Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential Figures: Steve Wareck

BOND: Back to influences, in what way is Steve Wareck your political father? You called him that in an interview or something you'd said once. Who is he?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, you've done a lot of good research. Steve Wareck was a very — I would put [him] right up there in the top three or four influences on my life. When I was a student at Yale, I got involved in the student government and I basically got bored in the student government. I got bored in the fraternity situation, and so I ended up getting involved in local government and ended up representing a constituency in New Haven, Connecticut, as a member of the local city council. They're called the Board of Aldermen, and when I came onto the Board of Aldermen, Steve Wareck was the chair of the board of aldermen and I got to know him through that. I worked on his campaign when he ran for Congress in 1982. It didn't really go anywhere, but I worked for him and got to know him even better and stayed in touch with him after I graduated and he was a close friend, [a] supporter in every possible way. And what I got —

What did I get from Steve? Steve is — Steve was like me in lot of ways. He wasn't the most charismatic person. You wouldn't have people lined up to hear a Steve Wareck speech, okay? But in terms of his financial acumen, in terms of his understanding of management, organization — and actually Steve was a big believer in proverb I always say. "To plan is human, to implement is divine." Anybody can plan something, okay, but it takes a real leader to actually implement.

You know, I mean, if I'm sitting up here in a hospital bed you can come to me and say, "Tony, you have a malignant tumor," and you know, talk sweet words to me and I may feel better while I'm talking to you, but if you don't have anything in your medicine bag or anything that you can do for my tumor, what good is that? Another guy or lady may come in. She may say, "You know what, you've got a tumor," and I may feel bad and not like you, but then she actually does something about it — who am I better off with, you know?

BOND: And so Steve Wareck was the implementer guy, the guy who said — ?

WILLIAMS: "You've got a malignant tumor, you know." Well, that wasn't very nice. Yeah. "But here's how I'm going to fix it," and he fixed it.