As I mentioned yesterday, I felt honored to be asked to join the Advisory Council for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Andrew Carnegie (r.) with Booker T. Washington. One reason I feel so honored is because I graduated from C.M.U. with a degree in Civil Engineering, but I’m not [...]
Andrew Carnegie (r.) with
One reason I feel so honored is because I graduated from C.M.U. with a degree in Civil Engineering, but I’m not even doing engineering today. Unless you look at engineering in its broadest sense, as a problem-solving discipline.
Other than that, I’ve done a complete 180° shift since then, one tick at a time.
Or maybe I’ve done a 360, as in, what goes around comes around. Things do be comin’ back around.
When I was in college I had no idea about the history of the Black Fives Era. Then, to my pleasant surprise, I began to realize how important Pittsburgh was in that history. Then I began to appreciate Napoleon Hill’s classic book Think And Grow Rich, which derives back to Andrew Carnegie, who founded Carnegie Tech, which later became C.M.U.
Then I began to understand the immense role Carnegie played in helping support and sustain Tuskegee Institute and Booker T. Washington, as well as other black colleges and African American causes. Which ties directly back to the Black Fives Era.
This is what Carnegie said about Washington in 1903, the same year he gave $600,000 (about $400 million today) to be used for Tuskegee’s endowment fund as well as for a life income for Washington and his wife:
To me he seems one of the greatest of living men, because his work is unique, the modern Moses, who leads his race and lifts it through education to even better and higher things than a land overflowing with milk and honey. History is to tell of two Washingtons, one white, the other black — both fathers of their people.
How could a brother have known? :-)
(Well, I’m guessing most Tuskegee grads probably know this.)
When I attended C.M.U., the tuition was $6,600. That was a lot of money back then, and it is today. The way I paid for it was with student loans, financial aid, summer jobs, and an annual grant of $500 from my high school back home.
Since I had to pay my own way, and pay off that loan too, I assumed that everyone else was in the same situation. I assumed that everyone else must also really want to be there!
So I could never understand why some of my classmates used to complain so much. Didn’t they choose to be there? To me that was like making it to the N.B.A. and then complaining, why I gotta dribble, pass, and shoot so much? I couldn’t figure that out, so I always just applied myself and didn’t think or worry a whole lot about what would happen next.
I always appreciated Andrew Carnegie’s motto for the university, which is inscribed in some of the buildings on campus: “My heart is in the work.”
All these years later I’m finally beginning to realize what he meant.
Carnegie with Washington and other gentlemen visiting Tuskegee circa 1900, including Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University.
By the way, according to a new biography, although Carnegie was a little fella at 5 feet tall, he was so not like Napoleon … but while we’re on that, Booker T. wasn’t exactly jump-ball material either, was he?
Here are some more of Carnegie’s words of wisdom, these from his book, The Gospel Of Wealth:
I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself. Exalted beyond this, as it sometimes is, it remains Caliban still and still plays the beast. My aspirations take a higher flight. Mine be it to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.
Also, here’s the man himself speaking, courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh:
If you can’t quite understand this ancient recording, read along below:
I quote from “The Gospel of Wealth”, published 25 years ago: This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth: first, to set an example of modest unostentatious living, shunning display; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and, after doing so, to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds which he is strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community.
So, all this got me wondering something, and makes me want to bring this around again, full circle … 360° if you will.
How does Carnegie’s wisdom apply to modern day big-money athletes and celebrities? Can they learn something, when too many seem to keep unraveling or going broke?
Think about that for a minute.
Meanwhile, I’m gonna stay on this Carnegie theme tomorrow. He’s a dude is worth knowing about.
(Photographs courtesy of Getty Images and Corbis.)