Robert Dole photo

Remarks in San Diego, California

October 28, 1996

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...debate or lack of debate, whatever it was. At least I showed up to debate. But in any event...


I'm proud to take my stand in California. This is a very important issue. It's not a partisan issue.

But if you look back over the last 30 years on issue after issue, this state has lead America in thinking about its future. Go back to Ronald Reagan, you provided the turning point to the tax cut revolution in America — all across America — and the critical mass for immigration reform with Prop 187.


And that's what's happened here.

And now we've reached another turning point. And this time for quality and opportunity in America. And the California Civil Rights Initiative allows the voters of this state to endorse a great principle.

The principle that racial distinctions have no place in our lives or in our laws.

That's the way it should be in America.


And let me make it very clear that this initiative will not affect the employment policies of private companies. Talking about the state government, just we're talking about the federal government bill I've introduced.

It will not weaken — it will not weaken any existing laws against racial or gender discrimination. It will not prevent active outreach and recruitment of minorities.

It will, however, guarantee that race will find no significance in the laws of California. It will elevate individual civil rights above group entitlements. And it will put the government firmly on the side of equal justice and equal treatment, where it belongs in the first place.

And the overwhelming majority of Americans in California believe as I do that we should promote equal opportunity for all without regard to race or gender.

That's the bottom line.


But at the same time we believe it's wrong to use quotas, set-asides, and other preferences that serve only to pit one American against another American, or group against group.

The real focus should be on helping citizens who are economically disadvantaged to provide assistance based on need and not on skin color.

DOLE: In other words, needs-based preferences not race-based preferences. If you're poor, if you're looking for opportunity, obviously, the state of California can provide exception based on need regardless of your race, or gender, or ethnicity.

That's the way it should be. People are down and out and looking for a hand up, that's permissible, obviously. And the CCRI does nothing to bar that approach and neither does our federal legislation.

The Civil — the California Civil Rights Initiative represents and implies America's best principles. And I strongly endorse it. And today I want to carefully explain my reasons, because I think it's very important for all of us to be careful because feelings on this issue run high.

And it's easy for the demagogues on either side to play on fear or play on resentment. And this places a special burden on anyone who enters this debate.

Even as we reject preferences, we must also reject prejudice. And even as we oppose quotas, we must also oppose scapegoating and stereotyping. And I have denounced these attitudes as the leader of my party and renounce the support of anyone who shares them..

You may recall in San Diego at the convention with my acceptance speech, I pointed out the exits, for anyone motivated by bigotry, were clearly marked, as I said.

And I'll stand here without compromise as you leave this Republican convention. That doesn't motivate Republicans.


That shouldn't motivate Republicans. And know of those who advocate CCRI feel the same way. Yet while it's important to be careful, there's a different between careful and silence. We cannot be silent.

The meaning of equality is not just another political debate. It is a first principle of American government. It cannot be avoided anymore than we can avoid the Declaration of Independence or the Fourteenth Amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which I supported.

And I view CCRI as the extension of a commitment I made in 1964 when I voted for the Civil Rights Act. Now, the purpose of that law was to barrier of race. Remove the barrier of race from public life.

And I remember my good friend and he was my good friend, the late Senator Hubert Humphrey, the leader of that debate, declaring that if anyone can find preferences or quotas in the language of the '64 Civil Rights Act, in his words, he would start eating the pages one after another.

That's what Hubert said.


But, the reasoning behind it is even more compelling. Let me quote Senator Humphrey. He felt very strong about — very strongly about this issue. No doubt about it.

He spoke and spoke at length time after time after time all across America. This is what he said.

"Our standard of judgment in the last analysis is not some groups power, but, an equal opportunity for persons. Not groups, but persons. Do you want a society that is nothing but an endless power struggle among organized groups? Do you want a society where there's no place for the independent individual? I don't." End of his quote.

DOLE: That was the high standard that Hubert set, and it remains the best guide for us today.

And I hope those on the other side of the issue would go back and just take a look at — Hubert Humphrey was a Democrat. He was a liberal Democrat. But he believed in rights, opportunities, not groups, not entitlements.

