“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray...”
I love Morehouse. I really do. Morehouse remains the single best decision you’ve led me to. This is why, despite my personal misgivings or indignation over the fact that the college has yet to right an injurious administrative error (and the collateral damage the college’s special investigative committee — led by my former divisional dean and former provost — concluded, over 4 years ago, that the administration had a special responsibility to rectify), I’ve taken every opportunity to quietly “pay it forward” with my time, talent, and treasure to support a consequential mission so much bigger than me or any single individual.
Indeed, as you know best, instead of suing the college (armed with a written admission of fault and the continued encouragement from several past and current administrators familiar with the matter), I led the 5-year effort to secure President Obama as commencement speaker (initially as a student, then as an alumnus — since Obama surrogates, in receipt of our appeal, told us during his first term that he would come, if re-elected, in his second term — and I readily welcomed the fact that the cause was bigger than my class) — a dream realized on Sunday, May 19, 2013, with over 4,000 media hits and record-breaking donations; and I’ve given and secured more checks for the college, than perhaps any other member of my generation.
Even as hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s gathered on a college campus in Charlottesville this time last month to violently broadcast the antebellum-esque claim that “White Lives Matter,” I took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard to help Boston Alumni Chapter President Wilton Baker and committee pull-off our inaugural 3-day “House on the Vineyard” fundraiser (culminating in a sold-out event that honored Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree H‘11 and counted Morehouse trustees, Morehouse Interim President Martin, and Morehouse luminaries like Spike Lee, Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins, and Atlanta City Council President and Mayoral Candidate Ceasar Mitchell among its attendees) to support the education of the 600-plus newly-minted Morehouse College freshmen — most low on funds but high in potential — and nonviolently declare that Black Lives and Minds Matter!
Again, I really do love Morehouse.
And it's easy to understand why. For 150 years, by your grace, her name and her sons have been synonymous with impact. This has been the case from the college’s first black president, John Hope, who helped to found the Niagara Movement which birthed the NAACP, to “The Schoolmaster of the Civil Rights Movement,” the college’s sixth and most-iconic president, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays.
There’s the Moses generation of alumni — men like Mordecai Wyatt Jonhson ‘11, the first black president of Howard University; Howard Thurman ‘23, the internationally respected theologian and thought-leader who pumped the theological lifeblood of radical nonviolence into the Civil Rights Movement; James M. Nabrit ‘23, prominent civil rights attorney, second black president of Howard, and first African American appointed Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations; Dr. Samuel M. Nabrit ‘25, the first African American appointed to what is now the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; our most prominent alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘48, the leading spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Robert E. Johnson ‘48, former associate publisher and editor of JET magazine; Lerone Bennett Jr. ‘49, former executive editor of Ebony magazine, historian, and one of the most successful black authors of the twentieth century; Judge Horace T. Ward ‘49, Georgia’s first black federal judge; Walter J. Leonard, architect of Harvard University’s model affirmative-action program; former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jerome Farris ‘51; Morehouse School of Medicine founder and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis Sullivan ‘54; Babatunde Olatunji ‘54, Grammy Award winning Nigerian drummer, recording artist, educator, and social activist; former Atlanta Mayor, Maynard Jackson ‘56, first black mayor of a major city in the South; Donn Clendenon ‘56, Mets first baseman, 1969 World Series MVP, and general counsel for the Interstate Audit Corporation; Dr. John H. Hopps Jr. ‘58, former director of the division of materials sciences at the National Science Foundation and Deputy Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Defense; Morehouse President Emeritus, Dr. Walter E. Massey ‘58, Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, chair of the Board of Directors of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, former Chairman of Bank of America, former UCLA Provost, former director of both the National Science Foundation and Argonne National Laboratory, and former Dean of the College at Brown University; Dr. Donald R. Hopkins ‘62, dubbed “The Man Who Kills Disease” for saving the lives of millions in his leading role eradicating two of the twentieth century’s most horrific diseases, smallpox and Guinea worm disease; Chester Davenport ‘63, successful entrepreneur and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Dr. David Satcher ‘63, 16th Surgeon General of the U.S. and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; former Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Herbert E. Phipps ‘64; Julius Coles ‘64, foreign service veteran, former President of Africare and former USAID Mission Director; Howard Zehr ‘66, “the grandfather of restorative justice”; UNCF President and CEO, Dr. Michael Lomax ‘68; Howard Jeter ‘70, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State for West African Affairs, and the President’s Special Envoy for Liberia; and former NAACP Chairman and civil rights legend, Julian Bond ‘71.
