20101006

Mary McLeod Bethune -- Last Will and Testament

Mary MacLeod Bethune was a woman of incredible strength and character who played a pivotal role in the struggle for equality for black people in America. As she approached the end of her life, she felt a responsibility to leave something behind that would benefit future generations. Reading her intelligent, thoughtful words makes me wonder what went wrong, especially as I watch and read the daily news and try to avoid most of the tripe on television that passes for black culture.

Bethune had little materially to offer, saying: "my worldly possessions are few," but she understood that her greatest treasure was the set of "principles and policies" which represented the meaning of her life's work. Those principles are listed below. For more on each principle, read her last will and testament.
"...So, as my life draws to a close, I will pass them on to Negroes everywhere in the hope that an old woman's philosophy may give them inspiration. Here, then is my legacy:
I LEAVE YOU LOVE. 

I LEAVE YOU HOPE.

I LEAVE YOU THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE IN ONE ANOTHER.

I LEAVE YOU A THIRST FOR EDUCATION. 

I LEAVE YOU RESPECT FOR THE USES OF POWER.

I LEAVE YOU FAITH.

I LEAVE YOU RACIAL DIGNITY.

I LEAVE YOU A DESIRE TO LIVE HARMONIOUSLY WITH YOUR FELLOW MEN.

I LEAVE YOU FINALLY A RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE.

Faith, courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility -- these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro. We must sharpen these tools in the struggle that faces us and find new ways of using them. The Freedom Gates are half-ajar. We must pry them fully open."
Despite all the hatred and discrimination Bethune faced, she didn't see herself as a victim. She didn't walk around with a chip on her shoulder. She expected freedom and equal opportunity from government. She also expected excellence from young people. She didn't make excuses. She believed in knowledge and hard work as the way to overcome bigotry and any other obstacle. Her example is one we can learn from, recapture and follow today.