Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Familial Influences: Being an Example

BOND: What is the first time that you thought to yourself, either consciously or subconsciously, "I am a leader. I'm leading people, I'm doing things that — " ?

RUSH: I've always considered —

BOND: When did it begin?

RUSH: I think it must've —

BOND: You talked about running for office in school.

RUSH: Yeah, running for office in school, the Boy Scouts, I mean, all of a sudden — and plus, I had a younger brother, okay, and I was always —

BOND: Leading him.

RUSH: — leading him and everything.

BOND: I'm sure you did, but I have to ask — did you feel responsible for him?

RUSH: I think I did. I think I did. I mean, I come from a broken family. My father and my mother — I guess I was impressed by both of them. My mother was a person who always was trying to better herself. My father wanted to better himself. He just couldn't get it together because, you know, he was frustrated as a black man. But I remember my mother, she was a beautician, my mother taught school for a while, and she was just doing a lot — she did a lot, and I kind of take a lot of that after my mother.

My father was a person who had the anger. He had the rage. He was a battler. You know, you wouldn't cross Jimmy Lee, but I really just aspired to do more, aspired to be more, aspired to have more of an impact. And the challenge of leadership is something I — in the Boy Scouts and the Cub Scouts, I wanted to get those badges. I wanted to get those honors. I wanted to make that kind of — you know. And I guess somehow I'm wired like that, man. I'm crazy.

BOND: So from your very early years you thought that you had something to offer other people, some ability to give direction to people, say, in effect, "Follow me. I'm going to go this way."

RUSH: Yeah, I'm going to do it. I don't know whether or not I was saying, "Follow me," but I know I was going to do it and I knew that I—

BOND: Or watch my example maybe.

RUSH: Watch my example.

BOND: "Watch my example. I'm going to win this badge, you can win it, too."

RUSH: Sure. You know what? I think that the thing that I had that maybe other folks saw and maybe I didn't realize, but I had the courage to try — to aspire and to try. Not just to aspire, but the courage to try.

BOND: Now, who put that in you? Your mom or your dad?

RUSH: I think I would have to give — my mother was more of a leadership person for me than my father. My mother was trying things. She would always try different things, and so it had — my mother, you know, again, she left the South with five children on her own and moved North, moved to Chicago. That took some courage, man.

BOND: Oh, sure.

RUSH: You know, and so, yeah, the courage to act is something that she ingrained in me, and you know, I still have that. I think that's such a big difference. There're people who are much more talented, even in my family, who are better looking, but — they have some of the prerequisites but they just don't have the courage to act. I've got the courage to act. I wasn't the best dancer in the little group in the neighborhood but I would be the first one or the second one on the floor, you know.