Then there’s the Joshua generation of Morehouse Men who are standing on the wall today — cultural icons, influencers, and entertainers like Samuel L. Jackson ‘72 (the highest-grossing actor of all time), Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses ‘78, directors and producers Spike Lee ‘79 and Sieth Mann ‘95, slam poet and musician Saul Williams ‘94, the late Shakir Stewart ‘96 (who ran the hottest music label in the world, Def Jam, and is responsible for introducing Jay-Z to Beyoncé and credited for finding such acts as Beyoncé, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and Ciara), Grammy-nominated gospel artists Canton Jones ‘85 and Byron Cage ‘87; medical mavens like Dr. Roderic Pettigrew ‘72 (who is leading the revolution to transform how flu, and potentially other vaccines, will be delivered), Dr. James Sirleaf ‘83, and Dr. Corey Herbert ‘92; public theologians like Dr. Calvin Butts ‘72, President Emeritus Dr. Robert M. Franklin ‘75, Dr. Harold D. Trulear ‘75, Dr. Raphael G. Warnock ‘91, Dr. Otis Moss III ‘92, Dr. Delman Coates ‘95, and Harvard Pastor Dr. Jonathan Walton ‘96; public servants and political savants like immediate past U.S. Homeland Security Secretary (and hero of the “Dont Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal) Jeh Johnson ‘79, Jim Shelton ‘89 (former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education), Bermuda Deputy Premier Walter Roban ‘90, Atlanta City Council President and Mayoral Candidate Ceasar Mitchell ‘91, Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond ‘95, Fred S. Humphries Jr. ‘83 (Corporate VP of U.S. Government Affairs for Microsoft), and political analyst Jamal Simmons ‘93; judges and legal giants like L.A. Superior Court Judge Michael D. Carter ‘86, former Fulton County (GA) Superior Court Judge Michael D. Johnson ‘90, Jefferson County (KY) Circuit Judge Olu A. Stevens ‘92, Palm Beach County (FL) Circuit Judge Bradley Harper ‘99, Reed Smith LLP executive committee member and prominent trial Attorney A. Scott Bolden ‘84, National Bar Association President Juan R. Thomas ‘92, Golden State Warriors General Counsel David Kelly ‘96, history-making social engineer and Harvard College Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan ‘89 (my mentor and hero, who has not only made history as Harvard’s first African-American Faculty Dean, but who was also invited last year to give a TED talk — which recently made the front page of ted.com, where it’s been trending with 500,000 views and counting — on the news that he won the release of more wrongfully incarcerated individuals — over 6,000 or 3-times the historic amount of individuals granted clemency by President Obama — than anyone in U.S. History, dealing “the biggest blow to mass incarceration”), University of Virginia Law Professor A. Benjamin Spencer ‘96, and fellow academicians Dr. Robert E. Johnson ‘82, Dr. Eddie S. Glaude ‘89, Dr. Kevin Rome ‘89, Dr. Norm Jones ‘96, Dr. Marc A. Johnson ‘98, and Dr. Hakim J. Lucas ‘99; sultans of Silicon Valley like Dr. Emmet D. Carson ‘81 and Dr. Paul Judge ‘98; leading business brokers like Cyril Turner ‘83, Shaka Rasheed ‘93, Reginald E. Davis ‘84, Lamell McMorris ‘95, Ted Colbert ‘96, Dwight James ‘96, Roderick Hardamon ‘97, Otey Smith ‘98, Rob Rumley ‘98, and E. “Robbie” Robinson ‘98.
Indeed, with your divine wind at our backs, dear God, the Morehouse mark on the world has been indelible.
