Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Vision: Helping the Disadvantaged

BOND: Now, vision — you described your vision. Has that vision changed over life? I mean, was it one thing at one point and another thing at another point, a third thing today?

MOORE: Not really, because I’ve had an organizing principle that probably came from being a child of the ’60s. You know, I’ve always felt that it was my responsibility to — I have had an organizing principle that I need to help the poor, that I need to help people who are less fortunate than I am, that I — I come from a background and that God has blessed me and elevated me for a purpose. And so I have stayed true to that purpose. You know, obviously I’ve learned more, I’ve experienced more. I’ve gained greater influence within the body politic. But I have remained really close to my roots. My head is not big and I’m really grateful for that.

BOND: Now, where’d this come from, this feeling that you’re responsible for other people. You mentioned God, so I’m guessing religion is one foundation of this, but is it the only foundation? Where do you get the idea that you’re responsible for other people?

MOORE: You know, it’s how I survive. You know, how do you — I think of myself as a pebble on the beach, and that’s okay with me. It’s okay for me — I am so concerned about not fulfilling what I consider to be my destiny, and I have always had a sense from the youngest ages that I was going to make a difference in the world. I studied every foreign language I could.

BOND: How’d this play out when you were young? I mean, what — how’d this manifest itself when you were young?

MOORE: You know, I tried to help everyone. I remember a poor little white girl, and her mother was an alcoholic and she was dirty and unkempt. I remember taking her home, and I was going to fix her up and so I put all this grease in her hair. I was going to straighten and curl her hair, and the more grease I put in it, the worse she looked. But, you know, I continued to try, you know, because I thought it was important to help her out.

I remember having a fight after school. A girl had picked on me all week long and followed me into an alley. And so we started fighting and I guess I hit her too hard and sort of knocked her out. And by then, the police sirens were wailing and the kids had scattered and the police got there and I was the only person there — you know, I and my nephew, you know, "Come on, get up," you know.

I was one of nine kids. I had a sister younger than me. I had nephews that, you know, were younger than me to take care of and, you know, we had to learn to share. There were a lot of us. And I learned to share early and learned to care about other people early on.

BOND: And so that large family made you feel some responsibility for the others from your early days?

MOORE: Oh, absolutely. Early on I felt very responsible for my sister who now is repaying me by bossing me around all the time. But early on, I felt this stewardship over other people.