Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Parents' Influence

LEFFLER: Well, Julian Bond, welcome to your turn on the hot seat for Explorations in Black Leadership. You have been such a powerful collaborator in this wonderful project we've been doing together, and I'm just delighted that you're agreeing to be the subject of an interview today yourself.

I'd like to begin by asking you to recollect, as best as you can, what you think of as being the most important early influences on your own life.

BOND: Well, of course, my parents--my mother and father. My father was an educator, and when I was born he was president of Fort Valley State College in southern Georgia. My mother had been a classroom teacher and then went back to that and then stopped again over the course of my early life. But they were the prime influences as parents are with all children. They set very high standards for their children but had a soft hand. It wasn't that "You must do this. You must do this," but "We expect you to do this. You're expected to do this." And my father, who had spent a great deal of his career in researching, oddly enough, the development of leadership figures, had always argued that if you had an advantage over the mass of black people -- if you had an education, if you had a good job -- then you had some responsibility to use that education and that job, that position, to help those less fortunate than you.So my older sister, my younger brother and I all absorbed these messages from our parents and, again, never in a hectoring way, never in a finger-pointing "you must." But always "This is expected of you. This is your responsibility, and you've got to do it," and I hope the three of us took these lessons to heart.