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Telecommunications Minority Assistance Program Remarks at a White House Reception for Participants in the Program.

September 11, 1980

Chairman Ferris and Mr. Geller, Darlene Palmer, ladies and gentlemen:

It's a real honor for me to be with you in this historic East Room and to discuss with you one of the most important elements of American societal life—the right of American citizens to have truth. Full facts about issues that are important to us is absolutely crucial in a democratic society, and that's part of your responsibility, and I share it with you.

I'm proud that we've made some progress in this first 3 1/2 years that I've been in the White House, because in the past, because of racial discrimination and other factors, you have not had your constitutional rights honored in giving a large element of American society the truth or the facts.

As I look around the room I see old friends whom I've known in Atlanta and who have been here to be with me on many occasions when we had important announcements to make or important tasks to undertake. As President, I make many difficult decisions each day in the Oval Office and here in this room and in this building, and each time I ask two fundamental questions: What effect will my decision have on the individual lives of American citizens and what effect will the decision I make have on the future of our country? This was the kind of decision that had to be made in January of 1978, when I established the Minority Telecommunications Development Program.

At that time you and I recognized that we had a long way to go and that very little progress had been made because very few commitments had been made in the past by those who led our Nation in the Oval Office or in other levels of government. We set out a very ambitious program, and we've made the first steps to carry out that program. We've not reached our goals. We've not yet done enough. And I need not only your criticisms and your counsel but also your advice and support in the months ahead as we persist in making additional progress.

I knew that minorities who were attempting to enter the broadcasting business faced such obstacles as not having adequate financing, the lack of technical training because of discrimination and exclusion in the past, and a shortage of available stations to buy or to manage, because so many were assigned long ago when racial discrimination was both a de facto and a de jure part of the American societal life. I also knew that participation in broadcasting was essential to promoting progress among minorities and their ability to contribute to our Nation's future. This has been one of the roots of the slow progress in the elimination of discrimination and the enhancement of justice in our Nation in the past.

In my own region of the country, because of an absence of black participation, for instance, in the communications media, the churches had to be the focal point for the dissemination of information. They proved to be ultimately effective, but it was a slow, tedious, compartmentalized, local effort that had to be successful only after excessive delay. The same kinds of problems obviously affect those Hispanic citizens and other minority groups in our Nation. Therefore, we all agreed we had to help.

This program has been successful beyond, I believe, what anybody anticipated. I don't mean that we've reached our goal, but what we have accomplished in this short period of time has been extraordinary, because the Nation was ready for it and because my influence and my weight was joined with yours in bringing about necessary changes. In the short period since I just mentioned, minority-owned and operated facilities have increased by a hundred percent, from 62 stations up to 124.

In making this progress we've learned about how we can make more progress in the future. We've sponsored, as you know, at the White House in July a successful commercial broadcasting and technology conference for minority women from across the Nation. We are going to accelerate this effort and this progress in the years ahead.

The FCC, under Chairman Ferris, is acting to create about a thousand new radio stations. This will help to alleviate the second part of the problem, that is, that the stations simply were not available because the licenses had been snapped up early in the development of radio in this country. And as you know, the FCC is now considering a substantial increase in the number of television station licenses that will be [than were] 1 available in the past. Several hundreds might very well be available if the FCC makes this decision. And of course, many of these stations can be targeted specifically within the minority audience groups.

1 White House correction.

I think it's important for our country to have more diversity in programing and specifically to focus programs where they're needed most. We can continue this kind of progress if we work together and if I have the benefit, as I said before, of your criticisms but also your advice and support. We have no different goals. Your goals are my goals—to make sure that minority owners and managers, announcers, and performers have the technical ability, the access to the licenses and the financing assistance, to reach the goal that we've established among ourselves.

We've already doubled the amount of Federal business going to minority-owned businesses of all kinds outside the broadcasting industry, because I think the two go hand in hand. You can't just have progress in the broadcasting industry and ignore the other needs in the minority communities which you will be addressing, where you will be selling the products that you advertise, and which will comprise the support that will let your efforts be successful.

Although we have doubled Federal business going to minority-owned businesses, that's not enough. We intend to triple what we have done in the past. As you know, the Supreme Court has ruled that the requirements for a 10-percent set-aside in public works and others is constitutional. We have joined in through the Attorney General's office, Department of Justice, in protecting this very important element, new element that never had been extant before—of guaranteeing that the massive amounts of money spent by the Federal Government address the opportunities there which exist among the minority-owned businesses. I'm pleased to say that we're already well ahead of the Economic Development Administration programs, where 18 percent, not just 10 percent of this money, now goes to minority businesses.

