Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Julian Bond, American Hero

One of my heroes is Julian Bond. Someone once remarked not to have heroes because they will let you down. I suppose that's a recognition that any human being is fallible under certain circumstances, but I don't expect Julian Bond to ever let anyone down. I have never understood why Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton seem to be more famous than Julian Bond, who is more intelligent, more articulate, and more photogenic. It's almost as if the universe reserves the best among us for those who put a little effort into searching for the divine.

His commencement speech at Loyola University in New Orleans in 2007 was beautiful. I especially liked these lines:

"Don’t let the din of the dollar deafen you to the quiet desperation of the dispossessed. Don’t let the glare of greed blind you to the many in need. You must place interest in principle above interest on principal."

In our increasingly material world, Bond and other civil rights leaders remind us what is important. I first heard him speak at an ACLU dinner in San Jose. When I left, I was a changed man. I've heard Mike Wallace, Warren Buffett, Wesley Clark, Desmond Tutu, Steve Jobs, and even Dave Barry speak, but none of them had the impact that Bond had on me. His ability to be inspirational while calmly forceful creates a powerful impact on any listener. I have tried to imitate his style as much as possible, but I cannot replicate the hold he has over an audience. It's not just charisma--Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett have that in spades; it's not a particular kind of voice--Wesley Clark has a great voice; Bond just has something that makes you feel proud to be a human being.

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