(Introduction to NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, Michael V. Kelley Distinguished Speaker at Saint Ignatius High School, October 6, 2003)
In her poem entitled Le Piano (The Piano), the Canadian Anne Hébert wrote:
It only took one light note
With a single finger struck
By a quiet slave
A single note held for a instant
For the deafened clamor of outrages
Buried in the hollow of black veins
To rise up and be released into the still air
The master, not knowing what to do
In the face of this tumult
Orders that the piano be shut
Part of our school's philosophy is to form young men who will be "Committed to Doing Justice." But this is more easily said than done, for as the French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine warns us, The argument of the strongest man always wins.
La Fontaine was so bothered by this injustice that he placed this moral at the very beginning instead of at the end of his fable “The Wolf and the Lamb.” The innocent young Lamb, despite his best efforts, his eloquent defense, and his just cause, in the end falls prey to the ravenous, tyrannical Wolf.
If we are to live up to the "Grad at Grad," and be “committed to doing justice,” we cannot just focus on the word justice. We also remember the importance of commitment and of action. In the face of almost certain adversity and possible failure, will we remain committed to act against injustice? While many may hear Hébert's "single note" and be moved or even outraged by it, how many of us would dare to re-open "the piano" and play few notes more?
Our speaker today clearly exemplifies someone who is indeed “committed to doing justice”-- committed to acting against injustice.
Julian Bond has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights and economic justice. As an activist who has faced jail for his convictions, as a veteran of more than 20 years service in the Georgia General Assembly, as a university professor, and as a writer, he has been on the cutting edge of social change since 1960.
While a student at Morehouse College, he was a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Elected in 1965 to the Georgia House of Representatives, he was prevented from taking his seat by members who objected to his opposition to the Vietnam War. He was re-elected to his own vacant seat only to be un-seated again. He was finally seated only after a third election and a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court.
He was co-chair of a challenge delegation from Georgia to the 1968 Democratic Convention. The challengers were successful in unseating Georgia's regular Democrats, and Bond was nominated for Vice-President, but had to decline because he was too young.
In the Georgia Senate, he became the first black chair of the Fulton County Delegation, and chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee. During his legislative tenure, he was sponsor or co-sponsor of more than 60 bills which became law.
He is a commentator on “America's Black Forum,” the oldest black-owned show in television syndication. His poetry and articles have appeared in numerous publications. He has narrated numerous documentaries, including the Academy Award winning "A Time For Justice" and the prize-winning and critically acclaimed series "Eyes On The Prize."
He has served since 1998 as Chairman of the Board of the NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States.
The holder of twenty-one honorary degrees, he is a Distinguished Professor at American University in Washington, DC, and a Professor in history at the University of Virginia.
We are fortunate and honored to present to you this morning Julian Bond.