The Little Rock Nine fought hard, and sacrificed much, to force open the most formidable of doors. But the reason we immortalize their struggle today is not just to honor the past, it is also to keep our eyes on the prize, the prize still ahead, the prize of true equality, true freedom, a more perfect union. And what our eyes can see, our minds can envision, and our hearts can embrace, we can achieve.
Today at the White House, President Clinton will sign legislation designating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas as a National Historic Site. As part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Congress also authorized the President to confer the Congressional Gold Medal to each member of the "Little Rock Nine", who desegregated Central High School in 1957.
Honoring Heroes Of The Civil Rights Movement. In 1957, nine brave teenagers broke the color barrier at Central High School in Little Rock and desegregated the public school system in Arkansas. Although the Little Rock Nine were removed from the school just hours after entering, President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Arkansas to ensure that these courageous students would be admitted to Central High School. Today, these individuals stand as beacons of courage in the civil rights movement and our country's challenges to move toward a united vision that recognizes our rich racial and cultural identities. President Clinton will sign legislation designating Central High School as a National Historic Site. Congress also authorized the President to award the Congressional Gold Medal -- most recently given to South African President Nelson Mandela -- to each of the Little Rock Nine. These medals will be awarded early next year.
Expanding The Dialogue On Race Relations In America. Today's ceremony is another way the President is attempting to open lines of communication in our nation about race relations. In 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. Last month, the Board of the PIR delivered their final report to the President, recommending:
The President is preparing a report to the American people that will outline his vision and a work plan for making the most of our diversity in the next century. This plan will challenge every citizen, every sector of our society to make improved race relations a priority.
IMPORTANT ECONOMIC NEWS
The American Economy Remains Strong. Yesterday, figures released by the Department of Labor show that our economy remains strong, as unemployment remained steady at 4.6 percent -- the 16th month in a row that unemployment has been under 5 percent. This report is more evidence that the three-part economic plan President Clinton put in place in 1993 of: investing in our people, deficit reduction, and opening foreign markets to American goods, is working:
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore