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If you like Willie Brown's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Ben Carson,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Daniel Inouye,
John Lewis,
Ralph Nader,
Rosa Parks,
Anthony Romero,
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Alan Simpson,
Antonio Villaraigosa
and Andrew Young

Willie Brown can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Willie Brown in the Achievement Curriculum section:
What is a Leader

Willie Brown's recommended reading: The Prince

Willie Brown also appears in the video:
Making a Better World: What is Your Responsibility to the Community?

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Willie Brown
Willie Brown
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Willie Brown Interview (page: 6 / 6)

Former Mayor of San Francisco

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  Willie Brown

How do you teach people about compromise?

Willie Brown: First and foremost, if you're ever going to build a consensus, if you're ever going to be the center of the compromise, you've got to be prepared to listen.

Listening is an art that most people do not possess. Most of us talk. And when we finish talking, we start thinking what we're going to say next. In interviews, I hate to be interviewed where the person interviewing me never listens to what I'm saying. They simply have a fixed agenda, and they're going to get through that agenda no matter what. Now, the agenda may not be relevant to anything that I've said in each subsequent question, but nevertheless, they stay with the agenda, so they're not listening. It takes greater skills to listen than it does to speak.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Once you develop the skills of listening, and people believe you're listening, they will listen to you. It gives you then the license to begin to build the compromise.

There must be a perception, if you are to build a compromise, that you do have some smarts. There's never been a person who's been the mediator, or the negotiator, or the person who orchestrated the solution, who was not perceived as being pretty smart, well informed on the issues.

Willie Brown Interview Photo
It goes back to the question of education. You've got to be credentialed. People do not listen to non-credentialed persons. It's a rare occasion when people will listen substantively to someone who doesn't have society's measurements of achievement. They may be artificial, but they are measurements of achievement.

There are some people who credential themselves and develop a whole group of followers, because they have some natural skills at listening. It goes back to the perception, and the perception tends to be reality. If you're credentialed, and you're perceived as smart, and you also have the unique talent to listen, you are literally designated to become the person who helps frame the solution.

Is there a book you would choose to read to your grandchildren, or to a young person, that would be important?

Willie Brown: Yes, I think there is one. I don't know at what age, or at what level of intellectual development I would recommend it, but I still read it with some regularly.

If you're going into the trade or the business I'm in, Machiavelli is the bible. And you'd better read it, and you'd better reread it. The wisdom contained in that book, for the nature of the public policy options that I exercise, and the techniques that are employed, and the assessment of your competition, stands you in good stead. I would recommend that to be read over, and over, and over, until death.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

What does the American Dream mean to you?

Willie Brown: The American Dream for me means providing an opportunity for every single, solitary person to be whatever they wish to be, at whatever level they wish to be, without any artificial barriers imposed, because of the nature of their birth, their sex, or gender, their sexual orientation, their location, their accent, or any of the other artificial things that are associated with categorizing people.

Mr. Mayor, it's been my privilege. Thank you.

Thank you.

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This page last revised on Nov 11, 2013 20:18 EST
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