THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 30, 1997 10:16 A.M. EDT
DISCUSSION AT RACE ADVISORY BOARD MEETING
The Mayflower Hotel
DR. FRANKLIN: I have the honor to present to you the President and the Vice President of the United States and to express our gratitude for the confidence that you have in us as appointees to the Advisory Board.
And, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Dr. Franklin, members of the board, ladies and gentlemen, first let me, again, thank the board for its willingness to serve. And to those of you who came to Little Rock last week for the 40th anniversary of the integration of Central High, I thank you for coming there. It was a very important occasion, I believe, and one that all of us who were there felt was immensely rewarding.
I want to talk today about how we go forward from here. When I was at Little Rock Central High School, after we had this magnificent ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the event and the original nine students went into the school, I went back outside and spent quite a long while talking to the students and the young people who were there. And all they talked to me about was how we were going to go forward. And I just listened to them.
I think you made a very important beginning by urging that we focus on education and economic opportunity, things which cut across racial lines but are necessary to bring us together.
One of the young men in the audience said to me that --he said, I don't think they had these gang problems 40 years ago and I'm worried about that now. It was very touching, you know. So I think it's very important that we throw this into the future now, we begin to focus on it, and I agree that we should begin with education and economic opportunity.
But if I could go back to the original mission of the board, I also think it's important that we have the facts. So this afternoon, I know you're going to hear from noted scientists and demographers who will share their research on our changing population patterns and attitudes on race, and I think that's an important thing.
Secondly, I think it's important that we continue this dialogue. I got as much out of the hour or so I spent after the ceremony in Little Rock just listening to the young people talking as I worked my way down the lines of people who were there as anything else. I'm going to have a town hall meeting on this subject on December the 2nd, and I will continue to do what I can to support you in reaching out to Americans of all backgrounds and actually discussing this so that we build bridges of mutual understanding and reconciliation.
But, finally, and in the end, we have got to decide what it is we are going to do. This summer I announced the first of what I hope will be a long series of actions consistent with the work we are doing here with the board when I said that we would have an initiative to send our most talented teachers to our most needy school districts by offering them scholarships for their own education if they would, in turn, teach in those districts for a number of years. I think that will be very helpful.
Later today, our Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, will announce new efforts to end housing discrimination in America. First, HUD will issue $15 million in grants to 67 private, nonprofit housing groups, state and local governments to combat housing discrimination and to promote fair housing practices. And then Secretary Cuomo will double the number of housing discrimination enforcement actions over the next four years.
It's clear to me now that there is more housing discrimination in America than I had thought there was when I became President, and that that has been kept alive too long in too many neighborhoods, keeping, among other things, too many families from sending their children to the schools of their choice. So I applaud what Secretary Cuomo is doing and I will strongly support him.
Let me say again, I look forward to today's discussion. I think it's important that we build on that -- where I thought we were at the end of the ceremony in Little Rock, where there was a great sense among the people there and I felt around the country who were watching it, a great sense that now we have to do things, and that every individual American just about is interested in this issue and understands how important it is and understands that we'll all have to do our part if we expect to come out where we want to be.
So, Dr. Franklin, I look forward to going on with the discussion. And I think maybe the Vice President might like to say a word or two, and then we could go forward.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Dr. Franklin, and thank you, Mr. President. I'll be very brief because I'm looking forward to the discussion here. I think the remarks you made, Mr. President, in Little Rock last week were very powerful and resonated throughout this nation. I think this initiative, as I've said previously, may turn out to be the most important single initiative of your entire presidency, because it's, obviously, so important for our nation.
To the other members of the Advisory Board, you have the thanks of every American for the hard work and time that you're putting into this task. And I know that, like all of us, you feel proud to be led by your chair, Dr. Franklin. I've had an opportunity to sit at the Godfather's knee in the past -- (laughter) -- and learn from him. And some of the lessons that I've taken from his words are, first, that race is a pervasive, if often unacknowledged of every issue, controversy, indeed, conversation in the United States of America. And those who pretend it's not are in danger of deluding themselves and missing important aspects of whatever subjects they're trying to deal with.
