We live in a world that’s increasingly filled with chaotic problems such as poverty, broken families, racial tensions, and political unrest. It’s not unusual for people who find themselves in such situations to react in one of the following ways:
- Lash out in anger and demand justice.
- Throw in the towel and seek seclusion in a remote bunker.
- Drift through life with a Mr. Magoo attitude, blissfully ignorant of the problems around.
What we often forget, however, is that others encountered many of the same obstacles that we are experiencing today. Take Booker T. Washington, for instance.
Born into slavery, Washington knew first-hand the effects of political unrest, malnourishment, poverty, abuse, and an absent father. He also understood what it was like to fight tooth and nail for a good education. Despite all these problems, Washington persevered and rose to national prominence as an educator, author, and orator.
Washington attributed his success in part to following these seven resolves:
- “To keep in mind that no one ever makes a sacrifice who does every day the simple, plain duty of lifting up the unfortunate.”
- “To do a common thing in an uncommon way.”
- “To do our work so well that it will be a difficult task for anyone to improve upon what we have done.”
- “To live up to the high-water mark of daily duty. Whoever does this will meet with constant unexpected happiness and encouragement.”
- “To keep in mind that service to our fellows will always be our greatest protection, and will bring our greatest happiness.”
- “Remember that the only way to show ourselves superior to others is to excel them in kindlier impulses and more generous deeds.”
- “To realize that the surest way to lift up ourselves, is to lift up someone else.”
Would more of today’s Americans resist the urge toward despair, anger, and discouragement if they adopted Washington’s daily code of conduct?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.