REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK
Hyatt Regency Hotel
7:30 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I must say, whenArthur was speaking, I thought to myself that he sounded like a president. (Laughter.) And I said to myself, if I had a voice like that, I could runfor a third term, even though -- (laughter).
I enjoyed meeting with your board members and JoAnne LyonsWooten, your Executive Director backstage. I met Vanessa Williams, whosaid, you know, I'm the president-elect; have you got any advice for me onbeing president? True story. I said, I do. Always act like you knowwhat you're doing. (Laughter.)
I want to say to you, I'm delighted to be joined heretonight by a distinguished group of people from our White House and fromthe administration, including the Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman; andthe Secretary of Education, Dick Riley; and a number of others from theWhite House. Where is my White House crew? Would you all stand up --everybody here from the administration, the Department of Education,Department of Labor. (Applause.)
I don't know whether he is here or not, but I understandCongressman Bobby Rush was here earlier today, and I know there are someother local officials from Chicago who are here. And this is a greatplace to come. Chicago is such a wonderful city that there was an articlethis morning in the New York Times bragging on Chicago. (Laughter.) And Isaw the Mayor today. He said, I know we have finally arrived. If they'rebragging on us in New York, we have made it.
And I congratulate all the people here on the remarkableimprovements they've made in this magnificent city in the last few years. I'd also like to say a special word of thanks to Reverend Jesse Jackson. I see him here in the audience and I know he's here. Thank you. (Applause.)
I always kind of hate to speak when Jesse is in the audience. (Laughter.) You know, I mean, every paragraph gets a grade. (Laughter.)Most of them aren't very good. I can just hear it now -- all the wheelsturning.
I want to thank Reverend Jackson for agreeing to co-chair,along with the Secretary of Transportation, Rodney Slater, an Americandelegation to an economic conference in Zimbabwe, where he'll be goingnext week. And I know you all wish him well on that. We are doing ourbest to have a major initiative reaching out to Africa, recognizing thatmore and more countries in Africa are becoming functioning, successfuldemocracies; that half a dozen countries in Africa have had growth ratesof 7 percent or more last year and will equal that again this year; andthat this is an enormous opportunity for us not only to promote betterlives for the millions and millions of people who live on that continent,but also better opportunities for Americans and better partnerships withAfrica in the years ahead.
Well, you heard your President say that I promised to comehere in 1992 if I got elected. And I'm trying to keep every promise Imade. And I'm sure glad I got a second term so I didn't get embarrassedon this one. (Laughter.)
In the years since I assumed office, I have worked very hardto create an America of opportunity for all, responsibility from all, witha community of all Americans, a country committed to continuing to leadthe world toward greater peace and freedom and prosperity. And thatbegins with giving every person in this country the chance to live up tohis or her God-given abilities.
Many of you chose to become journalists because you thoughtit was the best way to use your God-given talent -- your gift with words,your knack for asking tough questions, which some of us find maddening --(laughter) -- and for getting the answers, your instincts with a camera ora microphone, your ability to connect with people and get them tounderstand what it is you're trying to get across. And you did not justto make a living, but to make a difference. I thank you for that. And Ithink that all of us want that opportunity for everyone in this country.
Last month in San Diego, I called upon Americans to begin adialogue, a discussion over the next year and perhaps beyond, to deal withwhat I think is the greatest challenge we'll face in the 21st century,which is whether we really can become one America as we become morediverse; whether as we move into a truly global society, we can be theworld's first truly great multiracial, multiethnic, multireligiousdemocracy. I asked the American people to undertake a serious discussionof the lingering problems and the limitless possibilities that attend ourdiversity.
I came here tonight to talk a little more about thisinitiative, to ask each of you to examine what role you can play in it andthe vital contributions as journalists and as African Americans you mightmake in leading your news rooms, your communities, and our nation in theright kind of dialogue.
Five years ago, I talked about how we could prepare ourpeople to go into the 21st century, and we've made a lot of strides sincethen. Our economy is the healthiest in a generation and once again thestrongest in the world. Our social problems are finally bending to ourefforts. But at this time of great prosperity, we know we still have alot of great challenges in order to live up to our ideals, in order tolive up to what we say America should mean.
