Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership Philosophy –Connecting Self to Others

BOND: Do you have a general philosophy that guides you through life and if so, how has it sustained you through challenges or moments of alienation as we just finished talking about? How does this sustain you, your general philosophy?

DOVE: Well, as I mentioned before, I do feel like I must always keep that center and be aware who I am and ask myself — is this what you really can live with, is this what you really believe, and to do that, to find a way to do that at all times. That's part of my philosophy. Another part, though, comes from looking, realizing that I'm just like everyone else. We're all human beings with the same amount of fear, joy, yearning, and some of us realize our dreams, some of us don't, but the capacity for love, the capacity for hate, the capacity for all these emotions, is in each of us. I saw it through my life with my parents. I saw it through my life with just ordinary people doing their jobs and never getting recognized, but sometimes doing heroic things in terms of sacrifices that they make for their children or whatever, never complaining about it, this is what you do, this is what I grew up learning. That sustains me, even the moments of trial and tribulation. I will find myself saying to myself, so, that's okay. You're alive, you're healthy, you have your wits, you have friends who love you, and you believe in what you're doing. Let the rest fall the way it is. Also to realize that sometimes — Sometimes you have to forget about yourself in order to find yourself, you know, in order to be happy with yourself. When I became Poet Laureate, I had just come off of teaching a semester and I was ready to write and I desperately wanted to finish a book, so when I was called and asked if I'd be Poet Laureate and this was the truth, I thought to myself, there goes the book. [laughs] I was happy but still, you know, but I also thought to myself you love poetry, you believe in it as something that is energizing and is joyous and there're so many people who are afraid of it. It's time to pay your dues.

BOND: And that overweighed the book?

DOVE: It overweighed the book at that time.

BOND: Did you come back to the book?

DOVE: I did. It was a different book by that time, but I did come back to it, but it overweighed it because I remembered what moved me. I wanted other people to feel that and I found myself interestingly enough through giving up part of that book, I found myself through actually people who would write it and say I don't know much about poetry, but — And then they wrote eloquent letters about their first book of poems and stuff. I remember this man, this elderly gentleman from Kansas, that white gentleman, who said that he got his first library card and there was a mobile library that came through his little rural town and by the time he finished signing up for it, he only had time to grab a book and he grabbed this book and it turned out to be a book of poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and he said, "here I am totally disappointed, a little white boy in Kansas, but it's the only book I had so I read it, and I loved it. It changed my life." He said, "I would've never picked up a book of poems."

BOND: Did he write "When Malindy Sings?"

DOVE: Yes. And that changed me. I said, ohh —

BOND: This was for everyone.

DOVE: This is for everyone. Exactly. And those are the things that sustain me, too. This is for everyone.