Secondly, however, if it's dealt with openly in the kind of historic national dialogue the President has chartered for our nation, and followed up with the kinds of actions that he has recommended and pointed the way to, it can be transcended. Just as students learn in arithmetic about the lowest common denominator, in matters of the spirit we seek the highest common denominator, and the way to reach it is, again, the two-step process -- according to the works that I've read from Dr. Franklin -- number one, acknowledge differences. Understand and absorb the unique suffering that human beings have experienced because of the fact that they are a particular race or ethnicity or in some other group that distinguishes them. Suffering binds us together and can enable us to reach across those divides.
But also, acknowledge and celebrate the unique gifts and contributions to the rich diversity of America that have been made by every race, by every group, and teach young people especially who are members of that race or group about the rich history, which has often been ignored in lesson plans that have left them out in the past.
But then, after acknowledging and respecting difference and establishing mutual respect, then the next step is to transcend that difference and reach out for the highest common denominator.
I personally think that one of the problems we've had in the past is that many people of goodwill have tried to go to step two without pausing at step one, and indicated their desire to transcend difference and have harmony without doing the hard work of establishing the mutual respect, acknowledging the difference, acknowledging the suffering, acknowledging the unique contributions. And this dialogue is a necessary healing step which gives our nation the opportunity to come together and build the foundation for really becoming one America, as the President has challenged us to do.
I look forward to hearing the panelists. I know that this morning we're going to be able to hear some of the dialogue, and then this afternoon you're going to have a very specific scientific and demographic discussion on the country we're becoming and look at more detail concerning our growing diversity and differences. And I really look forward to the part that we're going to be able to take part in.
Thank you very much.
DR. FRANKLIN: Well, there are two things that we could do. One is we can tell you what we've done. Secondly, we can ask you if you want to raise any questions about what we should do or what we are doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, why don't you begin by telling us -- giving us all a report on what you have done.
DR. FRANKLIN: I'd be glad to do that. We've been telling some of the audience about some of the things we've been doing.
I wonder if Robert Thomas, who is the president and CEO of Nissan USA, would tell us about some of the unique and rather remarkable things that Nissan is doing, and through Nissan, is influencing other corporations in this country.
MR. THOMAS: Thank you, Dr. Franklin.
There are probably a couple of quick things I'd mention. We've created a staff that has interacted with the initiative staff, and they've done a lot of background work on some of the issues and some directional choices that we can make. And it's interesting, because as you sort of brainstorm your way through this and you game out the next year, one of the questions that comes out is, do you do a dialogue and develop your points of view towards the end, or do you establish some points of view early on and test those against the dialogue. And so that, for example, is just one of the questions that we have, we've raised up.
But I'll just toss that out and then I'll just mention one personal thing that I have found in traveling around, is that, first, the racial issues are real. There's a lot of people that think they aren't, but they are real. And the second thing is, when you add in and lay over any issues regarding poverty, it's just exacerbated to the nth degree. And so that would just be a starting point that I would throw out to Advisory Board.
GOVERNOR WINTER: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, let me thank you for this initiative. I think it's one of the most important things that all of can be dealing with these days. We live in this very diverse country, increasingly diverse, and yet there are common values that we all share. And my understanding is that the common value that maybe is most common to all of us is what we want for our children. I have watched this in my own family. I watched among my neighbors. I see it in the school up in Oxford, Mississippi, where two of my grandchildren go to school. If every school in America could look like the one where my grandchildren go, I think we would establish these common values in a way that would ensure that will be one America. But we can't do it as long as we separate ourselves, and particularly if our young people are separated. And these kids are going to school with people from every background, every racial and social background.