And it seems to me that at this time when there is more causefor hope than fear, when we are not driven by some emergency or someimminent cataclysm in our society, we really have not only an opportunity,but an obligation to address and to better resolve the vexing, perplexing,often painful issues surrounding our racial history and our future.
We really will, whether we're prepared for it or not, becomea multiracial democracy in the next century. Today, of our 50 states,only the state of Hawaii has no majority race. But within three to fiveyears, our largest state, California, where 13 percent of us live, willhave no majority race. Five of our school districts already draw studentsfrom over 100 different racial and ethnic groups, including the schooldistrict in the city of Chicago. But within a matter of a couple ofyears, over 12 school districts will have students from over 100 differentracial and ethnic groups.
When I was a boy, I knew that a lot of people went from mynative state in Arkansas to Detroit to make a living because they couldn'tmake a living on the farm anymore. Many of them were African Americans,and they joined the white ethnics, many of whom were from Central andEastern Europe and from Ireland in the Detroit area, working in the carplants, getting the good middle class jobs, being able to educate theirchildren, looking forward to a retirement. Some of them actually arecoming back home now and buying land. And Nicholas Lemann traced that movement in a great book he wrote not so long ago.
But now Detroit is not just a place of white ethnics andAfrican Americans. In Wayne County, there are over 145 different racialand ethnic groups represented today. So the paradigm is shifting. Andso, as part of our engagement in this national dialogue, we have to bothdeal with our old, unfinished business, and then imagine what we are goingto be like in 30 years and whether we can actually become one America whenwe're more different. Is there a way not only to respect our diversity,but even to celebrate it and still be one America? Is there a way to usethis to help us economically and to spread opportunity here?
Why are there so many people in the Congress in both partiesexcited about this Africa initiative? Because we have so many AfricanAmericans -- even people who were never concerned about it beforeunderstand this is a great economic opportunity for America. Why do wehave a unique opportunity to build a partnership with Brazil and Argentinaand Chile and all the countries in Latin America? Because we have peoplefrom all those countries here in our country. Why do we have theopportunity to avoid having Asia grow, but grow in a more closed andisolated way, running the risk of great new problems 30, 40, 50 years fromnow? Because we have so many Asian Americans who are making a home herein America with ties back home to their native lands and cultures. We areblessed if we can make this work.
We also may have a chance to make peace in other parts of theworld if we can make peace within our borders with ourselves. But let'snot kid ourselves -- the differences between people are so deep and soingrained, it's so easy to scratch the surface and have something bad gowrong, and we see that in countries less privileged than ourselves whenthings go terribly wrong -- whether it's between the Hutus and the Tutsisin Rwanda and Burundi; or the Catholics and the Protestants in the home ofmy ancestors, Ireland; or the Croats, the Serbs, and the Muslims who are,interestingly enough, biologically indistinguishable, in Bosnia; or thecontinuing travails of the Jews and the Arabs in the Middle East.
If you look through all of human history, societies have veryoften been defined by their ability to pit themselves as coherent unitsagainst those who were different from themselves. Long ago in prehistory,it probably made a lot of sense for people that were in one tribe to lookat people in another tribe as enemies, because there was a limited amountof food to eat or opportunities for shelter, because people did not knowhow to communicate with each other so they had to say, people that looklike me are my friends, people that don't look like me are my enemies.
But why, on the verge of the 21st century, are we stillseeing people behave like that all over the world? And why here even inAmerica do we find ourselves, all of us at some time, gripped bystereotypes about people who don't look like we do?
So we shouldn't kid ourselves. This is not going to be aneasy task. But there is hardly anything more important because we know wehave a great economy; we know we have a strong military; we know we have aunique position in the world today with the fall of communism virtuallyeverywhere and the rise of market economies and the success that we'veoffered. But we know we also have these lingering inequalities andproblems in America. And if we can overcome them and learn to really livetogether and celebrate, not just tolerate but celebrate our differencesand still say, in spite of all those differences, the most important thingabout me is that I am an American, that there is no stopping what we cando and what our children can become.
