Jack,or Secretary Jack Kemp as I called him, was a friend, a long-serving member of my national board of directors of and for Operation HOPE, the organization I founded, and even a mentor at times to me personally. Jack was one of those individuals who always reminded me – both in words and deeds – to always talk with everyone. You did not have to agree, but you must talk. Jack also was one of few individuals, and true leaders, with more passion for life, and more energy than I ever had.
The strongest and most enduring memory I have of Jack is something he said to me 20 years ago. It was something I had never heard another non-black say, and frankly, something I recall even few blacks ever saying. What Jack told me 20 years ago was "John, we are all African." Now, for anyone truly curious about the history of mankind they know this to be true, but it is another thing altogether for a prominent, Caucasian, Republican politician to say it. And — he said to me while in Africa!
Jack did not miss a tour of the Rev. Leon Sullivan sponsored African-African American Economic Summit sessions held throughout the African continent. He knew the continent better than me, and I have been to Africa two dozen times or more. Jack also had sense of humor. I remember one time in South Africa, we were awaiting the arrival of Nelson Mandela, and were reminded by Jack and others to not take photos of Mandela because the flash was not good for his eyes, or something such as that. Anyway, I noted seriously Jack's studied recommendation, and as Mr. Mandela entered the room to greet the delegates, I noticed a prominent photo flash over my right shoulder. As I turned to admonish whomever it was being rude — I noticed it was none other than one Jack Kemp, of course cracking that trademark amazing smile of his. He had me, and he had gotten a great, great shot of Nelson Mandela that the rest of us had to later beg for copies of (smile).
Or there are the times when Jack would travel all around the country promoting good causes, at no cost to the nonprofit organizations in question. Jack came to Los Angeles countless times for Operation HOPE, including one occasion where he headlined a fundraising dinner for us early in our inception, bringing with him a good deal of needed credibility for the HOPE mission. Jack never, ever asked for anything in return, except of course that we "keep our promises, and help empower people."
There are so many Kemp/Bryant stores, from the Op-Ed's we wrote together, the silver rights series, the Kemp quotes, the Kemp vision of empowering the poor, the events with my hero Ambassador Andrew Young, to the mission statements and summits we partnered on, the many times he promoted me and the HOPE mission, even to the then new President, to the interview he was gracious enough to do with me earlier this year for my upcoming book LOVE LEADERSHIP; A New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World. Jack was brilliant in that interview, and I am so happy to now have that amazing voice on tape — sharing his vision for "one world, one piece, and one people." I am going to dedicate my book to hero leaders, like one Jack Kemp.
Take a moment today, and this week, to honor and to remember Secretary Jack Kemp, and remember to send a prayer out for his family during this time.
One person can change the world. Secretary Jack Kemp was just one of those people.
John Hope Bryant, friend