And it's true that many of us in the years following 1964 — and I did — supported some race conscious measures designed to speed the process of inclusion, measures that were supposed to be transitional, transitional and temporary. But it didn't work.

Every time I drive to work in Washington, D.C. or drive down North Capitol Street and I see dozens and dozens of Black men without work, I say to myself, what has this law done for them? Absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe one half of one percent at the top have been benefited.

But this was a blind alley in the search for equal justice. And we should have learned from it, and I hope I did learn from it.

And government programs that started as temporary and limited have become permanent and broad, and it's increasingly clear that such preferences are irrelevant to the problems faced by many minorities: poor schools and violent crime and disappearing families.

And most of all, as Hubert Humphrey predicted, preferences have become a source of polarization — I noticed it on the way it — pitting one group against another group. They have given sanction to racial tension, creating distinctions that become barriers that become battlegrounds.

And some try to argue that preferences are needed to impose no injustice, but they are flatly wrong. We see injustice each day in contract set asides, in racial gerrymanding, in race norm testing and percentage goals that require us to count by color. And all these well intentioned programs of race preference force us to ask questions that are unworthy of America.

Let's take California, for example. Which of the 150 ethnic groups in California should we pick for preferences? Which one? Which of the 150? And why should a poor immigrant from Eastern Europe be treated differently than a poor immigrant from Latin America or from Asia or the Caribbean or Africa? And how can such discrimination possibly be justified?

Go back 45 years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese Americans could be sent to internment camps, and listen to what Justice Jackson wrote in his dissent. Listen to what he said. Quote:

"The court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon," like a loaded weapon, "ready for the hand that any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need."

This is 45 years ago. Now here it is almost a half century later. In the name of urgent need we have systematic discrimination against Asian Americans at California schools and universities.

DOLE: Asian students in recent years have been judged to be quote, "over represented," and their numbers have been limited.

Now, don't the defenders of race consciousness see the sad irony in this?

Have they forgotten the injustice of our recent histories? America must step back and think about this for a moment.

School applications have been denied for the single reason that there's been an Asian name signed at the bottom. Is that a reason to be rejected in America? Absolutely not.

The loaded gun that Justice Jackson talked about, the loaded gun of discrimination has been used again on minorities a half century later, after he said it would.

Where is the liberal outrage when you see Berkeley or Lowell High School in San Francisco discriminates against a student just for the color of his or her skin?

No one is merely the representative of a group to be ignored or discounted by a society busy with other goals. Every one of us is an individual with rights and feelings we are bound to respect. And CCRI will guarantee that respect for every citizen of this state. Once it happens in California, it'll happen across the country.


Now, this principle is worth speaking for, and it's also worth voting for in less than two weeks, in fact about a week from tomorrow. Not very long.

So yet the voters of California must understand that passing CCRI will require two votes, not just one. One for the measure itself and one for an American president who will not undermine it after it's passed.


Not only — thank you. Thank you.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Bob!


DOLE: Well, I want to explain why. Now, thank you, I appreciate.

Not only does the Clinton administration oppose CCRI, it has worked to defend and expand racial preferences even when states and the courts try to remove them.

And on this issue, as the governor said, the president said, well, he wants to mend it, not end it. In reality, the president has defended even the most indefensible forms of racial preferences.

In 1995, in fact, I asked the Congressional Research Service to identify all the federal programs that granted quotas and preferences. When the White House found out I had it, they asked for a copy of it. Happy to send it to them. They needed all the information they could get in this place.



And then he started this great review, and he was going to eliminate all these. You know how many programs he eliminated? I think there are 168 total. He eliminated one, one. That was his whole effort, other than the double talk, to mend federal preferences. In fact he has tried to carve out additional preferences.

Let me give you an example, which you probably have forgotten...

[audio gap]

DOLE:... other thing that happens. And a Dole administration is going to be guided by certain basic principles. We will not discriminate by race. Discrimination is wrong.


We will not discriminate by race.


We will defend a vision of individual equality in Congress and the courts because individuals matter more than racial categories.

We're all individuals in America — whatever our race or ethnicity or gender.

This is my pledge to the people of California and to the citizens of the United States of America.