This week in Washington, John Hope Franklin convened thefirst meeting of the advisory board I appointed on racial reconciliation. The executive director of that board, Judy Winston, who has been ourActing Under Secretary of Education, is also here with me tonight. I amvery proud that she has agreed to do that and very excited about what hashappened. The first meeting was full of lively debate and honestdisagreement. I like that. We should discover quickly that people whoare honestly committed to advancing this dialogue will have honestdifferences and they ought to be aired.
Earlier today, as your President said, at the NAACPConvention in Pittsburgh, I reiterated my long-held belief that we willnever get to our one America in the 21st century unless we have bothequality and excellence in educational opportunity. We have to give everyAmerican access to the world's best schools, best teachers, besteducation. And that means we have to have high standards, highexpectations and high levels of accountability from all of us who wereinvolved in it.
But I want to say to you, we know our children can learn. For years and years, ever since 1984, when the Nation at Risk -- 1983 --when the Nation At Risk report was issued, people said, well, you can'texpect American education to compete favorably with education in othercountries because we have a more diverse student body and because we haveso many more poor children and so many immigrants and because, because,because.
This year, on the International Math and Science Tests givento 4th and 8th graders, for the first time since we began a nationaleffort to improve our schools over a decade ago, our 4th graders -- notall of them, but a representative sample, representative of race, region,income -- scored way above the national average in math and science --disproving the notion that we cannot achieve international excellence ineducation even for our poorest children. It is simply not true.
This year, again, our 8th graders scored below theinternational average, emphasizing the dimensions of the challenge,because when the kids who carry all these other burdens to school everyday -- the burden of poverty, the burden of crime and drugs in theirneighborhoods, the burden of unmet medical needs, often the burden ofproblems at home -- when they hit adolescence and when they are pressuredand tempted to get involved in other things, it gets to be a lot tougher. So we haven't done everything we need to do. But the evidence is herenow; it is no longer subject to debate that we can't compete. And that'sgood, because we need to. And because our children, however poor theyare, are entitled to just as much educational opportunity as anybody else.
Now, I believe that we made a big mistake in the UnitedStates not adopting national standards long before this. And I believeour poorest children and our minority children would be doing even betterin school had we adopted national standards a long time ago and held theirschools to some measure of accountability. It is not their fault, it isthe rest of our faults that we are not doing it. (Applause.)
So when I say by 1999 we ought to test all our 4th gradersand all our 8th graders -- the 4th graders in reading, the 8th graders inmath -- it's not because I want the individual kids to get a grade, it'sbecause everybody ought to make that grade. If you have a standard,everyone ought to clear the bar. And if they're not, there is somethingwrong with the educational system that ought to be fixed. And you can'tknow it unless you understand what the standard is and hold people to someaccountability. But don't let anybody tell you that these kids can't doit. That is just flat wrong. They can do it. (Applause.)
Today I did announce one new initiative that I think is veryimportant, and that is a $350 million multiyear scholarship programmodeled on the National Medical Service Corps. You know, a lot of us comefrom places that have a lot of poor rural areas that are medicallyunder-served. We got doctors into those areas, into the MississippiDelta, because we said, hey, if you'll go to medical, we'll help you go tomedical school, but you've got to go out to a poor under-served area andbe a doctor to people who need you. Then later you can go make all themoney you want somewhere else. But if we help you go to medical school,will you go out here and help people where they don't have doctors? Andthe National Health Service Corps has done a world of good.
So what I propose today, and what we're going to send up toCapitol Hill with the Reauthorization of Higher Education Act is a seriesof scholarships that will go to people who say, I will teach in a poorarea for three years if you will help me get an education. (Applause.)
This is the first specific policy to come out in connectionwith our year-long racial reconciliation initiative. There will be morepolicies. But it's not just a matter of public policy. There will alsobe local actions, private actions which will have to be taken. And wealso need the dialogue, the discussion. It is about the mind and theheart. And, therefore, I say again, your voices and your observations aregoing to be very valuable.
