Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Military and Culture

BOND: I don't want to interrupt your career path -- we only have about ten more minutes -- but last night at a meal, we were talking about a difference between when you and I were younger and we knew the names of General B. [Benjamin] O. Davis.


BOND: We knew, I knew that his father before him had been a general. We knew [Daniel] Chappie James' names. And I was thinking that today with the exception of Colin Powell, I don't think I can recall quickly the names of any prominent military persons -- [Norman] Schwarzkopf from the Gulf War, I mean, you know, in times of war, these people come to the fore. But in general terms, prominent names in the military seem to have subsided in public consciousness whereas prominent names in business have risen. Have you thought about this? Does it mean a diminution of military consciousness among us? Are we seeing this as one reflection of the disappearance of the draft? What's happened in the relationship between the civilian and military worlds?

THEUS: I do think about that quite a little bit. I have a number of friends that occasionally I'll mention something about – civilian friends, not military related – I'll mention something that happened, someone just got promoted to general or someone moved to a command, and they give me a blank stare. And that is true. And it's because, in my feeling right now, is that because we're not openly engaged in war. We don't have things going on in which our military members are engaged. We have done well -- maybe not as well as some would hope -- we have done well in bring to the fore the qualified people. Getting them into positions, getting them promoted. And so it now becomes a non-issue, if you will, anymore. You know we used to look at the military as a place where -- if anywhere, a person could get equal treatment and they could go forward and be rewarded for their work, for their efforts and so forth. Now we don't think about that too much. Now the battle is in the industrial, in the business arena, and so forth and so there's much more interest there. Since we've broken down a lot of the barriers, they're more open on the other side, the military has subsided and to some attention by the nation. So particularly in the African American community, now it's much more -- I wouldn't say much more, but at least equally, if not more important for them, to be able to identify their industrial heroes rather than their military heroes.