President Obama described him as a “hero” who “helped changed this country for the better.” The Rev. Jesse Jackson called him a “leader with strength, character.” NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock said he “inspired a generation of civil rights leaders.” Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, where he taught history for many years, called him a beloved retired professor who “shaped the course of history through his life and work.”
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How ever you choose to describe Julian Bond, one thing is for sure: He taught us all how to stand for what we believe. And he believed in freedom, justice and equality.
For me, one of the most remarkable attributes of this civil rights giant is the fact that he never stopped giving. Even at the time of his brief illness and death on Aug. 15 at the age of 75, he was still serving faithfully as chairman emeritus on the NAACP board. Even after he retired from the professorship at the University of Virginia, he continued to mentor and remained a role model for students and others.
A writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer and college teacher – and as a former politician – Julian Bond was one of those rare people whose work became legendary while he was still doing it. In fact, the Library of Congress once called him a “living legend.”
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And because of the magnitude of his work, he leaves many treasures that will simply keep on giving. UVA, where his papers are housed, has announced its goal to establish a Julian Bond Professorship in Civil Rights and Social Justice, which “will continue Bond’s scholarly legacy.” There will certainly be many more designations in honor of his life's work.
And surely some will rise, seeking to follow in his footsteps. Mr. Bond believed in young people’s ability to take the civil rights and social justice baton and run with it. Earlier this year, he told a group of Howard University students, “I think you know what the problems are. You know what the solutions are, and I'm sure we will be glad to help. But don't depend on us to tell you what to do. Just go out and do it."
Well, he left an amazing road map. From his pioneering civil rights work as a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to all of his work and contributions thereafter, Julian Bond was a model for anyone who aims to make an impact and leave the world a better place.
In that regard, he was a role model for us all. What a life. What a legacy.
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Photo: Courtesy of NAACP.org
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