I worry that we live in a culture today where growing numbers of people look outside themselves for success. And when they fail, it’s always someone else’s fault. But the government, your parents, your education, and your job aren’t the key to your success – you are. Whenever I feel my dreams losing steam, I always think of Booker T. Washington. Born a slave in 1858, his childhood years were anything but pleasant. The family’s farm cabin had no glass windows, and any opening to let in light also let in the freezing wind in the winter. The floor of the cabin was dirt. The life of slave was back-breaking work that started before the sun came up and continued long after it went down again. His childhood was also lived out during the Civil War, which created turmoil, fear, and uncertainty in the lives of Southern slaves and added additional pressure to an already hopeless state of affairs.
But in spite of that desperate situation, young Booker dreamed of an education. His goal was learning—real learning. Not just the ability to read a newspaper or dime-store novel, but a desire to learn science, mathematics, history, and more. Years later, working deep in a coal mine, he overheard some of the miners talking about a school five hundred miles away called the Hampton Institute. He immediately decided that one day he would attend the school, in spite of the distance.
His dream simply would not die. As a result, he not only attended the school, but was later asked to lead a new program in Alabama called the Tuskegee Institute. He eventually built Tuskegee into a major college campus with more than fifteen hundred students and a faculty of two hundred professors.
There was not one single thing in Booker T. Washington’s life that helped him except the power of a dream. Starting out he had no money, no education, no training, no influence, and no future. He was just another slave among thousands, with no potential other than living out his life working in obscurity on a forgotten Southern farm.
But the power of his dream opened doors, filled him with motivation, and revealed his true promise. Millions of Americans have been directly touched or indirectly inspired by his story, and this nation is a better place because he never gave up on his dream.
If you feel that your situation is hopeless, just remember Booker T. Washington and start dreaming again.
Your future is up to you. Get on with it.