George Washington Carver’s rules for living a good life

July 14, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

The great scientist and agronomist George Washington Carver developed some simply formulated rules for living that he presented to his students. They’re worth passing on to you.

  • Be clean both inside and out.
  • Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  • Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  • Win without bragging.
  • Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
  • Be too brave to lie.
  • Be too generous to cheat.
  • Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

Carver was born sometime in the early 1860s — he was not sure when — as a slave in a Missouri family. When he was an infant, his family was kidnapped and taken to Kentucky where they were sold. His Missouri master, Moses Carver, hired someone to find the family, but that person only found George. When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, the Carvers raised George as their own, teaching him to read and write and encouraging his intellectual pursuits.

Carver went to school where he could and eventually graduated from high school in Minneapolis. He attended or attempted to attend several colleges and finally landed at Iowa State as its first black student. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1894 and a master’s in 1896. He taught there as the university’s first black faculty member.

Booker T. Washington recruited him to the Tuskeegee Institute in Tuskeegee, Alabama, in 1896, and he taught there for the next 47 years, developing a strong agricultural research department and gaining a worldwide reputation for his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes.

Carver never married and continued his research and work into old age, despite his deteriorating physical condition. He died in 1943 of complications after a fall down a flight of steps.

Carver openly professed his Christianity throughout his life, and he often told his students: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

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