And even now, there’s a rising David generation of Morehouse Men — with rising cultural influencers like Brandon ‘00 and Jason ‘02 Dirden, Stephen Rider ‘01, Geoff Bennett ‘02, Steven Victor ‘02, PJ Morton ‘03, Bryan Tyree Henry ‘04, Nathaniel “Nate Wonder” Irvin III ‘03, George Peters ‘03, Charles “Chuck Lightning” Joseph ‘04 and Mikael Moore ‘04 of Wondaland Arts Society, Ben Jones ‘05, John David Washington ‘06, Carlos Simon ‘08, Julius Pryor IV and Marttise Hill ‘10, Jarred E. Hill ‘10, recent “The Root 100”-honoree Vann Newkirk II ‘10, Donovan Ramsey ‘10, Mark Anthony Green ‘10, Gerren Gaynor ‘11, Stefon Bristol ‘11, Rahmell Peebles ‘11, Jireh Holder ‘12, Stephen W. Love Jr. ‘12 (a producer of the P&G ad that sparked a national conversation), Cameron “Cam Kirk” Kirkland ‘11, Vincent Berry II ‘13, and Geoffrey Golden ‘15; servant-leaders like Curtis Valentine ‘00, Dr. Blair Hayes ‘00, Ronald Newman ‘01, Morehouse Interim President Harold Martin Jr. ‘02, Shaun King ‘02, Scott Roberts ‘03, Birmingham (AL) Mayoral Candidate Randall L. Woodfin ‘03, Bakari Sellers ‘05, Arthur Turner II ‘05, Aubrey Hooper ‘05, Quinn Rallins ‘08, Courtney English ‘07, Edward Mitchell ‘09, Sebastian Mark-Ridley Thomas ‘09, Terrence Woodbury ‘09, Shannon Hardin ‘09, Chris Preston ‘11, Segun Idowu ‘12, Anré Washington ‘13, and foreign service officers Chuk Nwadibia ‘11 and Cameron Thomas-Shah ‘11; legal stars like Dane County (WI) Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell ‘00, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dash Cooper ‘01 and Jonathan J. C. Grey ‘04, Google Public Policy & Government Affairs Counsel (and former Associate Counsel to President Obama) Albert Sanders ‘01, Walmart Associate General Counsel Robert Williams ‘02, Charlotte Hornets Assistant General Counsel Marcus Labeouf ‘03, Deutsche Bank Vice President (Asset and Wealth Management Compliance) Jason Spears ‘04, 7-Eleven General Counsel Dawud J. Crooms Sr. ‘04, Tesla Counsel Jarrod F. Loadholt ‘05, Wells Fargo Senior Counsel (Enterprise Services Division) Nicholas A. Austin ‘06, Attorney Chad Mance ‘09, NBC Universal Director of Business & Legal Affairs (TV & New Media Distribution) Baron Ojogho ‘10, and Attorneys Derrick A. Davis Jr. ‘12, Jonathan M. Wall ‘12, and Leland S. Shelton ‘13; business insiders like Morgan Stanley First Vice-President Daryl C. Diggs ‘00, Goldman Sachs Senior Engineer and Vice-President Warner Pinchback III ‘01, InterContinental Hotels Group Global Vice-President (Holiday Inn Brand Family) Maurice Cooper ‘01, eBay Vice-President & Chief Diversity Officer Damien Hooper-Campbell ‘02, National Basketball Retired Players Association President & CEO Scott Rochelle ‘03, Liberty Bank & Trust Co. Vice-President Todd McDonald ‘03, UnderArmour Senior Global Brand Manager (Basketball) Christian Grant-Fields ‘05, Microsoft Ventures Partner Elliott Robinson ‘06, Starbucks Cold Coffee Product Manager Nicholas Sneed ‘06, McKinsey & Co. Engagement Manager Christopher Hollins ‘07, Nike Global Brand Director (Nike Direct) Shannon Joyner ‘08; HalfSmoke DC Owner Andre McCain ‘08, RLJ Equity Partners Senior Associate James Moss Jr. ‘11, Harvard Business School Master’s Candidate & Chris Bosh Mentor (NBA Crossover Into Business Program) Justin Major ‘11, Vanderbilt School of Management Master’s Candidate & SGA President Cleon Rice ‘11, and NID Group Managing Broker and Third Story Capital Managing Director Aty Biswese ‘12; tech entrepreneurs like Lekan Bashua ‘02, Jason Crain ‘09, Chad Sanders ‘10, Michael Streete ‘11, Michael Westbrooks II ‘12, and Scooter Taylor ‘15; rising prophets like Reverends Ernest Brooks ‘05, Julian DeShazier ‘05, Brandon T. Crowley ‘08, Willie D. Francois III ‘09, Nyle Fort ‘11, Rashad Moore ‘12, Reggie Sharpe ‘13, Stephen Green ‘14, and Devon Crawford ‘15; servant-academicians like Dr. James Hill ‘04, Gregory Davis ‘10, Dr. Kenneth Skinner ‘11, and Dr. Jonathan Collins ‘11; Rhodes Scholars Tope Folarin ‘04 and Prince Abudu ‘16; budding social engineers like Ronald Stubblefield ‘12, Rodney J. Walker ‘12, Winzell Steele ‘13, Derrius Quarles ‘13, and Nathan Jones ‘14; medical luminaries like Dr. Andre Matthews ‘00, Dr. William Humphries III ‘01, Dr. Darrell Gray II ‘02, Luke Yancy, and Kevin L. Anderson; all-stars like Earl Cooper ‘11, Stephen R. Stafford II ‘15, and hundreds of others (who a quick perusal of WeAreMorehouse.com or random sampling of young black men serving and excelling in communities across the nation will yield) — who grow taller with each new endeavor in order to someday reach the crown that Morehouse places above their heads.
Indeed, this is why critically acclaimed New York Times Columnist David Brooks recently highlighted Morehouse in his column:
"It's...important to have an idiosyncratic local culture. Too many colleges, for example, feel like one another. But the ones that really leave a mark on their students (St. John's, Morehouse, Wheaton, the University of Chicago) have the courage to be distinct. You can love or hate such places. But when you meet a graduate you know it, and when they meet each other, even decades hence, they know they have something important in common."
Such is the sacred mission that you have ordained for our college, dear God: Morehouse takes boys — who, as products of their environment, are largely conformed to the ways of the world — and transforms them into nonconformists who disrupt the status quo as model men of excellence and servant-leadership.
However, despite having to do more with less; despite having to produce Ivy League results with HBCU (Historically Black College or University) or MSI (Minority Serving Institution) resources and challenges, you’ve blessed us to attain the distinctive hallmarks that make us a rare, if not invaluable, jewel on the national collegiate landscape:
- One of just a few HBCUs ranked in the top tier of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report
- Top baccalaureate-origin school for black male doctorate recipients across all fields and STEM doctorate recipients (first for science, computer science, and math; tenth for engineering), according to the National Science Foundation
- Top baccalaureate-origin school for black male doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges
- The Wall Street Journal has ranked us among the “Top 50 Feeder Schools” for the nation’s elite graduate and professional schools
- Forbes ranks us the top 5th “most entrepreneurial college,” or origin school, in the nation for business owners and founders
- Forbes also ranks us among the “10 Great Schools” in the nation for Networking (a value that can’t be overstated, given the fact that success largely depends on the access to and quality of mentors)
- A top baccalaureate-origin school for black male lawyers and judges, according to the Law School Admissions Council (note: 50% of black lawyers, and 80% of black judges are HBCU grads)
- A world-class debate program: 1st place international title and 5th most successful debate team in the nation
- A top school for “do-gooders”: ranked by Newsweek as 1 of the top “25 Most Service-Minded Schools” in the nation
Then there’s the fact that black graduates of HBCUs tend to prosper more (across metrics) than black graduates of other institutions, according to a recent Gallup study (the most comprehensive study of its sort to date).
And it’s precisely this value proposition — the quality of our alumni and the quantity of our distinctive hallmarks — that constitute the Morehouse Mystique and make us, as President Emeritus Franklin reminds us, the International Headquarters for Black Male Excellence.
