Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Family and Teachers

BOND: Let me go into your background a little bit. Who were the people who had been most significant in helping you develop your talents?

WILDER: My mother, first -- never believed in anything other than education and no gripe about it. Get it and don’t complain about it. My father was a disciplinarian. But my mother was that person who really encouraged me. My older sister, who was a school teacher, she encouraged me. I had an older brother who never had the opportunities that I had because he had to work and couldn’t go to college. But these family things were so strong with me. And then you couldn’t leave out the, the school teachers that I had, and they would encourage me and say, “Okay, you look, you look like you’re doing pretty good in school but you can do better.”

And even in law school, I had a professor who would say -- Herb Reid, who was, I thought the world of him -- he would say, “I’m going to fail you.” I say “What?” He said “Cause you can do better.” And he made me a better student, so it’s those people who along the way -- themselves who didn’t have, who hadn’t achieved -- Herb Reid couldn't have gone -- he was a Harvard grad. He could’ve chose to go on to Wall Street. Barack Obama could.

But he chose to kind of hard to work to educate. And in my case, it showed me what a little effort could make a difference at the local levels. You don’t try to change the world at the world level. Tip O’Neill [Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr.] speaks to that, as you know. All politics is local. But government, local government is that which was the nation, as small businesses are those businesses which contribute to the wealth and bounty.