe more than any other. They and their sycophantic pundits parade their bigotry with inflammatory rhetoric that turns especially virulent as we approach the culmination of an election cycle.

The code phrase for this class-oriented bigotry is, “the rich.” It’s wielded by leftists who just can’t stand the most productive members of society. Their vitriol is never directed at Marxist dictators or criminal elements. Rather, it is directed at the real public servants, people I call “achievers.” Just two examples: former House Leader Dick Gephardt referred to achievers as “the rich and the lucky.” And more recently, Sen. John Edwards, a former presidential wannabe, just couldn’t stop talking about “two Americas.”
Well, at least one of those, ummm, ‘Americas’ shut that randy dandy up.

Achievers risk time and money to invent, improve and provide things that can and do make our lives better. Each of us is free to choose whether to reward them for the fruits of their labor or not. This is a fundamental tenet of capitalism – a system in which everybody can be winners.

But politicians just don’t get it. Why not? Because they live in another world. A world in which the name of the game is zero-sum – for each politician who is a winner, there must be a loser. The pool of winners cannot grow. The more “experienced” at winning a politician gets, the less he or she can fathom the potential of a ‘win-win’ situation. From their perspective, if the rich get richer, then surely, the poor must be getting poorer.

Suppose achievers became quitters after experiencing their first failure. Suppose they chose not to risk and endure the agony of failure and rejection time and again until they (hopefully) hit pay dirt. That is, until creating or doing something the world wants enough to pay for.

These are real American heroes, but there are no monuments in Washington to them.

Instead of textbooks labeling them as “robber barons” what if young people were inspired with the wisdom of Booker T. Washington who said, “…Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome while trying to succeed.”

The Exact Moment I became an American

By Ronald Court.
It was 11:35 in the morning, seven years ago today, September 11, 2001. As I was driving home – classes at the local college where I taught were cancelled for the day – I found myself muttering, then loudly with determination, “I am not French-Canadian, I am an American, dammit , just as I turned off Route 15 to head towards a local flag shop.
Even then, so soon after we had been attacked, a few others were already ahead of me, purchasing U.S. flags in a shared spontaneous impulse to explicitly demonstrate our love of country, come hell or high water.
It occurs to me, as an American (of French-Canadian descent) that the age of hyphenation is over – or should be. It has done little to bring us together, and may contribute to keeping us apart. This is not so say we must set aside differences and disagreements. Indeed, entirely within the spirit of being an American is to celebrate each individual’s freedom to disagree.
Ever since the founding of the Booker T. Washington Society, I’ve refrained from using the term African-American. To my mind, it does more to divide than to define. As fellow Americans, our legitimate struggles are over values, not external characteristics.
Booker T. Washington never lost sight that his role was to improve the people of his race. He did not see alienation as advantageous to anyone’s interests.
So, don’t expect to find “African-American” bandied about on this site. If necessary, you’ll see “black” instead.
Which reminds me, can you tell me which of the two in the photograph below is African-American, and which is American?
A-A photo

Racism in America Today

By Reggie Jones (Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of the BTWS).

For some supporters of Barak Obama, his loss could be their gain. That realization came to me while reading a recent column by Slate.com’s Jacob Weisberg. Mr. Weisberg declares flatly that the only reason Barak Obama could lose the election to John McCain would be (white) racism. Oh?

Weisberg did not express an opinion regarding racism by blacks as evidenced by the 90% of blacks favoring Obama over McCain. Imagine the psychological effect a defeat by Obama would have on a majority of blacks. In that event, while “the masses” mourn, I suspect some will privately rejoice even as they publicly express anger and profess solidarity with the masses.

An Obama defeat could be manna from heaven for this select group, having built lucrative careers as easily-offended race hustlers. They will claim that an Obama defeat is irrefutable proof that America is, and will continue to be, inherently racist. They will claim that they alone are qualified to determine the path to progress for blacks. In doing so, they will seek to continue to entrench themselves in the hearts and minds of blacks as necessary to their survival.

They have been effective in shaking down Corporate America and demanding ever more racial spoils to compensate for trumped-up “offenses.” Jesse Lee Peterson noted as much in his well-documented book,
Scam: How Black Leadership Exploits Black America. An Obama loss would allow these “leaders” to continue feigning righteous indignation over the new “proof” that nothing has changed. One can almost hear Chicago’s other famous reverend crying, “Selma, Selma” in the aftermath.

Still, we can expect the Obama candidacy to be widely promoted with solemn pronouncements about its historic significance for America. But what will really matter to some, I suspect, is the potential significance it holds for their bottom line.

Sadly, this is not new. It’s been going on since Reconstruction, as Booker T. Washington noted over a century ago. “There is class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public…Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.