Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Articulating an Agenda: Disease and Globalization

BOND: Do you see your legitimacy as a leader — is it in your ability to persuade people to follow your vision or your ability to articulate the agenda of a movement?

LEE: Again, it's not either/or.

BOND: Okay. It could be both.

LEE: It's not either/or. You have to convince people, but you have to be able to articulate this agenda to convince people to follow you. And I have found especially in this place, this is a tough place — the House of Representatives and the Senate — and if you can't convince your colleagues that this an agenda that they should support, then you're not very effective, and so you have to have an agenda that's supportive. Like, for instance, and I'll give you an example.

HIV and AIDs — no one was really tackling that before, except for Ron Dellums and myself on a global basis before 1998, and I decided I was going to come here and really take on the global AIDS pandemic. And I convinced a lot of members of Congress who hadn't even thought about it to support me in legislation that actually established the World AIDS Trust Fund that you hear about today. And that was my bill that set up that trust fund with Congressman Leach out of Iowa, and since then we've passed three strong, tough bills on HIV and AIDS. I don't think this administration — they're not implementing them appropriately, but these were laws that I actually wrote, and I got the help of my colleagues and convinced them that this was an agenda that the United States should be on record as taking the lead on and that it should be bipartisan and it shouldn't just be about Democrats or Republicans. And I think our agenda on HIV and AIDS and chairing the Global AIDS Taskforce of the Black Caucus has been an agenda that has convinced others to come along with us.