I was happy to read last summer of the ongoing restoration of the 1870s schoolhouse in north Neosho where George Washington Carver attended as a boy.

I was happy to read last summer of the ongoing restoration of the 1870s schoolhouse in north Neosho where George Washington Carver attended as a boy.
Like most people, I have a lot of respect and admiration for Dr. Carver. You know the story. Born a slave near Diamond; determined to get an education despite great obstacles; became a globally recognized scientist who developed many different uses for the peanut and sweet potato, alternative crops to cotton, to help improve the quality of life of Southern farmers both black and white; very strong promoter of racial harmony; inventor; and just all-around renaissance man of his day. Time magazine named Carver a “Black Leonardo.” He is world-renowned for his achievements. And just think, the start of his formal education was in Neosho.
On May 27, 1942 – less than a year before he died – Dr. Carver delivered the commencement address at Selma University in Selma, Alabama. In that address he recited a poem by Edgar A. Guest. The poem, titled “Equipment”, pretty much sums up Dr. Carver's life philosophy, which he also so obviously lived by himself.
Mrs. Ida Mae Smiles of Neosho always recites this poem at the annual Black History celebration at the county historical park and museum in Neosho. That is where I first heard it. It is probably the most personally inspirational poem, for me at least, that I know. I'd like to share it with you here.

“Equipment”
By Edgar A. Guest
Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest men have had;
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes.
And a brain to use, if you be wise.
With this equipment they all began.
So start from the top, and say, “I can”.
Look them over, the wise and the great.
They take their food from a common plate.
And similar knives and forks they use.
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world considers them brave and smart.
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill.
You can be great if you only will.
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose;
You have arms and legs and a brain to use.
And the man who has risen great deeds to do.
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face.
You are the one who must choose your place.
You must say where you want to go.
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life.
But he lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within.
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out yourself, my lad.
You were born with all the great have had.
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself and say “I CAN”!

Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.