By David Williams
Someone once said, “What the mind can conceive and the heart can believe, man can achieve.”
I believe that statement to be true. The mind can be a very powerful tool. It was due to this belief that I once took a group of high school students to visit various colleges throughout our state. As we toured each campus they were able to meet with college students and staff members. I watched and listened to the students’ questions and hoped that the experience was creating in them a desire to become great.
As we visited and listened to each presentation, a common theme emerged. The presenters, in many cases were individuals who had come from small counties in our state. Some were the first in their family to attend college. One presenter shared with the students all the countries he had seen during in military career. He expressed amazement that a small-town country boy like himself could have had the opportunity to do so much and travel so far.
Our final stop was Tuskegee University. As we arrived on campus, we noticed a huge statue. Our tour guide explained to the students its meaning. The statue displayed Booker T. Washington Lifting the Veil of Ignorance. It was here that our theme found its stride and climax. After the Civil War, the newly-freed slaves were without direction and education. It was out of this setting that Booker T. Washington, a former slave, established Tuskegee Institute. In many cases, slaves weren’t allowed to read or write. It was feared that an educated slave would be a discontent slave. Booker T. Washington believed that by teaching African-Americans a trade that they could use their skills to prove their worth to society. During the formative years of the college, the students built their own buildings, forged their own bricks and eventually the campus had its own power supply. Tuskegee students were taught self-reliance and independence. Once the veil was lifted, they discovered that they could do great things.
If newly-freed slaves could accomplish so much during turbulent times before the civil rights movement and when Jim Crowism was at its strongest, shouldn’t we be able to remove the veils of ignorance today? There is no comparison to the opportunities afforded today’s youth, and yet it seems the desire to be great is lacking somehow. The Marines don’t like to lose ground. It doesn’t matter how small the gained ground is; they would rather hold that inch, foot, or yard then to go backward.
That should be our educational philosophy – to press forward and not retreat. In order for that to occur, each generation must understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by those who came before them. They must understand that for our nation to endure, everyone must accept the responsibility and stewardship required to keep our nation great. It has been said, “The human mind, once expanded, never returns to its former dimensions.” We must strive to remove that veil of ignorance, whenever it manifest, for the greater good of all.
Contact David Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.