Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership for the Future: Values and Morality

BOND: This is a natural segue to the last question. As a society, how can we foster the most effective leaders for the future? You've talked a bit about it with these young men you're dealing with, but in a larger sense, how can we as a society know that we're going to have a good supply of leadership figures in the future?


WILLIAMS: Look, it is amazing the state of education in this country. You just think about this -- over the last year or so. China has developed over 200,000 scientists and doctors, and in this country, it's only about 30,000. You know, we've gotten rid of vocational schools and these other specialty schools that we grew up, when I grew up where you could go in and use a skill. You have to understand -- not everybody's going to do well in college and there're going to be those that will barely get out of high school.


You know what, my family was like a microcosm of the world. I had a little of everything. I had a brother who failed third grade twice, who barely got out of high school. He had no idea how he was going to make ends meet, but the great thing that my father taught him was work ethic and discipline. You see, if you know how to work, you know how to be creative, and you know how to be imaginative, you can do just about anything. See, we don't encourage people to be creative and use enough imagination in the marketplace.


My brother, Bruce, God bless his soul, had no idea what he was going to do. He just happened to be driving by a cemetery one day and he saw them out there digging graves and he figured he could do that and so he decided to quit his job at Sara Lee. You know how he started digging graves? Using his hands, moving the dirt. Oh yeah, moving the dirt. Then he started with a rake. Then he started with a shovel and then they came, the diggers and the backhoe. He turned this into where he makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year in the deep South because he's not afraid of work. He's not afraid of failure. And he knows that one thing that he can do, he can work, and, see, we all have gifts but our gifts are not the same. There's something that you can do far better than I can do, but there're things that I can do -- but you've got to believe that you can do them well and so you've got to discover that which you are best at and become the expert in that area so even among all my brothers and sisters and there're ten of them, they all do very well. They all are very successful. 50 percent of them are entrepreneurs, some of them work in university system, but they learned how to work because you know why? They have a value system.


Without a value system, without a work ethic, without a moral compass, we're doomed for society and the thing that we try to do -- you see, there're five ways that you can make wealth in this country. There're five ways you can do that. You can marry it. You can steal it. You can win the lottery. And you can earn it. Or you can -- I'll come up with it. They're give ways that you can make wealth, but you know the ones that where 95 percent of the people keep it -- and you can inherit it, that's the fifth way. You know the main way that people keep wealth. By earning it. Even when you inherit it, even when you divorce and get it, even when you hit the lottery, even when you steal it, statistics shows that you don't keep it nearly as long as people who learn to earn it by their sweat of their brow. The Bible tells us that man must work by the sweat of their brow and if you work by the sweat of your brow --


You see, the thing about is that we're in the me generation. We wanted it now, the microwave mentality. We don't want to wait. You see, the great thing about -- and I love St. Augustine because St. Augustine tells us why do people cheat on their wives? Because there's an immediate reward of that sex. Why do people steal? There's an immediate reward of robbing someone of their goods. Why do people lie? There's an immediate reward of robbing someone of the truth. But doing good is an investment. You don't see it right away. You don't see it in two months or three months or six months. It kicks in over time. We should want the investment that's going to sustain us for a lifetime, not for tomorrow and not for next week, and so we don't teach children about patience. Patience is an honest man's revenge.


Until we get to the point where we stop selling drugs, stop fleecing society, and we build society and build it through character, through morality, and understand that in the end that you win because my mother's best saying when we were growing up -- "Lord, make my last days my best days." People want their earlier days [to be] their best days and so it takes sacrifice. It takes discipline.


I have worked hard to become the Armstrong Williams I am today. Not run up huge credit card debt, keeping my credit clean by paying my bills on time, so when I go out to buy property I have a very good credit score. Giving someone my word. Knowing that my word means more than anything else because if someone believes you at your word, they can trust you. Some people lie and scapegoat and so people don't trust them. People assume because they get a mortgage on a bank that if they don't pay the mortgage they don't understand that's stealing because you entered into a contract. There's something about the honor system. You see, for me when I go into a bank, you talk about where the boys get -- I get anything, because you know what, my word is good. It's more valuable than money. Your word's your character. If you say to somebody I'm going to be at an appointment at seven o'clock, you should be there at 6:45. Those are the things that we don't teach. Those are the things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary, that little extra and that's what we've gotten away from.


BOND: Armstrong Williams, thank you for an extraordinary interview.


WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Bond.


BOND: Thank you.