Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Style

BOND: Think about your own path to leadership. We generally think about it in a couple of different ways, three ways. Great people cause great events; movements make leaders; or the confluence of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate for the times. Where do you fit?

FRANKLIN: I'm very attracted to this third model. I mean, I don't think of myself certainly as a great leader or a great person. But -- and it's hard to predict when the next movement will roll through and sort of sweep up. But I do have a sense that there are leaders and people with creativity and talent and a will to serve and to do good always out there, always on the scene. And there are occasions where questions and issues emerge that mobilize our concern, that have the potential for evolving into a movement. Just to give an example, I think that I have a sense that there's a movement trying to be born now in the wake of the tragedies of September 11 that hadn't quite yet taken off, but could, and I hope, will. And it has to do with, both within America and beyond, this sense of the fragility of the human existence, the sense that nothing is promised, there are no guarantees it will be here tomorrow or next week. And if we sort of plug into that awareness, it might fuel a will to serve, to connect with strangers, to learn more. Americans learning about Islam and Ramadan today who had no idea, no clue about this religious tradition a year ago. But we all know more now.

That kind of new learning, new discussion that I sense the rebirth of civil society in America, of individuals leaving suburban enclaves and trying to find, figure out what they can do to improve the life of the city. It's revisiting the language of Thomas Jefferson and others about the common good, the public good, and how we somehow fit with that. Again, that's Plato's notion of the good community. And so it's just a long, rambling way of trying to suggest that I hope to be in place if the trumpet sounds and there is this unleashing of energy and volunteerism to improve neighborhoods, to really deal with the problems of homelessness and of ignorance and public health crises. I mean, these same challenges that have faced human society over time, I just have confidence if we were to mobilize our best resources and if humans, all of us on the planet, were compelled to act in certain ways, we could make a huge, huge difference and move us closer to the good society.