On this day, legendary Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was born. The grandson of a former slave, Tom Bradley later went on to become a pioneering leader within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), rising to a level not seen by many African-Americans before him. He later become the first (and only) African-American mayor of Los Angeles, and only the second African-American mayor of a major U.S. city. He was and remains the longest serving mayor of Los Angeles, ever, with a 20 year tenure.
Mayor Bradley also had an incredible impact on my life. He was an early role model and a mentor to me, in my late teenage years and early 20’s. I was a mess, and extremely irritating — and he (and my friend Wilfred Marshall who worked for Bradley in the office of minority small business) was patient beyond measure. He tolerated me, and helped to quietly mold (and include) me, because he saw something in me. I appreciated that then, and onto this day. I remember when he invited me to travel with him on a trade mission to South Korea. His advisors said ‘who is this kid, and why is he here,’ and Mayor Bradley simply communicated — ‘he’s coming with us.’ And that was it. That was part of the start of becoming an international businessman, and a global citizen.
Mayor Bradley — a man before the Internet age, which means most young people of this generation don’t really know him — was a man above. A mentor and a role model for a generation. Integrity, style, intelligence and grace walking. He did not holler and screw, because he did not need to. He lived the phrase inspired by my friend Rod McGrew, “when you have the power, you don’t need to use it.”
I part, I am who I am because of people in my life like Mayor Tom Bradley. I wear a suit, because he did. I walk ‘straight upright,’ because people in my life like Mayor Tom Bradley did too.
But what if all a young person saw and witnessed growing up, in his neighborhood, as a system of success, were ‘rap stars, athletes and drug dealers,’ then no one should be surprised that kids growing up wanting to be, rap stars, athletes and drug dealers. People model what they see. As did I growing up. We need to give young people, something different to see. I talk about this extensively in my recent books, Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World, and How The Poor Can Save Capitalism.
I take this moment, to thank and commend the late, great Mayor Tom Bradley. A legend of our times.
John Hope Bryant