Moment of Clarity: Howard’s Challenge
Consider our past; Howard has long been associated with leadership in black politics, business, fashion, entertainment, and religion. In the predictable future, it will continue to be; yet that association is the greatest threat to the university. To be clear, I am not minimizing the importance of Howard’s legacy in American history, or within the African-American community. I openly question the importance of Howard’s future legacy within the global community.
The legacy of an institution should be reflective of its past as well as indicative of its future. Howard’s biggest problem is that its legacy falls alarmingly short of future global relevancy.
In the past, there was a clear need for a university to educate black leaders for the black community. However, with increased globalization and opportunity for blacks at other universities, the clarity of that need has diminished. The threat, then, is that a Howard solely identified with producing black leaders is simply not competitive with institutions identified with producing global leaders of all colors. Thurgood Marshall went to Howard because Maryland’s law school was all white. Stokely Carmichael’s radical rhetoric as a student leader would not have been tolerated anywhere but Howard. Those famous people who we identify our legacy with likely came to Howard because there was not opportunity elsewhere.
What is to keep the future leaders attracted to Howard in a competitive educational environment? Here’s a hint, it won’t be memories of the past, the best homecoming, or the most fashionable students. Get it together Howard; let’s build a new global legacy.