Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Parents

BOND: Now let me take you back to your earlier years and try to pinpoint some people who influenced you and the ways they influenced you. You write about your parents, of course, who are everyone's initial framer. And you talked last night about the difference between your mother's aspirations for you, which were broad and grand, and your father's aspirations, which were fine but comparatively relatively limited.

JORDAN: Yep. I...

BOND: Did you fight between these two?

JORDAN: I did not.

BOND: Personally. I mean, did you, were you torn between these two?

JORDAN: I was never torn. Somehow I understand that my father, as I said in the book, was a man of his time and my mother was a woman ahead of her time. And in that context, based on his own experience, had I finished high school, gotten a job in the post office -- my Daddy was a postal man for the federal government, too -- and met a nice girl, had two kids, little white house with green shutters and the white picket fence, kept my grass cut and my hedges trimmed, my car washed, my shoes shined, went to church, taught Sunday school, listened to the news, voted, he would have said -- and he was not wrong -- that that was a good life. My mother, on the other hand, thought that there were bigger and broader things for me and encouraged me and pushed me. And she was sort of the CEO of our family. She was in charge of the money. She was the entrepreneur and she was in charge of the structure of our lives from church to school to choir rehearsal to piano lessons to the Butler Street YMCA to the GateCity Nursery. In addition to that and running her business, she was the president of every PTA of every school I attended: E.A. Ware, Walker Street, David T. Howard. When I was in high school, my youngest brother was in elementary school, she was president of both PTAs. So that was-- that was a lesson, number one, in leadership; it was also a lesson in community service. Now my father was not absent from that. He was very much involved in his Sunday school class. The best time of my week was walking to Sunday school with my father and my brothers. That was a tradition: a big breakfast in the morning and then the men in the house would walk to Sunday school. And my mother would join us after church. And he was very active in the YMCA and his T.J.…Bible Class at St. Paul Church.