In the communities where we have a constructive, ongoingdialogue, where people not only talk together but work together acrossracial lines, there are already stunning stories that stir the heart andgive us hope for the future. There is nothing people can't do. Mostpeople are basically good. Their leaders have to give them a framework inwhich the best can come out and the worst can be repressed. And that'swhat we have to do here. We've got to learn how to deal with afundamentally new and different situation as well as deal with a lot ofold, unresolved problems in our past that dog us in the present.
As journalists, you have experienced firsthand both theprogress and the continuing challenge of race in our country. Some of youin this audience are pioneers in your field, perhaps the first people ofcolor ever to claim a desk, a phone, a typewriter in the news rooms of ourbig-city papers and stations. Some of you, when you were beginning yourcareers, knew that it was hard enough to find just one editor who wouldconsider your work, let alone the hundreds of newspaper and broadcastingexecutives who this week have descended on this job fair that yousponsored to recruit the young people who are here today.
They've come here not just because they recognize the valueof a diverse and racially representative staff, but also because they knowfrom experience that they'll find some of the best talent in Americanjournalism here at this convention. (Applause.)
But our news rooms are like all of our other workingenvironments -- they've come a long way, they've still got a ways to go. (Applause.) Just as in other work places in America, minorityrepresentation on many staffs and mast heads is not what it ought to be. Wide gaps continue to exist in the way whites and minorities perceivetheir workplaces and in the way they perceive each other. We have tobridge this gap everywhere in America.
But it is especially important in the press because you arethe voice and, in some ways, the mirror of America through which we seeourselves and one another. I encourage you to continue to reach out toyour colleagues; to listen to each other; to understand where we're allcoming from; to lead your organizations in the writing, the editing, thebroadcasting fare and the thought-provoking stories about the world welive in and the one we can live in. We have a lot to do to build that oneAmerica for the 21st century, but I believe we're up to the challenge, andI know that you are up to the challenge.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. FENNELL: Thank you very much, Mr. President. As iscustomary in these forums here at our national convention, at this time,we bring forth our questioners. We are journalists, after all, and youknew this was coming. (Laughter.)
We have selected four journalists who will ask the questionsof the day. Eric Thomas, reporter and anchor at KGO-TV in San Francisco;Chinta Strausberg, reporter of the Chicago Defender; Cheryl Smith, areporter at KKDA-Radio, Grand Prairie, Texas --
THE PRESIDENT: I know where that is.
MR. FENNELL: Yes. And Brent Jones, our studentrepresentative, a junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville. (Applause.)
To the questioners.
Q Chinta Strausberg, the Chicago Defender newspaper. Mr.President, do you support an $8 billion superhighway, NAFTA superhighwayat a time when Congress has reduced funding for mass transit in Chicago aswell? And if that superhighway is built, sir, will black contractors be amajor part of it as a down payment on reparations?
THE PRESIDENT: What superhighway? Say it again? Did I --what's this project?
Q It's a proposed congressional plan -- $8 billion NAFTAsuperhighway that would connect the United States with Canada and Mexico,and it is being discussed in Congress.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know that I'm familiar enoughwith the project. I do believe we need to continue to improve ourinfrastructure. Secretary Slater and I have argued that we should notunder-fund mass transit and urban transportation. And indeed, in thetransportation bill I sent to Congress, we asked for several hundredmillion dollars more directly targeted to help people on welfare who arerequired to go to work, get to where the jobs are if their jobs aren'twithin walking distance. Only about 10 percent of the people on publicassistance own their own cars. And we believe we need more investment inmass transit in the cities. So -- and I don't think it should be aneither-or situation.
And in terms of contracting, I support affirmative actionprograms generally in employment, in education, and in economicdevelopment. And I've done everything I could to fix what were thegenerally recognized shortcomings of some of the programs that graduateout the firms that may not need it any more, but to continue it where Ithink it is appropriate. So I continue to support that.
And I think it is a mistake for us not to have initiatives tohelp create minority-owned businesses. I think we should -- as a matterof fact, let me just back up and say, when I was in San Francisco at theMayors Conference not very long ago, I said to them that I thought weought to develop a private-sector, job-related model for high unemploymentareas in our cities and -- because there was no way the government socialservices could ever create enough economic opportunity for people. And Ithought, if we couldn't do it when the national unemployment rate was thelowest in 23 years, when could we do it?
