CASE

President Clinton's Initiative on Race

First Submitted By Ethan Way

Most Recent Changes By Jaskiran Gakhal

Tags
Race
Location
United States
Scope of Influence
National
Links
http://clinton3.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/america.html
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Research
Approach
Research
Consultation
Evaluation, oversight, & social auditing
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Staff
No
Volunteers
No

In 1997, President Clinton implemented an initiative to work towards the goal of racial reconciliation through inclusive dialogue.

Problems and Purpose

On June 14, 1997, President William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton proclaimed, "One America in the 21st Century: The President's Initiative on Race." The 15-month initiative was a core component in President Clinton's effort to transform the United States into a country that embraces diversity and lives in harmony. Racial reconciliation, through assembling people from diverse backgrounds and encouraging dialogue throughout the nation, was intended to assist in lessening racial and ethnic divisions wherever they existed in the country. Ultimately, Clinton pledged the initiative would help to “find, develop, and recommend…concrete solutions to our problems— solutions that will involve all of us in government, business, communities, and as individual citizens.” [1]

Background History and Context

Although it was the first attempt in nearly thirty years by a United States’ President to seriously and methodically approach and solve the ongoing matter of “race”, the initiative was criticized heavily during its short-lived 15-month existence [2]. This is because it was viewed that President Clinton’s program had no particular end goal in sight. 

Critics of the initiative also dismissed the idea that mere dialogue would resolve the nation’s racial disparities and issues. However, President Clinton’s point was not expectant on dialogue to solve problems, but rather be the initial necessity to precede positive movement. [3] In a 1995 statement, President Clinton declared that "I am convinced, based on a rich lifetime of friendships and common endeavors with people of different races, that the American people will find out they have a lot more in common than they think they do." In his first town hall meeting in Akron, Ohio wherein he vindicated the grounds for his race initiative, he reemphasized that notion by saying, “What we're trying to do here is drop a pebble in the pond and have it reverberate all across America, because I honestly believe that this is a good country full of good people." In another event, Clinton stated that "We should not underestimate the power of dialogue and conversation to melt away misunderstanding and to change the human heart.” [4]President Clinton’s confidence in dialogue divulged a notion that racist divides were rooted in ignorance, and that interaction and dialogue would pave the way to understanding.

When President Clinton initially publicized the initiative in 1997, he intended to execute its focus during his second term of presidency. However, most of Clinton’s second term was interfered by media focus on scandals, and him compelled to defend himself and his presidency. Needless to say, the race initiative became less of a priority and received limited news coverage and attention.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Know who organized or funded this initiative? Help us complete this section!

Participant Recruitment and Selection

President Clinton developed a seven-member Advisory Board, which served to encourage community dialogue and were obliged to report to him regarding issues surrounding their mission of reconciling racial tension.T hey were expected to reach out to the diverse groups of our communities in our nation and take heed of the viewpoints of Americans from every background. In turn, ideally the country would increasingly acknowledge the reasons and origins of racial tension. The White House failed to incorporate a Native American member of the Advisory Board, which proved to be a shortcoming of this race initiative. [5]

Methods and Tools Used

Through dialogue and affirmative moves, the initiative attempted to help America heal racial and ethnic divisions. The first, would be to encourage communities across the country to become involved in a “National Conversation on Race.” This would explore the history of our country’s race relations. The second facet of the initiative would attempt to alleviate the opportunity gap that exists among the disparities of Americans regarding employment, education, health care, home ownership, and the administration of justice, where race is an indicator. [6]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The Advisory Board was expected to provide diverse viewpoints to the President. The precise objectives of the Board, specified in the Executive Order, were to:

1. Promote a constructive national dialogue to confront and work through challenging issues that surround race;

2. Increase the Nation’s understanding of our recent history of race relations;

3. Bridge racial divides by encouraging leaders . . . to develop and implement innovative approaches to calming racial tensions;

4. Identify, develop, and implement solutions to problems in areas in which race has a substantial impact.. .’ [7]

The Advisory Board was expected to examine fundamental areas in which imbalance and inconsistencies regarding race were present and of importance. These areas were issues such as education, economic opportunity, housing, health care, and the administration of justice. It was viewed by some, that the long and deep-rooted feelings of minorities of the country, such as Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans and white ethnics, were difficult to be understood, and beyond the realm of a small and poorly funded governmental Advisory Board.

In the course of the race initiative, President Clinton took part in three publicized “town hall” conferences on race. Clinton made observations and remarks at the Advisory Board meetings and also conducted an “Outreach Meeting” at the White House with an assembly of conservative critics. Clinton pronounced various speeches on race as well.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The President’s Initiative on Race assembled information regarding programs and efforts that helped to accomplish President Clinton’s vision of One America in the 21st century. These programs were called “Promising Practices for Racial Reconciliation” and epitomized the endeavors of Americans who realized that racial disparities are not easily conquered without needed attention. The programs ranged from categories such as Arts, Multi-Media, and Sports, Business, Community and Economic Development, Community Building, Education, Government, Health and Human Services, and Youth. These programs were listed in “To One America in the 21st Century: Promising Practices for Racial Conciliation”. While they each differentiated from one another in particular focus, they all contributed to effort of racial reconciliation.

Using the conclusions from the Advisory Board’s discussions, analysis, and movement of the initiative, President Clinton presented a report to the American people. This report, called “One America in the 21st Century: Forging a New Future” was a framework for the progress of race relations in our country.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Talking about race proved to be difficult because America is heavily divided not only by race but also on differences of multicultural and multiethnic qualities. Additionally, the 7-member advisory board was perceived to be unrepresentative. Finally, the most common denunciation of the initiative was its focus on dialogue amongst the population. 

See Also

Town Hall (method) 

References

[1] Carcasson, Martin & Mitchell Rice. “The Promise and Failure of President Clinton’s Race Initiative of 1997-1998: A Rhetorical Perspective.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 2:2 (1999): 243-274.

[2] Goering, John. “An Assessment of President Clinton’s Initiative on Race’, Ethnic and Racial Studies.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24:3 (2001): 472-484.

[3] Kim, Claire Jean. “Clinton’s Race Initiative: Recasting the American Dilemma.” Polity 33:2 (2000): 175-197.

[4] Carcasson, Martin & Mitchell Rice. “The Promise and Failure of President Clinton’s Race Initiative of 1997-1998: A Rhetorical Perspective.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 2:2 (1999): 243-274.

[5] Carcasson, Martin & Mitchell Rice. “The Promise and Failure of President Clinton’s Race Initiative of 1997-1998: A Rhetorical Perspective.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 2:2 (1999): 243-274.

[6] Goering, John. “An Assessment of President Clinton’s Initiative on Race’, Ethnic and Racial Studies.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24:3 (2001): 472-484.

[7] Goering, John. “An Assessment of President Clinton’s Initiative on Race’, Ethnic and Racial Studies.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24:3 (2001): 472-484.

External Links

http://clinton3.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/america.html

http://www.racematters.org/oneamericadialogueguide.htm

http://clinton2.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/Practices/ppreport.pdf

http://clinton2.nara.gov/Initiatives/OneAmerica/PIR_summary.pdf

http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/excerpts/lawson_oneamerica.pdf

Notes

Lead image: Clinton White House Archives https://goo.gl/bxz6rt

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