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September 18, 1998

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Today, on the eve of a new millennium, I believe that America is more just and more free than it has ever been. I believe now, at a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity, when our country is becomingly increasingly diverse, it is time to confront the still unfinished business of race in our hearts and in our society.

President Bill Clinton
September 18, 1998

Today, President Clinton meets with the Advisory Board to the President's Initiative on Race (PIR), where he will accept their report reflecting the Board's experiences, observations, and recommendations for fostering better race relations in our country. The report is based on meetings and discussions conducted around the country with broad and diverse groups of people. The President will also announce the release of a report by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) on current differences in well-being by race and Hispanic origin and again call on Congress to pass his education initiatives.

Expanding The Dialogue On Race Relations In America. On June 14, 1997, President Clinton announced One America in the 21st Century: The President's Initiative on Race. During the 15 months since its inception, the President, Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, and the Board of the PIR have reached out to: over 30,000 young people; more than 1,000 religious and corporate leaders; 600 American Indian Tribal leaders; individuals participating in 300 promising practices around the country; and roughly 17,000 people in 39 states who participated in One America conversations. In their final report to the President, the Advisory Board will recommend:

  • A public education campaign to help keep the nation informed about the facts of race in America, to pay tribute to our differing racial and ethnic heritages and to emphasize the common values we all share;
  • A call to action from the President to leaders in state and local government and the private sector to work together to bridge racial divides in their communities;
  • A plan to involve young people in the efforts to promote racial reconciliations; and
  • The President's Council for One America to coordinate and monitor the implementation of policies designed to increase opportunity and eliminate racial disparities

A Comprehensive Report On Social And Economic Well-Being. Today, the Council on Economic Advisors (CEA) will release a book -- Changing America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being by Race and Hispanic Origin -- which finds that:

  • Race and ethnicity continue to be important predictors of well-being in American society;
  • African-Americans have made substantial progress relative to Non-Hispanic whites in many areas, though large disparities continue to persist;
  • The relative economic status of Hispanics has declined over the past 25 years, due in part to the increasing representation of immigrants among Hispanics, who have lower education and income levels;
  • Asian and Pacific Islanders are nearly as well-off as non-Hispanic whites, according to many indicators, though Asian-Americans have both a higher median income and higher poverty rate than non-Hispanic whites;
  • American Indians are among the most disadvantaged Americans according to many available indicators, such as poverty and median income.

Calling On Congress To Strengthen Our Public Education System. The most powerful key to helping all Americans reach their potential and achieve their goals is a strong education system. The President is renewing his call for Congress to pass the President's education agenda, which would create Education Opportunity Zones to reward poor school districts that introduce reforms, close down failing schools, promote public school choice, remove bad teachers from the classroom, eliminate social promotion, and make sure that children get the extra help they need to succeed. The failure of the House of Representatives to support a proposal to reduce class sizes in grades 1-3 to an average of 18 students and their passage of legislation that instead offers a block grant which eliminates accountability and rejects national responsibility for helping communities raise national standards, improve teaching and bring the benefits of technology to our students will be vetoed should it reach the President's desk in its current form.

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