Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Commitment to Diversity

BOND: Are you likely, or could you imagine yourself finding yourself in a court room situation where your personality would have to shift radically, where you might pound the podium, where you might raise your voice, where you might adopt a different style?

CHAMBERS: Me, personally, I think that it would be a little hard to do. I was in the Supreme Court I guess about eight or nine years ago. And the court asked me a question that I thought was so improper that I was about to pound and rough 'em and thought differently about the way that things ought to be handled. There are occasions when you really would like to do something else, but I think that I am so ingrained with the approach that I have followed over the years that I would be hard put to...

BOND: Let me ask you about a different aspect of the approach that you followed over the years that it strikes me looking back over your career that you have always had this commitment to diversity, always had this commitment to integration, and even today as chancellor are committed to improving the diversity at this historically black college. Why did you come to this position in the first place? And why have you remained so steadfast in it over time?

CHAMBERS: I firmly believe that we are a world that is diverse and the only way that we are going to effect change and provide opportunities for all people is through diversity. And we got to bring all the people together to deal with it. We, in the early stages of my life, taught primarily about black and white people. We were separate. And the only way that you could improve opportunities for black people was to bring people together and give people an opportunity to speak, to work, to do what they needed to do as a combined group. Now we have many more ethnic groups, races, and all, involved in and you really have to do more in bringing people together with that. And you got to be much more diverse. Additionally, I saw that diversity produced a much more substantive approach to problems. There is nothing like sitting down and talking and hearing different views and being sensitive of the views that other groups might present. Is it better to have a public education system? Do all ethnic groups want to have a public education system? Can we develop a dual system in the sense that one is public and one is private that would be equally effective? And you need to hear from all the people. And sometimes different groups bring ideas that will help to advance a cause that one group wouldn't think about.