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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 4, 1994


SUBJECT: Civil Rights Working Group

I am writing to you about our responsibility to promote equal opportunity for all Americans. We have accomplished much in our pursuit of a society in which all our people can achieve their God-given potential. But we still have a long way to go.

Americans believe that in spite of our differences, there is in all of us a common core of humanity that obliges us to respect one another and to live in harmony and peace. We must build on this belief and give real meaning to civil rights by tearing down all remaining barriers to equal opportunity -- in education, employment, housing, and every area of American life.

Throughout the Nation, each of us must bring new energy to our efforts to promote an open and inclusive society. Those of us who are public servants have a special obligation. At the Federal level, we will do this by re-evaluating the civil rights missions, policies, and resources of every agency, so that they carry out their missions in a manner consistent with the Administration's commitment to equal opportunity. In reviewing our activities, we must seek not only to eliminate barriers to equal access and opportunity, but also to identify opportunities for innovation. No Federal office should be exempt from the obligation to further the struggle for civil rights. And every State and local government should be encouraged to do the same.

On January 17, 1994, I issued an Executive order establishing a President's Fair Housing Council to be chaired by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Working across agencies and programs, this Council will bring new focus and leadership to the administration of the Federal Government's fair housing programs. On February 11, 1994, I issued an Executive order directing agencies to develop strategies to identify, analyze, and address environmental inequities that are the result of Federal policies. That order will increase public participation in the environmental decision-making process.

In addition to these efforts, I believe more can be done to exercise leadership for civil rights enforcement. That is why I hereby establish a Civil Rights Working Group, under the auspices of the Domestic Policy Council, to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of Federal civil rights enforcement missions and policies. The Civil Rights Working Group will identify barriers to equal access, impediments to effective enforcement of the law, and effective strategies to promote tolerance and understanding in our communities and workplaces. Most important, I expect the Working Group to develop new approaches to address these issues.

The principal focus of the Working Group will be our civil rights enforcement efforts. We must recognize, however, that public and private enforcement resources will never be fully adequate to the task, and all of the remaining obstacles to opportunity cannot be removed through litigation alone. Therefore, I direct the Working Group to identify innovative strategies that can leverage our limited resources to provide new avenues for equal opportunity and equal rights. Among those potential strategies are new measures relying on civic education and voluntary efforts to engage citizens in overcoming the effects of past discrimination. These new strategies should be designed to complement our improved and reinvigorated enforcement efforts.

The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget will co-chair the Working Group. The following Administration officials will serve as members: the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Assistant to the President and Director of Public Liaison. I also have invited the Chairperson of the Commission on Civil Rights to participate in this crucial endeavor on an informal basis, respecting the independent and critical voice we expect of that Commission. Finally, this membership list is not exclusive. I invite and encourage all Cabinet officers and agency heads to participate in the Working Group.

The Working Group will advise appropriate Administration officials and me on how we might modify Federal laws and policies to strengthen protection under the laws and on how to improve coordination of the vast array of Federal programs that directly or indirectly affect civil rights. I direct the Working Group to provide the Cabinet and me with a brief progress report no less than every 6 months, and specifically to:

       (a)  examine each Federal agency with a significant 
            civil rights mission and provide me with an 
            evaluation of how well that mission is being 
            implemented.  These analyses should examine 
            whether each agency uses the experience gained 
            from enforcement activities of other agencies and 
            other levels of government.  Counterproductive 
            and inconsistent practices should be identified 
            and proposals for change recommended;

       (b)  examine cross-cutting civil rights law 
            enforcement challenges such as voting rights 
            and equal access to government benefit programs 
            and identify innovative means of coordinating 
            and leveraging resources;
       (c)  develop better measures of performance for 
            Federal civil rights enforcement programs, taking 
            into account the real impact of programs on the 
            daily lives of all Americans; and
       (d)  support and advise all agencies as we reinvent 
            our strategies for the promotion of an open and 
            inclusive society.

With this interagency effort, I underscore the commitment of this Administration to bring new energy and imagination to the opportunity agenda. In departments and agencies throughout the Federal Government, this work is already well underway. The Working Group will provide a mechanism to expand and accelerate that vital work. Its work will be among our greatest contributions to the people we serve.


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