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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
Thank you very much.