Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

A Need for Bold, Daring Leaders

BOND: A couple of questions about the future -- tomorrow, in the future, what kind of leaders does our society demand that we have in the future? How are they different, if any way, from today's or yesterday's leaders? You talked about that one voice that we don't have today. What about tomorrow?

LEWIS: I think in years to come, the society will need and will be demanding leaders with courage -- raw courage. People that are prepared to stand up and do what I call "get in the way." I think today too many people are too reluctant to get in the way. They're almost afraid to be daring. And we need people who're willing and prepared to be daring.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was daring. When he spoke on April 4th, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City condemning the war in Vietnam, that was a daring statement. He challenged the government -- his own government -- challenged the leadership of his own country to get on the right side of history. Very few people today are prepared.

So, we need leaders who will be willing to challenge, if they have to go it alone, be willing to get in the way. The young people in SNCC during the '60s were willing and prepared to get in the way. Said, "We're going to Mississippi, we're going to southwest Georgia, we're going to Selma, Alabama." I'm not so sure that we have people today who're prepared to take risks, and if we're going to have bold and creative leadership tomorrow and years to come, we must be prepared to take risks, to challenge the order of things, to get out of the box. And I must tell you, we didn't have what a lot of people have today and what people will have tomorrow. The technology and the new leadership should be bold, creative, daring.

BOND: What can we do to make sure we have that kind of leadership? Can we prepare for it? Can we prepare young people for it? What can we do to make sure that when tomorrow comes, that we'll have that kind of bold leadership?

LEWIS: I think we can help. We can help educate, sensitize. People should study the literature of the '60s. They should watch film footage, the video. They should watch some of those films -- "The Anatomy of a City" and "The Nashville Sit-in Story." And at the same time, they've got to be creative, but they should learn from the past and take lessons from those of us who passed this way during a much earlier period.

BOND: You know, I've often heard it said that one fault of your generation and mine is that we didn't prepare a younger generation for the future, but I'm not sure the generation before us prepared us in that way. I think they broke down walls that made it possible for us to move forward, but I don't think our elders were saying, "Come on, it's your turn now." In fact, they were saying, "No, it's not your turn, it's still my turn."

LEWIS: No, I think you're right. I don't think anyone sort of taught us and said, "You're going to be a leader, this is what you must do. These are the one, two, threes, the ABCs." I think in spite of it all, because we had the sense, we were very impatient and part of our challenge against segregation and racial discrimination, we've also challenged the old leadership -- the old guard. And we didn't ask someone or beg of someone to pass the torch to us. We just got out there --

BOND: And grabbed the torch.

LEWIS: We did it. And that's what the next and future generation of leaders must do. Just get out there and go for it.