THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Supreme Court's decision sets a new legal standard for judging affirmative action, but it must not set us back in our fight to end discrimination and create equal opportunity for all.
Despite great progress, discrimination and exclusion on the basis of race and gender are still facts of life in America. I have always believed that affirmative action is needed to remedy discrimination and to create a more inclusive society that truly provides equal opportunity. But I have also said that affirmative action must be carefully justified and must be done the right way. The Court's opinion in Adarand is not inconsistent with that view.
It is regrettable that already, with the ink barely dry, many are using the Court's opinion as a reason to abandon that fight. Exaggerated claims about the end of affirmative action -- whether in celebration or dismay -- do not serve the interest all of us have in a responsible national conversation about how to move forward together and create equal opportunity.
The Supreme Court has raised the hurdle, but it is not insurmountable. Make no mistake: the Court has approved affirmative action that is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest. The constitutional test is now tougher than it was, but I am confident that the test can be met in many cases. We know that from the experience of state and local governments, which have operated under the tougher standard for some years now.
Some weeks ago, I directed my staff conducting the review of federal affirmative action programs to ask agencies a number of probing questions about programs that make race or sex a condition of eligibility for any kind of benefit. What, concretely, is the justification for this particular program? Have race and gender-neutral alternatives been considered? Is the program flexible? Does it avoid quotas, in theory and in practice? Is it transitional and temporary? Is it narrowly drawn? Is it balanced, so that it avoids concentrating its benefits and its costs? These are tough questions, but they are the right policy questions and they need answers.
I have instructed the team conducting the Administration's affirmative action review to include an analysis of the Adarand decision and its implications in their report.