1997 June 14

President Clinton Launches Initiative on Race

 

Seeking to make a major contribution to the nation’s race problem, President Bill Clinton on this day launched his President’s Initiative on Race. The project immediately got off to a rocky start — it was criticized by conservative anti-affirmative action spokespersons for having a preset agenda that would not allow a full discussion of affirmative action and related issues. The criticisms had some validity, and there was conflict at some of the town hall meetings across the country. In the end, the final report, One America, emphasized a national dialogue about race but was almost completely devoid of specific proposals on employment, education, crime and punishment, and other pressing social issues.

For Clinton’s mixed feelings about affirmative action, see his major policy speech on the subject on July 19, 1995. On purely symbolic issues, however, Clinton was very good on many aspects of race. He honored the Little Rock Nine who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 on the 40th anniversary of the event, on September 27, 1997. Also, on behalf of the nation he apologized to the surviving victims of the notorious Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in a White House ceremony on May 16, 1997. (For more on the Tuskegee Experiment, see its exposé on July 26, 1972.)

Read the Final Report of the Initiative: http://clinton2.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/PIR.pdf

Learn more about President Clinton and civil rights and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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