Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Vision for Leadership: Transcending Race

BOND: Let’s shift gears a little bit. How does race consciousness affect your work? Do you see yourself as a leader who advances issues of race or society or both? And is there a distinction between them, and is there a thing — I think you answered it a moment ago — such a thing as a race-transcending leader?

SELLERS: There is a thing such a race-transcending leader and my hope is to be a transformative race-transcending leader. I don’t represent African Americans in District 90 in the South Carolina General Assembly. I represent all South Carolinians in my district and I represent all 4.2 million South Carolinians in the General Assembly, so I think that I am a societal representative, not necessarily a racial representative, and I think that was — I think we had a referendum on that within our own African American community. And I think that persons who wanted Barack Obama to be a “black” leader first and then run for President of the United States, were proven to be wrong and inaccurate in their analysis as the country was ready for Barack Obama to be a leader of the free world and not necessarily just a leader of black America.

BOND: I know in your own campaign that you knocked on doors that had a Confederate flag hanging in the yard or something and places where they’re likely to give you your campaign literature back when you give it to them, but do you have a different leadership style when you’re dealing with an all-black audience, an all-white audience, a mixed audience? Last night, here at the University of Virginia, you spoke to a mixed race audience. How would you have been different or would you have been different had that been an all-black audience?

SELLERS: I don’t think I would’ve been different at all. I think that you feel a lot from your audience. Any speaker knows that they kind of pull back from their audience. I don’t write a lot unless I’m giving a very formal speech in front of AIPAC, for example. I will write then, or — but I don’t really write a lot when I’m in front of groups like that because I like to tell my story. I like for it to be fresh and truthful, and I think that the audience will follow you, be they black, white or mixed, as long as you remain truthful and fresh.