Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Career: Political Career

BOND: You become the co-chair of the Clinton transition team based on, I'm guessing, on prior friendship with Governor Clinton, then candidate Clinton, the campaign itself, and recognition that you -- that this is going to be a different kind of presidency. The very fact that you're selected for this job, the first and only black person to do this, suggests this is going to be a different kind of presidency. But at the same time it has to be tremendously demanding. First millions of people saying, "I want to be Secretary of Labor," or whatever, or some job, and people saying, "No, don't pick Joe to be Secretary of Labor, pick John to be -- " How do you handle all this?

JORDAN: It's kind of fun. The selection by President Clinton, or President-elect Clinton, I mean, the chair as transition was a wonderful experience. We had been friends, or have been friends, since 1973, we met at a Urban League meeting in Little Rock and were instantly attracted to each other because the contours of our life were somewhat similar. We were both Southern boys, one's white and one's black, both poor. Both went North to school, both came home from law school, back to the South immediately. We didn't make stops to come back. Both interested in the region and in race. And so we found almost instantly a mutuality of interests. And we stayed in touch and I kept up with him, I went to see him after he lost the first time. He kept up with me. And there was some possibility that I would, some people thought, go into the Cabinet.

BOND: Attorney General.

JORDAN: And I made a decision that I could best serve him, as chair of his transition, by not going into the Cabinet, for which I took some criticism. But I think for me and for him, I made the right decision.