1995 July 19

President Clinton on Affirmative Action: “Mend it, Don’t End It”


Seeking to find a middle ground position on the controversial issue of affirmative action, President Bill Clinton gave a major address on the subject at the National Archives on this day. Clinton made a point of mentioning the symbolism of the fact that the National Archives houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, two documents that set forth the ideals of American society. His position on the controversial subject was “mend it, don’t end it.” But in the end, his speech was long on abstract principles and short on specifics about how to resolve the great American divide on the subject. In the end, his administration advanced no new policy on affirmative action.

Clinton’s other effort to address the racial divide in American society was his President’s Initiative on Race, which he announced on June 14, 1997. It was not successful, however, as it was embroiled in controversy over its process, and its final report did not propose a concrete program of action to address the nation’s race problem.

President Clinton: “Our challenge is twofold: first, to restore the American dream of opportunity and the American value of responsibility and, second, to bring our country together amid all our diversity into a stronger community, so that we can find common ground and move forward as one. More than ever these two endeavors are inseparable. I am absolutely convinced we cannot restore economic opportunity or solve our social problems unless we find a way to bring the American people together. To bring our people together we must openly and honestly deal with the issues that divide us. Today I want to discuss one of those issues, affirmative action.”

Read the entire speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=51631

Read about President Clinton’s record on civil rights: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn more about affirmative action from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: http://www.civilrights.org/resources/civilrights101/affirmaction.html

Learn more at a timeline on affirmative action history: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/affirmativetimeline1.html

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