So I think we need to do more to help people organize andstart their own businesses, to help build economic clusters of activity,to help give people models as well as opportunities to work, to see thatwe can do this. I don't think we're doing nearly enough in this area, andI think we have a new opportunity to do it because the unemployment rateis low in the nation.
As I've heard Reverend Jackson say for 20 years, the biggestundeveloped market in America are the poor unemployed and under-employedpeople in our inner cities and our rural areas. Now is the time we shouldbe creating more businesses there, not having fewer businesses. That'swhat I believe. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, your scholarship proposal notwithstanding,there is still an assault on affirmative action in this country. In myhome state of California in the wake of Proposition 209 and last year'svote by the University of California Board of Regents, minorityapplications and enrollment in the UC system this year are down. Therewill be not one new black student enrolled at the prestigious Bolt HallSchool of Law at the University of California this fall. What specificprograms, scholarship program notwithstanding, do you propose to stem thistide and make sure that there is diversity in higher education in thiscountry? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I think we need to make surethat we continue to use federal law to the maximum extent we can topromote an integrated educational environment -- (applause) -- so that wehave to review, whether in the Education Department, in the JusticeDepartment, whether there are any further actions we can take legally topromote an integrated educational environment in higher education in thestates where these actions have been taken.
Secondly, I think we need to look at whether there is someway by indirection to achieve the same result. I know that thelegislature in Texas, in an attempt to overcome the impact of the Hopwooddecision in Texas, just passed what they call the "Ten Percent Solution,"which would be to guarantee admissions to any Texas public institution ofhigher education to the top 10 percent of the graduating class of any highschool in Texas. And because of the way the African Americans andHispanics living patterns are in Texas, that may solve the problem. Whether that would work in California, I don't know. I haven't studiedthe way the school districts are organized enough. But I think we have tocome up with some new and fairly innovative ways to do that.
Thirdly, I think, on the professional schools, my own view --I'm a little stumped here. We have to really -- we're going to have toreexamine what we can do. I don't know why the people who promoted thisin California think it's a good thing to have a segregated set ofprofessional schools. It would seem to me that, since these professionalsare going to be operating in the most ethnically-diverse state in thecountry, they would want them to be educated in an environment likethey're going to operate. I don't understand that. (Applause.) But there may be some ways to get around it, and we'relooking at it and working on it. But I think it's going to be easier tostop it from happening at the undergraduate level than at the professionalschool level. And we're going to have to really think about whether thereis some way around it, whether it would be some sort of economicdesignation or something else. But we're working on that.
And finally, let me say, I think we need to continue toprovide more resources, because one of the real problems we have is, evenin the last five years, when we've had economic recovery, the collegeenrollment rates of minorities in America have not gone up in anappropriate way. And in this budget that I'm trying to get passed throughCongress, we've got the biggest increase in education funding in 32 years,the biggest increase in Pell Grant scholarships in 20 years, another hugeincrease in work-study funds, and the tax proposal, as we structured them,would, in effect, guarantee two years of college to virtually everyone inAmerica and help people with two more years of college.
We've got a huge dropout problem in higher education amongminorities that I think is having an impact on then what happens in thegraduate schools and in the professional schools. I don't think there isa simple answer. And I think, frankly, the way 209 is worded, it's abigger problem even than the Hopwood case in Texas. But I can tell youwe're working on it: first, is there anything the Justice Department orthe Civil Rights Office of the Education Department can do? We'reexamining that. Second, is there a specific solution like the Texas "TenPercent Solution" that would overcome it at least in a specific state. Third, come up with some more funds and some more specific scholarshipprograms to try to overcome it.
It's a great concern to me, and I think it is moving thecountry in exactly the wrong direction. And I might say, if you look atthe performance of affirmative action students, it doesn't justify theaction that was taken. That's another point that ought to be made.
So the one thing that I believe is, I believe that the rathershocking consequences in the professional schools in both Texas andCalifornia will have a deterrent impact on other actions like that inother states. And I believe you will see more efforts now to avoid this. I think a lot of people who even voted for 209 have been pretty shocked atwhat happened and I don't believe the people of California wanted that tooccur. And I think the rhetoric sounded better than the reality to a lotof voters.