And prejudice is learned -- prejudice is learned, in my opinion. And it may not be specifically taught, but it's learned by how we act and how we relate to each other. And if we will let our children have the experience of associating early in their lives and get the kind of experience there, and share in the opportunity to get an adequate education -- and that's one of the greatest fault lines we have, is that discrimination between people who have a good education and people who have a poor education. And so education of all of us, of the whole citizenry of this country, but particularly our young people I think holds the key to how successful this initiative will be and how we will achieve one America.
REVEREND COOKE: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, I concur totally with Governor Winter. As the mother of a two-year-old and a four-year-old and trying to plan a five-year-old's birthday party for Saturday on the road -- (laughter) -- I represent a community in the Bronx, which has now been named an All-American City, which is the phoenix rising out of the ashes. Wonderful things are happening in the Bronx, where predominant groups, African Americans and Latinos, are really for the first time saying, let's come together, let's live cooperatively, let's work cooperatively, let's share in building our community together. So it's a wonderful model of what can be done, and I hope that at some point we may even visit for Bronx for one of our town meetings.
But I also share the voice of many constituents that come through the faith community as a pastor. Most of our constituents cannot attend the same schools in the communities we live because the school districts have failed. And so children as young as four and five must travel a half an hour, an hour each way every day to get an adequate education, and the parents pay considerable amount of money. So I think education and diversity are critical issues for this task.
But I do want to share with you that people in the faith community have been energized by this initiative and are eagerly seeking ways that we can work together cooperatively across denominational lines. It's no one person's agenda, no one faith group's agenda anymore. We're eagerly looking to work with you and also partner with the corporate community and the labor community where we don't normally get a chance to sit down at the table together. We're looking to forge partnerships because we understand in the community that the collaborative effort brings the strong results, and so we're looking to seek ways to do that and we're in partnership with you.
The most important thing that stood out for me in your speech when you spoke about the Little Rock Nine was that they did not turn back. And what we're hoping is that we will not turn back in America, that we shall go forward and that people will not turn their back on this initiative, but that we will work together.
Q Good morning and thank you again for taking that courageous step to go into what I consider to be very tough, uncharted waters.
In the weeks since we last met, I've had the opportunity to meet with folks who are doing research in this area, looking at some of the tough issues that have to do with new populations and the impact on this country on economy. I've had the opportunity to meet with CEOs, with chambers of commerce, with organized labor, with students, with creative people in the arts who have a lot to say and a lot to share in this area.
I want to urge you to continue forward with some guiding principles -- those being the compassion, the vision, the intelligence, yes, the courage; also to look to nontraditional sources for your intelligence, look to nontraditional sources, i.e., the people that you are saying you want to reach in this initiative.
There aren't very many vehicles that are set up. I know we have the town hall meetings, but there is a lot of energy and interest. And even among the cynics, of which I know many, there is a desire not to be involved, but you know what? They cannot resist becoming engaged because what we are doing is so at the core of where this country is.
For those who are saying, I don't want to know -- just like, I don't want to know about the O.J. trial -- you know, people can resist. It was there, it was something that spoke to a character of who we are. I believe that one of the things that makes us unique as America is that we believe in civic participation, we encourage it. A lot of people don't quite know how to plug in. And I also believe that we must look to the past to inform the future. We can't change the past, unfortunately, for many, but we can have an effect on the future.
So I guess my last words would be that even as we're moving through this journey, both public and private journey, that we need to be very clear about what those guiding principles are going to be, and also be aware that as quickly as we think we are moving, the assumptions that we begin with are going to change by the time we reach the end of this very brief public journey over this year.
Q I just want to reiterate what I said just a little earlier before you both came into the room, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, and that is that there's a lot of people who want to participate in the town hall meetings. The general public, per se, the conversations that I've had, whether it's at union conferences or where I speak to women's groups or civil rights groups, there is an anxiety that they be heard. And they want to be heard on the issues that they believe are important in their neighborhoods, in their churches, in their own communities.
