Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Philosophy: Truth and Optimism

BOND: Now, what is the philosophy that guides you through life?

BERRY: Tell the truth as I see it. Try not — give other people a chance to reach a conclusion before I tell them what my conclusion is because sometimes they’ll get it and go on and always be willing to help people, and always willing not to take credit for it.

BOND: When you’re having bad moments or moments of alienation, does this sustain you, this philosophy sustain you?

BERRY: What sustains me is I really believe that in the fullness of time things will change and right will overcome wrong. I really believe that so that even when I’m down, even in the worst of times, I always think that somehow things will change and what I think needs to happen will happen and most of the time it does. It takes a while but it happens.

BOND: So, would it be fair to say you’re an optimist, an optimistic person?

BERRY: I’m an optimist, yes.

BOND: And are you, I’m sorry to say, never disappointed or —

BERRY: Oh, I’m often disappointed. Most of the time what I’m disappointed with is when I think other people understand and that they’re willing to go the last mile, too, and I found out they’re not.

BOND: And they didn’t understand, they didn't understand.

BERRY: I’m never disappointed by my enemies because I don’t expect anything of them except opposition and I never underestimate what they will do. I’m only disappointed when people who I think are allies turn out to falter or not be willing to go the last mile or something, when I misjudge them and then I’m disappointed.