But at a time when the unique mission of Morehouse College has never been more critical, the unfulfilled promise of our last president, coupled with the tabloid-esque journalism and Morehouse Board fumbles that surrounded his dismissal, combined with the recent sudden death of our beloved interim president to unceremoniously mar the otherwise jubilant occasion of our sesquicentennial.
Nevertheless, instead of "cursing the darkness" today, I choose to follow the idiosyncratic Morehouse ethic of "lighting a candle." I just pray, dear God, that this light, this public prayer, shines bright enough for both the trustees of Morehouse and a few good-hearted billionaires to see.
A Prayer for Morehouse Trustees
At a time when democracy itself is under assault, the landmark achievements of the Civil Rights Movement are on life support (with mass incarceration representing a de facto reversal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the second-class citizenship it aimed to eliminate with more African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850 — a trend that, as I wrote 4 years ago, if we don’t radically reverse in short order, will have us shamefully noting the monumental irony of making the racial caste system of Apartheid in South Africa look like a mere footnote in the history books, in less than 30 years, at the time minorities are projected to become the new majority in the nation [since America already imprisons a larger share of its black population than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid] — as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — which brought the total of black elected officials in the mostly Southern “special coverage” states of the Voting Rights Act from 72 to nearly 1,000 in just a decade, transformed the Democratic party, and paved the way for the election of our nation’s first black president — and its recent de jure reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court, and de facto reversal by the Trump administration and GOP-controlled states threaten to rollback progress to the Jim Crow era), “alternative facts” and demagoguery rule the day, and the legitimacy and funding of HBCUs are being challenged by the occupants of our nation's highest offices, Morehouse needs a president who can at once (1) lead with humility and collegiality while speaking truth to power, (2) inspire the next generation of social engineers, (3) advance a culture of operational excellence, and (4) raise the record amount of capital required to adequately resource our indelible mission. Morehouse needs a president who, as esteemed Morehouse alumnus and Ebenezer Pastor Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock (cited earlier) said, “exemplifies competency, the right chemistry, character and courage to meet the challenges before us.” Morehouse needs a president who understands, as the Civil Rights Movement showed us before, that our community, if not the larger world, look to us.
Indeed, it was the late Morehouse alumnus and Howard University President Mordecai Wyatt Johnson who said that “Negroes must do a contradictory thing; they must work with all their might against segregation, and at the same time strengthen their so-called segregated institutions if they expect them to last forever.”
Thus, I humbly submit the name of the Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole-esque President-in-waiting that you’ve recently revealed to me, dear God: Princeton University Professor & African American Studies Department Chair, Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. ‘89, one of the nation’s leading social scientists and thought leaders.
Let the trustees see that, while the prospect of having a non-alumnus lead the institution in the future should be entertained, welcoming a non-alumnus at this time, particularly when we’ll likely undergo a transformational rebirth, would be quite the indictment on who we say and know that we are. Surely there’s a Morehouse Man that can do the job and “do it so well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born could do it any better.”
And, to the extent that institutions end up becoming reflections or extensions of the personality of their leaders, let the trustees see that the deliberations that lead to their Friday, October 13th vote (on who our next leader will be), are, in a real sense, a healthy struggle for the very soul of Morehouse.
Let them ask themselves: “Will we turn inward and build on the Kingian transformed-nonconformist DNA that redeemed the soul of America during the Civil Rights Movement? Or will we turn outward, corporate even, and conform to the status quo as the world around us burns, devoid of that prophetic Morehouse voice, with a realpolitik of division that blinds the masses from seeing the common threats of a dying democracy, climate change, nuclear proliferation, hyper-criminalization, economic inequality, and technological displacement?”
Indeed, your word reminds us: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”
So, let the trustees see, as the great nineteenth century bard Ralph Waldo Emerson saw, that "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be,” and that, as Glaude uniquely understands, “great people exist so that even greater people can follow.”