And the other thing that really comes through to me is how we need to reach the young people. Having heard the conversations at the town hall meeting in Little Rock on Saturday and the observations that were made by many of our young people, it is almost a very crucial part for this Advisory Board to bring the young people in to converse about how they will make -- whatever plans we come forth in a year, we're not going to be around long enough to implement some of those if we don't have the youth of this country involved in the conversation of race, because they're going to be the ones that finalize whatever plans we put together. And if we don't begin when they are in elementary school or middle school or high school, if we don't begin that conversation with them now, when will be able to reach them. So the youth is a major factor for me.
And, of course, economics. I always talk about economics and how we need to be making sure that people are in jobs -- job security, wages and benefits, that they need to be able to provide a better education for their children, better housing for themselves, and living wages for their family and their standard of living.
Q Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, I don't know if people in this country really recognize just how important this initiative is, and the passion that you bring to it from a lifelong interest in this subject. We forget sometimes that we are unique in the world. There is no other place and the world where so many different groups have come to attempt to live together. In my state alone, we have over 100 recognized ethnic groups and racial groups. And the fact that we're also trying to do it in a country which is now the world's now oldest, I guess, democracy, And we're trying to make it work in a democratic fashion.
Whether or not this democracy, I believe, is going to survive and flourish, depends how well we're going to live together, how well we can resolve our differences, how well we can avoid the things that divide us and celebrate the things that unite us. Race, ethnic differences are the things that divide us. They're the things that are causing terrible problems in other parts of the world. And we have got the example of how those issues are solved in a democratic manner.
And to me -- you know, at the beginning of this initiative, there was some press articles that said, well, I hope it's not all talk. Talk is extraordinarily important. The dialogue that this initiative is all about -- we're not going to get to the next step without the dialogue. I've seen on a college campus, when there are problems, how important dialogue is and what progress you make when that dialogue is successful. Then you can move on to the next step.
I've found extraordinary excitement in any number of areas, including some folks that you wouldn't think would be that excited, about this initiative. People want to celebrate it. People want to be helpful. And I just think it's a very exciting step forward for the country.
DR. FRANKLIN: Well, of course, we have been for the last six weeks talking about certain aspects of the program that we are trying to get off the ground, as it were. But nothing has been more important, and I think is more important, than trying to communicate to all of us the importance of shared values, shared ideals, shared experiences, shared aspirations, as we try to develop a vision for what we want to be in the next century.
And it's very interesting that almost all of the people who have communicated with this Advisory Board so far as I know, certainly all that have communicated with me, have raised this matter in one way or another. What can we do to increase the common goals? What can we do to work together to achieve equity and fairness?
So the Advisory Board has been going along two tracks: one, to try to be certain that these shared aspirations and ideals and values are in the forefront; at the same time, discovering, or trying to find out practical ways, everyday ways of realizing our goals. And to that end, I'm delighted that we have the practical application as seen in the work -- in the announcement that you just made regarding Secretary Cuomo's plans to enter the area of housing and to take some specific and concrete steps.
And that's what people are wanting to know: How can we combine these wonderful goals with practical steps that will take us toward those goals. And this is an example, I think, of exactly what we need and want to use as we move toward the ultimate goals in the 21st century.
Are there any questions you want to raise with us? Any kind of advice? Any kind of criticism? Any kind of expression of involvement?
THE PRESIDENT: I would just say, I think there are, in addition to the kind of town meeting formats and maybe -- I think it's very important to try to see, identify, and highlight some laboratory situation -- either laboratories because you think that people are doing something that works, it ought to be able to be done somewhere else. And I agree with Susan, that what's going on in the Bronx today, if you had told anybody 10 years ago that this would be happening in the Bronx, nobody would have believed you. To what extent is that unique to the Bronx, to what extent is it something that could be done anywhere else, how did it happen -- those things, I think, are important.
There is another sort of laboratory that I think would be worth looking at, and I'll just give you one example. I believe now that the Fairfax County School District just across the river is now the most diverse school district in the United States. I think it has even more ethnic diversity than the New York or the Los Angeles or the Chicago school districts. I believe that's right. According to the USA Today article on it last week, they have kids from 182 different countries with over 100 different language groups in this one school district.
