Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Maintaining a Vision

BOND: Is the focus on time the difference you describe when you began describing your style, saying you would say one thing and people who saw you from the outside would say something different?

CANADA: Yeah, I think that there’s a certain pressure that people feel to deliver that really comes from me. I think that people know that I think that we are going to fix this whole thing and we’re going to do it in another three— I think we’re close. I think we’re about 70% there and I think in the next three or four years, we’re going to fix the whole thing and I am trying to gather folk with this mission that says come on, we can fix it; come on, let’s think about it. This is just a matter of us not having thought this through hard enough so I want you all to think harder on this. You have to juxtapose that with we’re also saying and could you do it tomorrow, could you get it done by tomorrow because we got to get this thing going. I think that that’s become part of the style which is let’s all think, but come up with answers so that we can get working on this thing right away.

BOND: Is the vision you described just a moment ago, does that guide your work? Does that keep you on a sort of single track?

CANADA: Yes. It’s easy to get drawn off in lots of different things and I think that people worry that when we say we have to do everything for kids, they say, oh, you can’t do everything, right, and so you have to be really strategic about some things and some things you’re simply not going to do. I think that for me, this issue of can we really get this generation of kids and this community to a place where they are going to I think reach their full potential, that that vision has to stay paramount and it becomes frustrating in a time like today. Why? Because we’re in the midst of an economic crisis. Why’re you saying that, Geoff? We have to cut back some. We have to be realistic. I know this is a big vision. It was bold and now, you know, reality is coming in and we’ve got to rework this and I’m not prepared to do that. I think that—

And it’s not like I’m not going to be realistic and understand that without the resources we can’t— But I’m not prepared to back away from the vision and say that this vision now has to become somewhat minimized because these external realities are going to sort of limit who we can reach and how many and the depth of that reaching and so I think that that in the end, if the vision is to fix it, then that has to stay the vision and even when external things, which are really powerful forces, come into play, you’ve got to keep focused on your vision. I think the vision ought to be last thing to go and that ought to go kicking and screaming, right, when people often make it the first thing to go. They’d be coming in and say, Geoff, be realistic and you say okay, okay, yeah, you’re right, where’re we going to get the money to do this and, okay, let’s change that. If it happens, I’ll go kicking and screaming. I’ll tell everybody, no, we absolutely can do this and we’re going to do it and I think that we’ve got to hold onto that vision.