Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Vision, Philosophy, and Style

BOND: Let me ask you some different or similar sorts of questions as a matter of fact. What's the difference, if you see any, between vision, philosophy, and style? What are the differences, if any, between these three things?

BISHOP: I would think vision would be a larger intangible aspiration for either an individual or a group or a people, if you will. Philosophy is that set of—that body of mores that would govern how one would implement a vision, or to some extent, maybe even shape the vision that one might have. A style is a means to an end. It's what is exhibited in accomplishing whatever one does or attempts to do. It's the way in which it is done.

BOND: When I read the material we've collected about your life and your career and your experiences in the Georgia legislature and now in the Congress, has your vision changed over time? Was it one thing here and something slightly different at another time? Has it matured or altered in any kind of way? I don't want to think of change as a negative, but—

BISHOP: I think that when I ran for public office the first time, I was trying to improve the quality of life for the people that I would represent. That was in 1976, when I ran for the Georgia House of Representatives. When I ran for the State Senate, that was still my aspiration. I wanted to utilize the legislative political process to improve the quality of lives, of life for the people that I represented and through jobs and a stronger economy, better education, safe communities, a clean environment, affordable health care, strong national defense within the context of a balanced budget, those were things that were the ingredients that are necessary to improve the quality of life in the society in which we live. When I ran for Congress, that was my platform and I view what I do and my life's work as being able to utilize the tools that we have available through the political process to improve people's lives.

Tobe Johnson taught us in 301 Political Science, that politics is nothing more, nothing less than who gets what, when and how, and I see my vision or my philosophy of life as trying to utilize this system and to utilize my life to make a difference in the quality of life that humankind can enjoy, not just my constituents who are my primary responsibility but the larger human family and, of course, in the legislature, it was 30,000, if you will. My church, my congregation was 30,000, and in the House, in the Senate, it was 116,000, and now 630,000 as a member of the Congress but I reach—it touches all 50 states, the territories, and half the world with the policies that the Congress implements and trying to get a handle on how to be able to be in a position to leverage and to pull the levers of power to have a positive influence on the world and on humankind is the real challenge that I face during the time that I'm fortunate enough to hold this position.