On January 9, 1922, George Washington Carver wrote a thank you note to the class of 1922 for a fountain pen that they gave him in appreciation for his mentorship, parenting, and teaching.

Carver, who never married, considered the students that he taught and mentored over a 47 year career at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to be his children and family.

In his thank you note, he cautioned the graduating seniors of the class of 1922 to possess and maintain what he referred to as “the eight cardinal virtues which constitutes a lady or a gentleman.” He wrote:

1st. Be clean both inside and outside.
2nd. Who neither looks up to the rich or down on the poor.
3rd. Who loses, if needs be, without squealing.
4th. Who wins without bragging.
5th. Who is always considerate of women, children, and old people.
6th. Who is too brave to lie.
7th. Who is too generous to cheat.
8th. Who takes his share of the world and lets other people have theirs.

Carver concludes the thank you not by saying “may God help you to carry out these eight cardinal virtues and peace and prosperity be yours throughout life.”

As we at The Family Meeting and The Pyramid Institute continue our focus on trying to enhance the critical thinking of our young people, I will continue to look back to the great and wise history makers as a resource of, and for, knowledge and inspiration.

As we congratulate our graduates around the Country, what a wonderful and profound reference to give them to think about, which they can use as a compass for the days and years ahead of them. I hope that it would ring through amidst the noise of the rappers, their often stated message of getting paid no matter what, or immediate gratification, and of course the misogyny.

It’s up to us to turn them on to other things like our history and icons like Carver, who espoused these eight cardinal virtues.  Just getting all of them, and us for that matter, to even hear and think about these eight cardinal virtues will certainly be a step in the right direction.

Read, learn, and share…….Have a Family Meeting!

C. Randolph Keller

This entry was posted in African American Leadership, African-American History, Conduct and Behavior, Education, Fatherhood, History, Mentoring, Motivation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. momshieb says:

    Oh, these are wonderful, and are new to me!
    These eight virtues will surely be posted on my classroom wall come September.

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