So I can tell you that, while I'm very concerned about it, Ithink if we all work on it, we can reverse it in a matter of a couple ofyears. And we just have to hope we don't lose too many people who wouldotherwise have had good opportunities because of it. But it is an urgentmatter of concern to me. (Applause.)
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon.
Q My question also has to do with education for more at ahigh school and middle school level. The dropout rate, crime, and drugsare more prevalent in inner city schools than in suburban schools,consequently leading to a lower quality education in many inner cityschools. What will your administration do through government-aidedprograms or initiatives to combat these problems and ensure everyone inAmerica is receiving a comparable education? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I want to answer your question, but first I'dlike to start with a compliment to the African American community. Lastyear, the high school graduation rate nationally among African Americanswas well above 80 percent and almost at the level -- almost equal to thelevel for white Americans. And it's a little known and appreciated fact. And it's a great tribute, since, as you pointed out, people who are ininner city schools, particularly where there's a lot of violence, a lot ofdrugs, a lot of problems, have to struggle harder to stay and get throughand come out -- it's a stunning achievement that the differential ingraduation rate is now only about 4 percent. That's a stunning thing. That's very, very good. (Applause.)
Now, I'll tell you what we're trying to do. We're trying todo several things. We're trying, first of all, to help these schools workbetter with helping the teachers and the principals to operate drug-freeand weapon-free schools; with supporting juvenile justice systems like theone in Boston where, I might add, not a single child has been killed by ahandgun in nearly two years in Boston, Massachusetts. (Applause.)
So we've got to create a safe and drug-free environment. Then we're trying to support more parents groups in establishing their ownschools. For example, I met with a number of Hispanic leaders recently --a lot of you are familiar with the group, La Raza. They are operating, LaRaza is operating 15 charter schools, where the parents have beenpermitted to work with teachers to establish their own schools within thepublic school system, and set up the rules which govern them and make surethat they're good for the kids.
There are a number -- there's no magic bullet here, but whatwe're trying to do is to take the lessons from every public school that isworking in a difficult environment where there's a low dropout rate and ahigh performance rate, and say, they all have five or six common elements;and then we're trying to provide the funds and the support to people allover America to replicate that.
I want to take my hat off to the people of Chicago here whohave had a very difficult situation in their schools, and they have beenturning it around and raising student performance quite markedly in thelast couple of years with the involvement -- aggressive involvement ofparents and students. There's a student who sits on the local boardgoverning the schools here now. And I think that's -- I guess the lastthing I'd say is, I would favor having communities have someone like youone their governing boards because I think if they'd listen more to theyoung people about what it would take to clean up and fix up the schools,I think we'd be ahead. (Applause.)
Let me just make two other comments. I think there are someplaces where money will make a difference. I mentioned one in trying toget good teachers there. We're going to have to replace 2 millionteachers within the next decade -- 2 million with retirements and morekids coming to school.
Another is old school buildings. I was in Philadelphia theother day. The average age of a school building in Philadelphia is 65years of age. The school buildings in Philadelphia should be drawingSocial Security. That's how old they are. (Laughter.) Now, a lot ofthose old buildings are very well-built and can last for another 100years, but they have to be maintained. We have school buildings inWashington where they're open -- where there are three stories in theschool building, and one whole floor has to be shut down because it's notsafe for the kids to be there. So we've got to be careful about that. Weneed and initiative to help repair the school buildings.
And finally, let me say that I think technology offers young,lower-income kids an enormous opportunity. If we can hook up everyclassroom in America to the Internet by the year 2000 -- (applause) -- getthe computers in there -- a lot of you do things with computers thatpeople who are in your line of work couldn't even imagine five years ago. When I go on a trip now on Air Force, I go back and watch thephotographers send their pictures over the computer back to news room.
If we can hook up every classroom to the Internet, haveadequate computers, adequate educational software, properly-trainedteachers, and then involve the parents in the use of this to keep up withthe school work and all that and get to the point where the personalcomputer is almost as likely to be in a home -- even a below-income personhas a telephone -- we can keep working in that direction.
