Child Watch Column®: "Missing: Leadership and Core Values"

Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch Column
via Children's Defense Fund

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Morehouse College’s president from 1940-1967, said this about the kind of men and leaders he expected Morehouse to produce. As a student at neighboring Spelman College, I heard and saw Dr. Mays often and had the privilege of singing in Morehouse’s Sunday morning chapel choir and hearing this great man’s wisdom. Of the six college presidents in the Atlanta University academic complex Dr. Mays was the one students looked up to most. He inspired and taught us by example and stood by us when we challenged Atlanta’s Jim Crow laws in the sit-in movement to open up public accommodations to all citizens. 

Dr. Mays taught us that “not failure, but low aim is sin” and warned that “the tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” As students we hungrily internalized his unerring belief that we were God's instruments for helping transform the world, and like many others who heard him frequently, I often repeated his words. One of the many Morehouse students Dr. Mays helped shape was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he lovingly eulogized on that campus after his 1968 assassination.

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