Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Recognizing Leadership Role

BOND: When did a time come in your life, or did a time come in your life, when you said to yourself — maybe not in these words, because I look at you reacting against this already — “I’m a leader.”

IFILL: I don’t think I probably ever said those words.

BOND: Not in those words, no, but sometimes —

IFILL: You know, I — it happens at home with family. You’re conscious at some point that people are listening to you and that your presence or absence in any debate or any situation can change the outcome. It started — if I came home for Thanksgiving, I knew it was a different mix than if I didn’t come home for Thanksgiving. I knew that —

BOND: From college?

IFILL: From college. I knew that my presence in the family mix made for a different — I don’t know — experience. It was kind of empowering to know that my presence or my absence mattered, and in this business, that comes home to me mostly when I talk to young people. When young people react to me in a way that makes it sound like they’re listening or that what I’ve said has sunk in or they recite something I’ve said, then I think, "Oh, I am leading them somewhere." I have a much more — since I’ve been in television, because people ascribe so much power to people who are in their living rooms in a little box, and so therefore people listen more carefully. And they didn’t necessarily know who you were.