I think technology will give young Americans the chance, forthe first time in history, whether they come from a poor, a middle classor a wealthy school district, the first time ever to all have access tothe same information, at the same level of quality, at the same time. That has never happened in the history of the country.
So if we do it right and the teachers are trained to help theyoung people use it, it will revolutionize equality of educationalopportunity at the same time it raises excellence in education. So thoseare basically some of my thoughts about this.
And thank you for asking and for caring about the people thatare coming along behind you. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, Cheryl Smith, KKDA-Radio, Dallas, Texas. Every four years, African Americans cast their votes for a presidentialcandidate who will hopefully address some of the issues affecting blackAmericans. Do you feel African Americans should be pleased with yourefforts thus far? And what can we expect from you in the future,especially in the area of judiciary appointments? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the short answer is, yes. (Laughter.)I do. I mean, if you look at what's happened to African Americanunemployment, African American homeownership; if you look at the fightthat I've waged on affirmative action and what I've tried to do for accessto education, as well as quality of education; if you look at my record onappointments in the administration, in the judiciary, which far outstripsany of my predecessors of either party -- (applause) -- if you look at thelarger effort that I've made to try to get Americans to come together andbridge the racial divide and to make people understand that we are eachother's best assets, I would say that the answer to your first questionis, yes.
Now, what else do we still have to do? First thing that Ithink is terribly important is, we have to, in addition to what I'vetalked about -- I've already talked about education and the racialinitiative, so we'll put those to the side, I've already talked about them-- I think we have got to recognize that there is a legacy here which hasnot been fully overcome, and that the United States is consigning itselfto substandard performance as a nation if we continue to allow hugepockets of people to be under-employed or unemployed in our inner cityneighborhoods and in our poor rural areas, who are disproportionatelyminority.
At a time when we have a 5 percent unemployment rate, weought to be able to seriously address what it would take to put people towork and to give people education and to create business opportunities.
But let me just give you two examples. We've had a CommunityReinvestment Act requiring banks to make loans in traditionallyunder-served areas for 20 years. We decided to enforce it. Seventypercent of all the loans made under the Community Reinvestment Act havebeen made in the four and a half years since this administration has beenin office. (Applause.) In the 20 years -- 70 percent of all the loans. That's the good news. The bad news is, not enough money has been loaned.
We set up these community development banks modeled on theSouth Shore Bank here in Chicago. A lot of you are familiar with it ifyou've been around here. In our new budget agreement, we have enoughfunds to more than double that. We set up the empowerment zones and theenterprise communities. In our new budget act, we have enough funds tomore than double that. We have a housing strategy that we believe canattract middle class people as well as low income people to have housingtogether in the inner cities so that we can also attract a business basehere.
We know a lot more than we used to do about what it wouldtake to have a thriving and working private sector in our urban areas. Ihave not done that yet. And that's what you ought to expect me to beworking on.
And then there are a lot of unmet social problems that weneed to deal with. It's still -- you know, I got my head handed to me, Iguess, in the '94 elections because I had this crazy idea that Americaought not to be the only country in the world where working families andtheir children didn't have health care. It seemed to be a heretical idea,but I still believe that and I'm not sorry I tried. (Applause.) So nowwe're trying to give our children health coverage. And I think you oughtto expect all the children in the African American community to be able togo to a doctor when they need it.
I think you ought to expect us to continue our assault on HIVand AIDS. And until we find the cure, I think you ought to expect us tostay at the task. (Applause.) I think you ought to expect us to continueto make headway on other medical problems which have a disproportionateimpact in your community.
These are some of the things that I think that you shouldexpect of us -- more opportunity, tackling more of the problems, bringingus together.
I have tried to be faithful to the support I have received,not only because it was the support I have received, but because Ibelieved it was the right thing to do. And I believe that when our eightyears is over, you'll be able to look back on it and see not only a lot ofefforts made, but a lot of results obtained.
Thank you very much.
Conference on Hate Crimes
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Candlelight Vigil Honoring the Little Rock Nine
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86th Annual Holy Convocation
On Race Relations
40th Anniversary of the Desegregation of Central High
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