Now, that goes back to Governor Winter's picture there of his grandchildren. It would be interesting to know, to me, I think -- and maybe we should all go there together. I'm just giving you this as an example; we could go somewhere else and do the same thing. How are these differences dealt with within the schools for the children? How are the kids dealing with their diversity and their shared values? Is there an explicit attempt to do this? How do they get along?
Then I would say, is their experience consistent with or inconsistent with their parents' experience in the workplace? What I have seen over time -- I hate to use -- a much-used buzzword is "empowerment," but what I have seen is that all these racial issues get much worse when people feel like they don't have any basic control over their lives, which is obviously why you asked us and our administration to focus on the economic and educational issues first.
But I think it would be interesting to see how, in a place that is very much -- I don't think this should be the only one, but a place that is very much sort of standing out in big capital letters -- what the future might become in America; how are the kids doing; how are their parents doing; what is the difference in how their parents are being treated at work and how the kids are treated at school; are there any differences; what kind of dialogue goes on in the homes of these people between the parents and the children about their experiences at school and at work and are there differences there.
It seems to me that somehow we have to imagine how all of this is going to play out in the real world. And anything the government does, for example, needs to really make sense in terms of how these folks' lives are playing out. And so I think maybe one of the things we ought to do is try to either organize either a set of expeditions or a confined set of what you might call town hall meetings with people who have actually lived in the kinds of circumstances that we imagine America's future to be. And I think that would be one suggestion that I have and I would kind of like to be a part of that, if you don't mind. (Laughter).
But anyway, I think about this all the time, because I always think about how we can -- and Dr. Franklin and I talked about this the first time we visited -- how we finish our sort of unfinished business and still recognize that time is not waiting for us and our children are being thrown into a world that is radically different, so that might be one way to proceed. I think we might learn a great deal if you could get some of these children and maybe even some of their parents together and have an honest talk about how the kids are doing in the schools, how the parents are doing in the workplace and in the larger society, and what that tells us about where we need to go in the future.
DR. FRANKLIN: One of the things that we've found is in communications with people in various parts of the country, the enormous number of experiments already going on. Sometimes, they seem to suggest that, well, welcome to what we are doing. They're already engaged in some of these activities, and they commend them to us to replicate in other parts of the country, so that we, I think, do have a number of models and patterns of activity that will inform others and will stimulate this kind of thing.
It's true that some might not work in some other places, but that's yet to be proved, and until it is proved, we cannot invalidate them and we can merely welcome them and place them on a table as possible experiments that we can use if not in this place, then perhaps in another place. But we've got a rather large heap of suggestions that may be helpful.
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things that I believe this group should strongly consider doing is actually publishing a kind of a compendium of those local efforts with a brief description of how they work, who the leader is and how you can contact those people and let -- one of the things we're trying to do is to replicate what works around the country. And I think it's obvious that when people have challenges and problems, they're not going to sit around waiting for some -- for the President or a national body or anybody else to start talking about it.
So what I would recommend is that one of the things we consider doing is trying to, without pretending to be exhausted, take -- I don't know -- 20, 50, 100 of the things that you believe work the best, get a brief description of them, have a person who can be contacted, ask them if they would mind our promoting them and find a way to publish it, and widely disseminate this around the nation so that we can generate more interest among more people and, if not copying, at least adapting what has worked to places where there aren't such efforts going on.
DR. FRANKLIN: I think that our executive director already has some plans in that regard. Judy Winston is planning some how-to kits and various things like that.
THE PRESIDENT: Judy will get them well-published. (Laughter.)
MS. WINSTON: Yes, we have many, many examples of good things happening and things happening, and it is -- we've talked to the advisory board, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, about developing something we've been calling "promising practices." And we know that, for example, there are many, many communities who have been involved in this dialogue. I mentioned earlier the fact that just this morning, the Center for Living Democracy released the results of its survey of interracial dialogues occurring in more than 30 states, and they have some findings that I think would be very instructive to those who are interested in continuing or beginning dialogues.