With all due respect to past leadership, let the trustees see that there might be something to learn from Spelman College (our sister college), who — instead of choosing a former business-oriented, university administrator and “proven fundraiser” in 1987 — chose a visionary thinker and pioneering scholar of African-American studies, with no major fundraising experience, to be its president: Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole went on to make HBCU history, more than quadrupling Spelman’s endowment, while Morehouse merely doubled its endowment over the same period.
Let the trustees follow the example of Harvard, who also decided to go a different direction 10 years ago with its pioneering social scientist as president choice: with no major fundraising experience before her current presidency, Dr. Drew Faust has since raised an unprecedented $8 billion with one year remaining of Harvard’s 5-year, $6.5 billion capital campaign.
And for those trustees who might say that “fundraising at Harvard is totally different from fundraising at an HBCU,” let them see that employing the Harvard strategy of prioritizing mega gifts from billionaires over that of the important but insufficient gifts from alumni, 7-digit millionaires, corporations, and grants (that HBCUs and other colleges have historically prioritized) literally translates into a plus, instead of a minus.
Let them see that if the ACLU can effectively leverage a contrasting signal to the current socio-political climate (without compromising who they are) and, thereby, break fundraising records twice in two months, so can we.
Let them imagine, as you’ve allowed my mind’s eye to see, Glaude using his platform to make a direct appeal to Silicon Valley: “Silicon Valley, with your dismal diversity numbers against the backdrop of a historic uptick in hate-crimes nationally since the presidential campaign, it’s not enough to just say that #BlackLivesMatter. Prove it: with a moratorium on regressive mega gifts to elite higher ed institutions — where only 8% of their students come from low-income backgrounds — and the initiation of new progressive mega gifts to HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions — who serve a majority of low-income students. Prove it: with an investment that says #BlackMINDSMatter. And you can start today with Morehouse College, who has an unparalleled record of chiseling diamonds out of dark mines.”
Let the trustees see that our next capital campaign cannot be another traditional undertaking (indeed, this — another $100 or 200 million — would, today, only amount to a stop-gap measure that would, in essence, build a new lane on a deteriorating, “tuition-based” bridge); the next president must, instead, embark upon an unprecedented capital campaign in HBCU and higher-ed history (and who can doubt that Glaude has the mental acuity and Morehouse “born to rebel” and “not failure, but low aim is sin”-DNA to do so?).
Indeed, remind them of Brother Thurman (cited earlier), who, in February 1967 at the centennial banquet of Morehouse College, in front of then-President Benjamin E. Mays and President-Elect Hugh Gloster, began a speech entitled "The Public and Private Results of Collegiate Education in the Life of Negro Americans," with a moment of silence for all of those who had gone on to receive their "crown," and by praying: "We died. But you who live must do a harder thing than dying is. For you must think and ghosts shall drive you on"; remind them of Mays who said, "Morehouse’s future will depend in large measure on the imagination and creativity of its President, faculty, and Board of Trustees"; and, as Glaude reminds us, in his 2012 Alumni Crown Forum address, "What we do now, and how we do it, may save us all."
Let the trustees see that, in a philanthropic market where $390 billion is given away annually (over 70% from individuals, $60 billion to educational institutions alone), the stage is already set for Glaude to make the case to the 150-plus billionaires who have recently committed to giving at least half of their collective $731 billion wealth away in new, “bold and effective way[s].”
Let them see that Glaude is the type of visionary thinker who will see that the secret to achieving this end will be in immediately establishing a Nonprofit Endowment Fund (and first-rate Customized Philanthropy Services) at the Morehouse Man-led (Dr. Emmett D. Carson) Silicon Valley Community Fund (the hottest philanthropic pipeline in the nation). Placing a bucket where it’s guaranteed to rain, let them see that Glaude knows that establishing this fund doesn’t just make it that much easier for the billionaires who call Dr. Carson in search of a new charitable home for their gifts to direct them to Morehouse, but it also “assure[s] donors that the endowment’s principal will not be invaded” (insuring us against the historic disadvantage our institutions have faced around trust and money management). And though SVCF manages the fund in perpetuity, let the trustees see that a conservative annual payout of just 8-10% on a $1 billion endowment fund would be enough to make Morehouse tuition-free (like Kentucky’s similarly small private liberal arts college, Berea College, with it’s $1.1 billion endowment) for the foreseeable future, thereby ensuring our viability and invigorating our graduation rates. (This, of course, would be separate from our own existing endowment.)
