Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

An Optismistic Vision

BOND: What about your vision? Has your vision changed over time? Has it been constant, so far as you can recall?

CONYERS: Actually, it's deepened and widened and gotten richer. It's been validated. And it's a wonderful thing. I'm not afraid of change, but there is one part of it that may be worth mentioning here and that is the fact that one of the things I see is that, notwithstanding all the turmoil and instability that exists, that we're much closer to a new day in America than many people can see. Barack Obama came out of nowhere. I can see a point in time where we'll have to decide between Senator John Edwards, Senator Hillary Clinton, and Senator Barack Obama.

When I go into the schools, like you still do with the youngsters, I ask people,"Now, who thinks they could be president of the United States?" Or sometimes I ask them, "Who thinks they could do a better job of being President than the present incumbent?" "Who would like to take my place in the Congress?" And I said, "Please don't raise your hand if you're not serious," I said, "that you're really thinking about it." And nothing makes me more proud, and I remember the instance very clearly. There were tuitions, one of the groups in Detroit were given tuitions. And two or three youngsters in a row, including girls, said "I want to be president of the United States," and I burst out into applause because you see the talking heads and The New York Times can't tell you when this is going to happen, but I see more and more working class people, who are not black, who begin to realize the inseparability ultimately of their condition and their black brothers' and sisters' condition, and until we realize that we've got to speak to everybody's needs -- a health care bill has got to apply to everybody. And there are enough of them now learning, sometimes at that their sorrow, that the choices you make will determine whether your kid gets a college degree, or will be qualified for a Pell Grant, or will get into a Head Start Program.