Now the opponents of CCRI falsely charge that it is merely a response to the anger of white males.

But we have seen in case after case that quotas and preferences have also hurt women and Asian Americans. In fact, I might say, as an aside, with a little urging from Elizabeth, I sponsored legislation in the past creating a glass ceiling commission.

We want to find out what's holding women back in some cases in some corporate jobs.

We didn't say the government was going to enforce it. We went out and looked at it.

We want to encourage equality — of opportunity, same pay and everything else.

So we've done that. We've been there.

And finally, I think in the end, we're talking more about winners and losers.

Americans of every background understand that we're talking about principle,, principle.

I know it doesn't mean a lot to this administration, but it means a lot to the American people. Principle is important.


We are...


We are talking about the American ideal and the ideal is not — it's not a search for special legal privileges gained at the expense of others.

If you get a privilege, somebody else is going to lose. Is that what we want in America? I don't think so.

It is a search for equal opportunity and equal rewards for our efforts. It is a principle belief in human equality.

This is something you cannot compromise without changing of the meaning of the United States of America.

And let me say before I conclude — I want to add something to this message because I know it's incomplete.

I firmly believe we must have color blind laws, but as much as I'd like to think so, we still don't have a color blind society.

We are just a few decades removed from segregation, from a nightmare of legalized bigotry and police brutality and the effects still linger.

We have a long way to go until the promise of equal opportunity is a reality for every America.

Preferences and quotas are not the answer, but our nation is still in need of answers. Equal opportunity is an empty concept in neighborhoods occupied by gangs and schools where both safety and learning are rare.

And you know where some of those schools are.

DOLE: It is also a distant concept in those cases where women and minorities are victimized by specific acts of discrimination.

The end of quotas does not exhaust our responsibility to equality of opportunity. It only begins it.

We should not discriminate by race or gender. But we should affirmatively act to help those who are economically disadvantaged or victimized by prejudice, as I said earlier.

We must vigorously enforce all the laws on the books against discrimination in the work place. And my administration will make this a top priority.

If there's discrimination, if you're held back because of color or gender, there ought to be swift justice. And we will take swift — we will have swift justice in my administration.


I want our laws to be neutral to race and sex and tough on racism and sexism. We must continue our outreach, recruitment. This is affirmative effort.

Everybody ought to have the opportunity. We just can't guarantee the results. We ought to reach out, bring people in, let them participate.

Look for qualified people everywhere. Someone who can excel.

Remember what John Kennedy said — President Kennedy when he defined affirmative action — when he ordered the government contractors in 1961 to take positive steps to expand opportunity — not results, but opportunity. Like he said, advertising widely for new jobs that were going to be available in the government.

And this is the kind of affirmative action that obviously we will continue to support, reach out, bring people in, give them an opportunity to participate.


And I think, finally to end this on a positive note, we must bring quality education to every child and every community. And I believe the surest route to economic mobility for all Americans lies in the access to a good school.

Letting parents choose the best school for their children is perhaps the most urgent civil rights issues of our time, the most urgent civil rights issue of our time.


And we can no longer tolerate what has been called "Jim Crow Math" and "Back of the Bus Science." This is the importance of my opportunity scholarships, a program to give low and low middle-income parents the resources they need to send their child or children to a better private or a better public school.

Let me just talk about it for a second.

Everybody knows families that are very low income. Maybe they're on welfare. Maybe they can't help it. And we have a safety net in America to take care of that.

Or you know someone of low middle-income family. Maybe they've had an illness. Maybe thy have a number of children.

They don't have any choice. They love their children as much as anybody else. They've valuable. It's all they have. They love their children.

They want their child to have the best possible education in America. It's not possible.

It talked to Governor Voinovich of Ohio just last week.

DOLE: He said in some of the cities in Ohio, when 100 young people entered kindergarten, only 30 come out as high school seniors. Seventy percent never make it through the system.

Isn't that a failure, when 70 percent do not make it through the system?

And why don't they make it through the system? And why do we have one out of four high school graduates who are functionally illiterate? And why has remedial reading become a big, big college course? And why do people graduate from high school who can't find places on the map around the world? Because there's no competition in education and there's no choice.

