The astounding Caroline Clarke is a bestselling author and full-time journalist. Clarke has a full and engaging story of her own and decided to exercise her writing dexterity to tell the stories of several Black achievers in her second edition of Take a Lesson: Black Achievers on How They Made It and What They Learned Along the Way.
Who are the people in the second edition of Take a Lesson?
The first edition [was] generally and clearly by any measure, about overachievers. Elaine Jones, who was at the time head of the LDS church, had just been named CEO of American Express. Johnnie Cochran, Spike Lee, were all overachievers. This second edition of that book is 21 years later, like a child who is born, and then is 21, a full adult, is an entirely different time. 2022 is not 2001, it is a completely different time in America, in the world and for Black people.
I wanted to make the point with this version of the book, that high achievement is not something that is limited to the names we know. It is not something that is limited to those who are making gobs of money at the pinnacles of corporate America or business. There is a broader swath of high achievement that we have to recognize and honor.
There are people like Ken Chennault and Debbie Lee, and Malcolm Lee, Arnold Donald, who’s the CEO of Carnival Corporation. This book also has a guy named Alprentice McCutchen, who’s a history teacher in a public school in New York. He brings an incredible passion and intention to teaching his very diverse kids about history. He begins his semester with meditation. He brings a very particular background and sensibility to public education. One of the things I love about him is that he is also the head of the PTA in his school. Two of his three daughters go to the school … and he is elevating education in his classroom, in his school, and in his community. I wanted people like him to be in this book.
What do you hope people get out of reading this book?
I’ve spent my life interviewing people more than anything and this is a collection of interviews where you get to hear people say the things they said to me. I think, particularly for people who don’t get the opportunity to have exposure to some of the people they would revere, you can do that with this book. Each chapter is self-contained, each one is a person, so you don’t have to have a million hours to sit there and read it. You can come back to it anytime you need inspiration, anytime you need reassurance. Anytime you need to remember that as hard as it can be for us at times, individually and collectively, we are out there every day, getting it done, despite all odds.