We know about many youth groups, for example, that are actively engaged in the very discussion and exploration that we've talked about, on issues of tolerance and how to overcome bigotry. There's an organization in New England, in Massachusetts, in fact it's mentioned in Mrs. Clinton's book, It Takes A Village -- it's an organization, a project, a program called Team Harmony, that brings together young people in middle and high schools -- young people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. And they spend a year talking in their schools to each other and to children in other schools about how to be tolerant and how to model the kind of behavior that you all have been talking about. And they come together every year to provide -- to receive awards. I think there are 10,000 of these children who will be meeting in November in Boston.
And so those are the kinds of things that we are looking at and which we will make available -- not just publishing at the end of the year, but things that we want to put on our website for people to access immediately. And we will be providing updates on those activities and getting -- hopefully getting some response back from people who are able to access the website both in schools and in businesses to see whether they have something to add. So we're very excited about this prospect. I think it will be very helpful.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In a lot of the efforts that have taken place in President Clinton's administration we've seen how communities can figure out unique approaches that are going to work best in their communities. You've alluded to this. And I'm wondering if one or two examples spring to mind to any of you, local communities that have undertaken a unique approach to dialogue or promoting diversity that you find particularly promising.
Q Well, in Los Angeles, there are a series of projects. We have the leadership Education program in interethnic relations that is a school-based program. We have a neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue program which is headed up by -- I think one of the staff is one of our council members.
The Human Relations Commission both at the city and county levels have been working with law enforcement agencies because of the impact that new populations, perhaps limited English populations, have struggles with dealing with law enforcement; encouraging -- even some of our deputy DAs go out and they do in classrooms kinds of outreach to talk to youth about considering careers in the law.
The Bar Associations in southern California -- we have a multicultural Bar Association which, in L.A., every ethnic group has their own Bar, and among Asians, we all have our separate Bars. But there is something called the Multicultural Bar Association. For those of us who are really looking at broader issues -- independence of the judiciary kinds of issues -- and then also reaching out to young people to encourage them to come into the legal profession.
As many people think there are too many lawyers, I'm one who believes there are not enough lawyers of color who are out there practicing and have a sense of community in their professional growth.
So there are lots of very positive models going on. In the ecumenical realm, too. Churches are way out there in terms of leadership.
Q And while somebody may be thinking of a specific example, Mr. Vice President, one of the things I'd mention is that everywhere I go there are examples of everyday heroes who are filling in the fault lines of race that Governor Winter refers to. And we can't forget that those fault lines are there because -- I just think it needs bigger and more expansive everyday heroes to address those, solve those. Like Susan mentions, a coalition of labor and business and faith and government.
But everywhere there are these people that miraculously go out and address and solve these problems. As you said, Mr. President, the problems are there, so people don't let them go unanswered, they address them. And it's really amazing and rewarding to see and listen to these individuals who do this, without any recognition, without the glare of the publicity that we're able to bring to some things. So it's really reassuring.
GOVERNOR WINTERS: Mr. Vice President, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, unlikely as that may be, it was organized several years ago by black and white citizens of that community an organization simply known as The Club, that consisted of an equal number of blacks and whites. They meet on an informal basis once a month, sit down and talk about all the issues that concern them with special emphasis on support for the public schools there -- which, incidentally, are very good -- and have created an atmosphere in Kosciusko that now I think represents almost a model community in terms of race relations.
DR. FRANKLIN: When I spoke before the joint session of the legislature in North Carolina two months ago I praised the Governor for his Smart Start program, which was for the purpose of stimulating activity in the schools and making certain that the schools were brought up to speed and up to standard. I added, though, that we not only needed Smart Start for the children, we needed Smart Start for the adults as well. (Laughter.)
