Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Learning from Abroad

BOND: You mentioned opportunities, people in Norway and Sweden, young people in Norway and Sweden, have to study foreign affairs in their world.

WILLIAMS: At an early age.

BOND: Very early on and I was thinking about issues in the United States that seem to be with us forever. Have you seen in these foreign countries, both that you've served in and you've been to, things they do that we could learn from and, if so, why don't we learn from them?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think certainly we can always learn from just about any society. I learned a number of amazing things in South Africa when I worked there during President Mandela's administration, the way the ANC pulled together their communities and whether we're talking about an association of taxi cab drivers, parent teachers associations, association of nurses and doctors, the African National Congress was able under Nelson Mandela to reach out and bring them together to really coalesce around important ideas regarding the future of that country. I think that's something that we can use in this country without a doubt, that kind of mobilization.

BOND: Of course, we do have associations of taxi drivers in the United States but I don't think of them as being social engineers.

WILLIAMS: That's right.

BOND: How can we translate them from thinking about taxi driver issues to other issues? How can we make them take this step?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think, first of all, people are interested when there's compelling concerns and I think there's enough compelling issues that we could organize people. We could interact with them and reach out to their leadership. I think it's -- Sometimes we all are very comfortable in our own narrow cells, in our stovepipes and we don't think about reaching out beyond that, but I think that's something I certainly learned in South Africa about this sense of community and why community can cross lots of different organizational lines. I think the way we go about taking care of children and mothers and their health care, we could certainly learn a lot about in this country. There's no doubt about that. There's lot of interesting examples.