Civil rights icon Julian Bond died on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the age of 75. He started the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, served in the Georgia legislature, helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center and also led the NAACP in his long career as an activist.
In 2011, I had the opportunity to meet Julian Bond. He asked me about my career plans and what I wanted to do. As a y
oung person early in my career, I was eager to tell him of all things I was doing and how I wanted to be CEO of a healthcare company. Anyway, after listening to me blabber on about myself, he gave me an endearing look and said, with a smooth, but passionate voice, "Well, I hope that you consider using your leadership talents for civic service." That one interaction helped set me on a career and leadership course for which I will be forever grateful. I was so moved by the presence of this man that I began reading his books and learning more about his legacy and following his still active career. I am in no way the leader that Julian Bond was, but what his example has shown me is that we as a people can use our passions, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to implement CHANGE and improve the quality of life in our communities. This is why I believe service in organizations like NOBCChE is so critical.
Bond would have had a successful career no matter what path he chose. He was handsome, charismatic, intelligent, eloquent and creative. He could have easily used all those traits to only build success at a major corporation or law firm, but he chose to make civic service an integral part of that success. He was a state congressman and senator in Georgia for over 20 years, he co-founded the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization, was the first African-American to be nominated as a vice-presidential candidate and led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as its chairman for a decade—all while building a distinguished career as a lecturer, commentator, professor, essayist and poet.
Julian Bond is an example of visionary strategic civic leadership. With the civil rights movement gaining momentum in the early 1960s, Julian Bond emerged as one of its most visible champions as young man. He didn't wait until he "made it big" to make a difference. Civic leadership is not always easy and often times, the sacrifices are under-appreciated. There were probably other more prestigious organizations that he could have been involved with at that time. But he dug in and used his skills to advocate for what he believed in. As a result of his leadership, SNCC organized some of the most iconic and effective civil rights movements of our time.
Julian Bond was a hero for all people. His life and legacy are an example of visionary strategic civic leadership that changed this country for the better.