With an increasing amount of men and young adults questioning the worth of a college degree, let the trustees see that there is no better answer to the enrollment dilemma (not uncommon) than a Morehouse President who can credibly showcase the value of a Morehouse degree (trumpeting and fine-tuning the aforementioned value propositions as he inspiringly exhibits what his Morehouse degree has done for him) while simultaneously working to make the opportunity to obtain it a golden ticket (making Morehouse tuition-free).
But let the trustees also see that the President won’t be successful without the critical support of the Board.
Let them see that the governing boards, size notwithstanding (see Berea College, Grinnell College, Swarthmore, Amherst, Williams, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Harvard), at successful schools are typically responsible for 30-40% of their capital campaigns.
For this reason, let them see that, with respect to the great strides that new board leadership has made, it might be worth entertaining a new chair of the Board — one like Dr. Emmett D. Carson (cited earlier), Melody Hobson, Jim Shelton (cited earier), Valerie Jarrett, Deval Patrick, or Adage Capital Management’s Demond Martin — with Chairman Woods as his or her Vice-Chair — or, at the very least, inviting these resourceful friends to a new capital campaign committee on the Board.
Let them also see that Glaude understands that we also need changes and bold ideas that will supplement the operational excellence and historic capital campaign that will support the student, faculty, and infrastructural development — like reverse scholarships (to free recent grads of crippling student loan debt) and post-grad social engineer, travel, and “Morehouse Mystique” fellowships for our recent alumni who desire to do good and pursue noble dreams, but who lack the resources to do so. As you know, similar opportunities and fellowships exist here at Harvard — where you've blessed me to practically obtain a 2-year master's in Harvard administration, as the youngest administrator at the College, before becoming Social Engineer-in-Residence — and they are simply life-changing.
Finally, let the trustees see, as Glaude sees, that we’ll have to immediately revisit what and how we offer liberal arts education if we expect to remain at the cutting edge. And, to this end, dear God, move on the hearts of leading interlocutors on this front, like Morehouse Men Gene Wade ‘92 and Jim Shelton (cited earlier), to help him along the way.
Lord, as you know, my original hope was to see a “Morehouse Dream Team” of a President Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. ‘89 (cited earlier) with Provost Glaude and Executive Vice-President Harold Martin Jr. (although I know the Board members who are leading the presidential search just said, at last week’s town hall, that they’re looking forward to him resuming his role on the Board after the search) as co-leaders (Harvard created the EVP — or Chief Administrative, Business and Operating Officer — position in 2008 and has since lauded it as one of the best organizational changes to date, to compliment the Provost in enabling the President to set the vision, focus on big picture goals, and travel the nation and world championing the University as the public-facing fundraiser-in-chief). However, Sullivan is content (especially with Glaude’s name in the presidential mix) with leading Harvard College’s newly renovated Winthrop House into the next decade and is actively promoting a new institute (The Fair Punishment Project) he recently founded at Harvard — all the more affirmation for what you had already begun revealing to me.
A Prayer for Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
And, dear God, my prayer for Dr. Glaude is simple. I pray that he yields to what American icon, Congressman John Lewis, calls the “Spirit of History” in his book, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement:
"It was at this time that I began believing in what I call the Spirit of History. Others might call it Fate. Or Destiny. Or a Guiding Hand. Whatever it is called, I came to believe that this force is on the side of what is good, of what is right and just. It is the essence of the moral force of the universe, and at certain points in life, in the flow of human existence and circumstances, this force, this spirit, finds you or selects you, it chases you down, and you have no choice; you must allow yourself to be used, to be guided by this force and to carry out what must be done. To me, that concept of surrender, of giving yourself over to something inexorable, something so much larger than yourself, is the basis of what we call faith. And it is the first and most crucial step toward opening yourself to the Spirit of History.
