Interview with Maynard Jackson
QUESTION 17
JACKIE SHEARER:

How do you understand the challenge that faces Black elected officials?

MAYNARD JACKSON:

This is, um, an America where the most perfect revolutionary act in this democracy is voting. Black elected officials have all of the challenges that White elected officials have, with a major overlay in addition. That overlay is to prove--we shouldn't have to do this, it's not fair that we're asked to do this, it's not fair that we're expected to do this--but the reality is, that we've got to prove ourselves more than others. Not just to White, the White community, but to the Black community as well. There, there is a, an undercurrent in, in Black America that fears that Black elected officials will embarrass the Black community. One of the things that I've sworn I would never do is to do anything that would embarrass my city. Anybody, Black or White, but especially the Black community. And, do you know that I hear that more than almost any single thing, um, when I talk to the church ladies, the deacons and so forth around, they, they appreciate that. So the challenge therefore is to manage well, to be a good public manager. But more than that, a leader who has a vision for the future, and who has the, the guts to make that happen, but also the skill, try to build a consensus and to bring that group along. And there is no excuse that we ought to use just because we're Black. We shouldn't hide behind that. Shouldn't use that as a rationalization, should not try to say, well, look, you know, you've got to make special allowances for me because I'm Black, and all of this. I'm sorry, but Black taxpayers want the same things that White taxpayers want, and you better be able to deliver. And you've got to be able to stand and deliver and when we talk about, ah, ah, eyes on the prize, we've got to be sure that we are electing people to office who first of all know what prize they're after. What is the prize? The prize is equal opportunity. It is good management. It is a better way and a better day. It is a change from the status quo. And the prize also is to serve well, and to serve fairly. To serve honestly. But to make a difference. And if the only thing one is doing is, is holding office, saying, look at me, I'm a Black elected official, and then not taking care of business. If they're not using the power they have to change things for the better, they are a waste. The prize is a better way and a better day for all people, especially those who are oppressed.


JACKIE SHEARER:

OK.

MAYNARD JACKSON:

Well, in the one year delay, the approximately one year delay, ah, while we were being stonewalled, we developed a better plan, less expensive, better designed. People began to rally to it, and that's when I knew the project was going to work. Not only in terms of affirmative action. People were beginning to say, we'll, we'll go along with it, we don't like it, but yes, OK, we can work, we can live with that. But also that we were going to have a great airport, well-designed, built ahead of schedule, within budget, and simultaneously, we were going to do what was necessary to do, to be a fair government. That's what I knew.