And I say to the NEA, to the powerful union leaders in the NEA, you've failed. All we want is choice and opportunity.


But President Clinton, President Clinton opposes the most modest educational choice proposals. In fact, he sentences thousands of our poor and minority children to failed and dangerous schools.

I offered an amendment when I was still in the Senate to say that at least if it's not a safe school, the parent ought to be able to take that child and put the child in another school.

Maybe you go to public school. Most of the public schools are very good, don't misunderstand me. I'm a product of the public school. I just want to give the schools back to the teachers and back to the parents and take it out of the hands of the bureaucrats.


And why do I believe that? I'm one, and I'm certain there are others in the audience who served in Vietnam or Korea or World War II. When we finished service, we had an educational opportunity called the GI Bill. They didn't say we had to go to a certain school, they gave us the money.

And the argument after World War II, oh, this is going to, I mean everybody's going to go to private colleges. That didn't happen. It brought about competition. It made education and higher learning more competitive.

And millions and millions of Americans, young men and women, have gotten out of the service, have gotten an education.

What has it done? It's changed the world, it's changed America.

It will work if we start at kindergarten right through grade 12. It will work. It will stop some of the crime and some of the drugs and some of the teen — give a child an education in America, Mr. President, give the child an education. Give a child an opportunity.


But even when I do it. Oh, he will say he's for choice in public schools. He'll say that. But he doesn't mean it. He'll say it. More double talk. Because he understands that 99 percent, or 99.5 percent of all that NEA money goes to Democrats and goes to the president of the United States.

DOLE: So, he'll be for school uniform; and I applaud that. He'll be against truancy; and I applaud that. And he'll be for curfews, except he's also for midnight basketball which I've never quite figured out.


So, in any event, he'll be for that. But, we must understand that crime is also a civil rights issue. Forty-six percent of African-American adults say their greatest fear is violence against their children or children they know.

And no one suffers more from violent crime, repeat offenders than the large, silent decent majority in our inner cities. And no one would benefit more from keeping violent criminals behind bars which we will do in our administration.

Keep them locked up. They're not going to commit any crimes. If they commit a violent crime, they go to jail. And they stay in jail and they serve their time.


And finally, we must bring home growing the economy to every community. Quotas are designed to divide the economic — existing economic pie into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces.

But, if we create growth and opportunity where everyone can succeed without taking from someone else — and I read a piece in this mornings news — why are you having trouble with your economic package, your tax cut? This independent survey, they said, 81.5 percent of the media coverage has been negative.

So, when they're out there everyday saying how bad it is. How do you expect anybody to believe in it?

It's a good program. It's going to create growth and opportunities for people. Not preferences of quota, but opportunities. We create jobs with lower taxes and less regulation and lighter litigation. Lighten up the litigation. You can't sue everybody in America.

It puts a lot of people out of business. And also, these ways to build the quality of opportunity without turning to quotas. Give people an opportunity. Make it the private sector. They don't need quotas and preferences.

This is where we much focus, I believe, our energy and innovation on helping the poor. Not counting by race. We cannot fight the evil of discrimination with more discrimination because this leads to an endless cycle of bitterness.

We must fight discrimination with equal justice and increasing opportunity. And the greatest wisdom in these matters is found in the simple principle that we teach our children. Racial discrimination is wrong. It is wrong because our rights are rooted in our humanity, not in our ethnicity.

It's wrong because the alternative to equality is fragmentation and fragmentation. But, it's finally wrong because we should try to see one another as God sees us, each sharing in his image.

These ideas are infinitely valuable and especially American. They are the best principles of our better selves. And hope we will honor them in this election by passing the Civil Rights Initiative of the great State of California.

You are the leader. Discrimination is wrong. Quotas are wrong, Mr. President. Discrimination is wrong. And I would just say to this audience, this is a very important initiative. It's a very, very important initiative.

Just as other things that I said started in California, you've led the way. You're leading the way in this effort. So, I thank you very much for being here. And I thank Governor Wilson for his initiative. Thank you very much, and God bless America.


Robert Dole, Remarks in San Diego, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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