I started building my confidence very young. I joined a church when I was 3 years old. For some reason, I became mesmerized with the pastor. I used to come home from church every Sunday, put my mother's bathrobe on and preach to my sister's dolls.
Every year, the church would have an anniversary program to salute the junior ushers. They asked all of the kids what they wanted to do in the program, and I said I wanted to preach. Everybody laughed. The senior adviser said, "Don't laugh. Maybe he's being inspired." He said, "Let's let him do it, and see what happens."
So there was, like, 900 people, and I got up and preached for 20 minutes. About the time I was 8 or 9 years old, I was invited to other churches. I was basically preaching before I could read and write. If you start preaching at 4, it is not that heady for you to start your own civil rights organization when you're 16. Or run for mayor of New York. I've always been confident enough to try to do what people thought was abnormal, and make it normal. People would consider a boy preacher abnormal. Well, you can't tell that to the boy preaching, and I have 900 people there clapping.
In December 2002, when I started talking about running for president, most people said, "That's absolutely insane" -- which is normal. Now here we are, and I didn't flunk in the debates. In fact, most people think I did well. I did all right in many states. Now I look back on it and understand why others thought it was crazy. It's still odd for me to say it's crazy, because I did it, and I succeeded.
When I was a kid, a civil rights leader said to me, "When you're out there in the public eye, it's like playing football. Half the crowd is cheering, and the other half is jeering. Your job is to get the ball across the goal line." So I assume, coming out, that there are going to be attacks; there are even those laughing. My purpose is to keep my eye on the ball. If I keep my eye on the ball, I know that everyone laughing and jeering would have to change. Ain't nobody laughing now.
-- Interview by Cathy Areu Jones