I was talking with the Governor after that, and he pointed out to me that there were plans to have adults doing the same sort of thing that they were trying to do in the schools. And later on in October, toward the end of October, this very thing is going to be discussed and developed at a conference which the Governor is styling their own dialogue on race to take place in Charlotte in the end of October, at which time they plan to have organizations -- develop organizations who replicate what they're doing in the schools among the adults, so that the adults will take the very suggestions we made regarding ways to develop programs across racial and ethnic lines and to spread them out all over the state of North Carolina.
I think that there are a number of my correspondents --I think that there are a number of states that are doing some of those things.
Q Two initiatives come to mind for me. In New York on the day that the initiative was announced, the coalition of 100 black women, the coalition of Latino women and the coalition of Asian women came together in a unique conference called The World of Women Leaders to figure out way that we can partner together and not go on our separate tracks. And that will now be an annual event and certainly be through the year. There are meetings now and dialogue for the first time across those ethnic lines.
The other initiative is the Multiethnic Center which began on the Lower East Side of New York and now has expanded to the Bronx. It was an after-school homework help program for children, but through the children, parents who historically had racial tension and never spoken to one another had to start dialoguing with each other, and now have formed parent coalitions where they become advocates for their children on the public school level and the private school level, and help children to get into programs that will be beneficial to them.
And one of the programs under the Multiethnic Center is called Junta Imani (phonetic) -- Junta meaning join together in Latino and Imani is a Swahili word meaning "in faith." And a community choir has now developed that brings the races together. We got some funding from the New York Yankees and some other corporate models now are funneling some funds into it, but what it is is a dialogue for the first time along ethnic lines. The children are bringing the parents to the table, and I think that's an important step.
Q There are a number of communities, Mr. President, in my own state of New Jersey who are working on a continual basis. A town called Maplewood comes to mind, where people have been working over a period of years in a bipartisan manner to keep the dialogue going, to make sure that problems don't develop in the community.
But, unfortunately, the time I've seen most good happen in communities is after an incident. Somebody is in an incident with the police where the police act wrongly in a racial situation, or somebody does a synagogue -- on a synagogue wall will put a swastika, or one of those incidents. And then the whole community comes together to condemn it, to talk about why it happens, to get the kind of dialogue going which should have been going all along, and if it had been going, maybe the incident wouldn't have occurred to begin with. And I think one of the things we've got to figure out is how to get those dialogues going without the incidents that provoke them.
Q One thing that the AFL-CIO is doing is we're having a full participation conference in Los Angeles in March, at which time the dialogue on race and the question of diversity in the American labor movement -- we're going to hear from the people that are affected by either a lack of diversity or a lack of inclusion in what the labor movement is doing. And we plan on having all of our constituency groups participate, as well as the dialogue of how we can include them in leadership positions within the labor movement. So the conversations are going on within our movement as well.
But I think the other thing that I want to touch on is sometimes how business needs to be responsive as well. And I don't point to Robert as much as -- because he is the businessman that more or less represents it -- but oftentimes, we've had occasion where certain businesses use race to keep unions out by either favoring one ethnic group over another; by pitting groups, whether it's white, brown, black, Asian Americans, against each other; where they build a distrust of if the union wins, this group will take over, or this group will have more to say than you do. And that happened to us just recently in one major election in North Carolina, which we lost, and it was basically because they brought more Latinos into the plant to vote against the union and the fear of the African Americans that worked there was that they would take it over versus themselves, so they, too, voted against the union.
So there needs to be more responsibility and a responsiveness from businesses against using race in situations like that. I mean, I just point it out as one major thing that happened to us recently.
DR. FRANKLIN: Well, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we know you have a very tight schedule. We want to express to you our deep gratitude for coming here and honoring us by your presence and listening to us and participating in this discussion. I think it's been very fruitful and helpful for the Advisory Board, and I think we take heart in enjoying your support. And we will, therefore, move forward with all speed -- not deliberate speed, but -- (laughter) -- all speed in order to achieve the goals that we want to achieve before the end of our time.
Thank you very much, and we are honored by your presence.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)