Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Moral Leadership and Tolerance

BOND: You write a lot or talk a lot about putting moral values into young people. How do we do this in a world in which you have so many dysfunctional families living, some of them, in dysfunctional neighborhoods. Can you do it through religious organizations? How can we use religion in order to increase the moral standing of people?

BISHOP: Well, as I learned from Roswell Jackson and Religion 301 at Morehouse, religion is a way of life.

BOND: I'm amazed at your ability to recall these names and dates and course numbers. For me, it's a just — anyway, I can't do it.

BISHOP: Well, Reverend Jackson said that religion is a way of life and indeed it is. It's what important to you, how you live, and we've got to set examples for young people, but we also have to put some markers before them. I grew up in an era when it was common to have prayer in schools. It was the thing. Every day that I went to school for twelve years it was the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the Pledge to the flag and "My Country 'Tis of Thee," from first grade through twelfth grade. There were lots of kids in my class who didn't go to church, but they knew the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. And I'm sure at some point in their lives, they drew upon that. I was fortunate to grow up in the church, from as far back as I can remember, and I seriously studied my Sunday School lessons, and listened to that, and that was — that became a part of my moral being.

As I joined the Boy Scouts and learned the Scout Oath and Law and Promise and Slogan and Motto, those things became a part of my life and they were able to help me, I think, to negotiate and make choices that many young people today are not able to make in terms of deciding right from wrong.

BOND: But at the same time, I bet that among your classmates there were those who did come from church-going families, who went to church every Sunday, who heard the same Pledge and Psalm that you did every day in school, but whose lives nonetheless took a very different turn.

BISHOP: That is probably true, but I would think that if you looked at it statistically, probably more took the right turn than the wrong turn, and probably it had to do with the reinforcement that they were able to get in the public schools and in the community in terms of the moral standards that we seek.