We've established an apprenticeship program in Government-funded science and engineering, research projects, which allows 1,000 minority high school graduates this summer and 2,000 next summer to work in the fields of technology that are vital to our country and which are compatible with the talent and ability and interests of those minority students.

I could go down a whole list which Louis and Ambassador Torres 2 have prepared for me—I don't want to bore you with statistics. The point I'm trying to make is that we have a common challenge. We can succeed if we work in partnership, and there must be no cessation of our effort.

2 Louis E. Martin, Special Assistant to the President, and Esteban E. Torres, Special Assistant to the President for Hispanic Affairs.

I believe that this is a program in its entirety which will have not only the support of Congress but also the support of the American people, because it's obvious that for those who are not members of minority groups, this is beneficial to the lives of all Americans.

It's tough for you to get your message across if you don't have your own broadcasting station. I have often thought that the President ought to have at least one broadcasting station. [Laughter] And I think it's important too, to recognize that, on the regulatory commissions, like the FCC and the CAB and in the administration of justice, in the allocation of job programs, in the decisions concerning health and welfare and education and housing, transportation, that we must have a continuing increase in top-quality minority representatives to run those programs that are so important to you.

I said I was not going to quote statistics, and I'm not, but I have been blessed and our Nation has been benefited by the fact that I've appointed more black, Hispanic, and other minority representatives, more women, to those top management positions than any other President who's ever served in this house and more Federal judges than all the Presidents in history combined, and we're not through yet. I'm not going to rest on my laurels, because I think it's an effort that must continue. And I hope that you will be constantly arousing interest among those who speak Spanish, those who happen to be black, those who've not been long in this country, those who are women, and all other Americans that have suffered from discrimination, to let them know that they have a stake in the future and they will have a voice in the future.

We've got legislation on the Hill now that's extremely important. The open housing legislation is one example—I need your help. We've got a youth bill that's now being considered by the Congress that's extremely important for the quality of secondary school education and also extremely important in melding together the Labor Department effort and the Education Department effort, to make sure that when children are graduated, or adults are graduated from our high schools, our vocational technical schools, our junior colleges, and our colleges, that their preparation is compatible with the career opportunities that are waiting for them. And this is important to me and to you as well. This will also mean new careers for 2 1/2 million more young people.

We've got about a $4 billion a year program now. It's been greatly expanded since I was in office. This will add another $2 billion to an already good program and will accomplish the ancillary benefits that I've just described to you. It's important that you help me get this bill through the Senate. As you know, it's already passed the House.

Another and last point I want to make is this: Nothing that we undertake that's important is going to be easy. This Nation has never searched for the easy way. Americans are not cowards, we're not timid. We are ready to face obstacles and to overcome them, to address difficult questions and find the answers through commitment, confidence in ourselves, freedom and unity.

It wasn't long ago that I stood in this very spot with a new Prime Minister, whose name is Mugabe. A year ago it seemed almost impossible that a new nation could be born in Africa based upon equality of opportunity, the end of racism, and democracy. Our Nation stood firm. We didn't yield to the ill-advised political pressures that existed on the Hill, in the Congress, or in the country. And to see the emergence of this new nation was, indeed, exciting to us.

It was an emotional experience in this room to witness this leader, who was courageous and who had been condemned in this country for many years, expressing his appreciation to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and to Andrew Young and to Don McHenry and to me and to the American people for having confidence in and a commitment in the principles and ideals and the standards and the morals which our Nation professes to support.

And our emphasis on human rights is a significant factor in worlds overseas, but it's equally important here in our own country. We've got a long way to go in international matters, also here in our country.. But I intend to be successful in eliminating discrimination, repairing the damage that has resulted among you and those you lead and represent as a result of that longstanding discrimination, in having a constantly growing society based on truth, based on equality of opportunity, a better life, freedom and confidence that the greatest nation on Earth, our Nation, will be even greater in the future.

Thank you very much for letting me be with you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:47 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening remarks he referred to Charles D. Ferris, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Henry Geller, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, and Darlene Palmer, Program Manager, Minority Telecommunications Development, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce.

Jimmy Carter, Telecommunications Minority Assistance Program Remarks at a White House Reception for Participants in the Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250894

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