"This opening of the self, this alignment with Fate, has nothing to do with ego or self-gratification. On the contrary, it's an absolutely selfless thing. If the self is involved, the process is interrupted. Something is in the way. The self, even a sense of the self, must be totally removed in order to allow this spirit in. It is a process of giving over one's very being to whatever role history chooses for you."
A Prayer for Good-Hearted Billionaires
And, God, my prayer for just a few good-hearted billionaires might very well be the most consequential...
Let them acknowledge the disproportionate impact that Morehouse has had on the world.
Let the Bill Gates, Warren Buffetts, Mark Zuckerbergs, George Soros, Laurene Powell Jobs, Elon Musks, George Lucases, Steven Spielbergs, Richard Bransons, Arthur Blanks, Oprahs (still the top donor to Morehouse with her $12 million in gifts to the college over the years), Robert Smiths, Ted Turners, Agnes Gunds, Tom Steyers, Antony Resslers, Michael Jordans, and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carters of the world see that a new, disruptive gift to Morehouse would not only be “bold and effective,” but it also happens to be what this hour in history beckons.
Let these billionaires see that only the colleges and universities that secure these mega gifts will survive, and survive Morehouse and other disproportionately successful HBCUs and MSIs must, especially now that there are more students of color than white students in our public schools (so their support would literally translate into a down-payment on the very future of our nation).
Let them see that Harvard (with a founding that predates the founding of this nation; an alumni base of 323,000; with nearly 3,000 alumni worth more than $30 million — over 50 who are billionaires — worth a collective $622 billion) and elite schools like it continue to benefit from the compound interest on its white privilege and the slave money that gave it a head start, while Morehouse (founded just 2 years after the abolition of slavery in America; with just 17,000 living alumni today; only a handful of alumni worth more than $30 million — no billionaires) and other HBCUs and MSIs continue to take on the awesome burden of doing more with less and urgently need a boost (not “handouts” like these or these).
Let them see that the Harvards and most of the other billion-dollar endowment schools of the world will be fine if they don’t receive another dime.
Let these billionaires see the inequality behind yet another $400 million, $350 million, or $150 million mega gift (the top 3 individual gifts to Harvard over the past 4 years) to the overflowing coffers of the Harvards of the world (with its $37 billion endowment that serves a minority of low-income students and enables them to graduate debt-free) and the social mobility-aiding impetus behind such a gift to the Morehouses of the world (with an endowment that’s less than half of 1% of Harvard’s tuition-free enabling endowment, and even smaller than each of the 3 top individual gifts aforementioned, though it serves a majority of low-income students), especially if they expect us to take them seriously when they insist that education is still “the great equalizer,” despite the fact that the cost of higher education began to spike (and the portion of federal financial support for low income students began to plummet) at the time when the Civil Rights Movement had only just begun to enable droves of blacks to cross the Red Sea of institutional racism into the Promised Land of America’s Middle Class — not to mention the (1) persistent segregation and unequal, property-tax-skewed funding of public schools today that create the national dilemma of far too few of our high school graduates being college or career ready, and (2) the disproportionate toll the Great Recession had on black families (from the malicious subprime mortgages — 54.7% of which somehow made it to black homes — that precipitated the recession, to the homes, wealth and credit destroyed in its wake) following “the boom years” of the Clinton presidency.
Let them see that, even with the highest alumni giving, money from within our community still can’t outpace singular mega gifts from outside of our community — largely due to the fact that it would take the average black family 228 years to build the wealth of a white family today.
Let them follow the example of Hank Rowan, who, as Malcolm Gladwell reminds us in his Revisionist History podcast, saw a little-known school with a small endowment and attempted to begin a new era of progressive philanthropy with his $100 million gift.
Let them see that, since the mega gifts to institutions of higher education following Rowan’s historic 1992 gift (to what is now Rowan University) have largely been regressive, the time is NOW for a new era of progressive philanthropy.
And let them see that, as Rabbi Maimonides reminds us, “The world is equally balanced between good and evil, [and] our next act will tip the scale.”
This is my prayer, dear God, for Morehouse and this nation…
“Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,
Make us steadfast, honest, true,
To old Morehouse, and her ideals,
And in all things that we do.”
“Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.”