THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RACE ADVISORY BOARD MEETING
The Mayflower Hotel Washington, D.C.
10:16 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Dr. Franklin, members of the board, ladies and gentlemen, first let me, again, thank the board for its willingness to serve. And to those of you who came to Little Rock last week for the 40th anniversary of the integration of Central High, I thank you for coming there. It was a very important occasion, I believe, and one that all of us who were there felt was immensely rewarding.
I want to talk today about how we go forward from here. When I was at Little Rock Central High School, after we had this magnificent ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the event and the original nine students went into the school, I went back outside and spent quite a long while talking to the students and the young people who were there. And all they talked to me about was how we were going to go forward. And I just listened to them.
I think you made a very important beginning by urging that we focus on education and economic opportunity, things which cut across racial lines but are necessary to bring us together.
One of the young men in the audience said to me that -- he said, I don't think they had these gang problems 40 years ago and I'm worried about that now. It was very touching, you know. So I think it's very important that we throw this into the future now, we begin to focus on it, and I agree that we should begin with education and economic opportunity.
But if I could go back to the original mission of the board, I also think it's important that we have the facts. So this afternoon, I know you're going to hear from noted scientists and demographers who will share their research on our changing population patterns and attitudes on race, and I think that's an important thing.
Secondly, I think it's important that we continue this dialogue. I got as much out of the hour or so I spent after the ceremony in Little Rock just listening to the young people talking as I worked my way down the lines of people who were there as anything else. I'm going to have a town hall meeting on this subject on December the 2nd, and I will continue to do what I can to support you in reaching out to Americans of all backgrounds and actually discussing this so that we build bridges of mutual understanding and reconciliation.
But, finally, and in the end, we have got to decide what it is we are going to do. This summer I announced the first of what I hope will be a long series of actions consistent with the work we are doing here with the board when I said that we would have an initiative to send our most talented teachers to our most needy school districts by offering them scholarships for their own education if they would, in turn, teach in those districts for a number of years. I think that will be very helpful.
Later today, our Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, will announce new efforts to end housing discrimination in America. First, HUD will issue $15 million in grants to 67 private, nonprofit housing groups, state and local governments to combat housing discrimination and to promote fair housing practices. And then Secretary Cuomo will double the number of housing discrimination enforcement actions over the next four years.
It's clear to me now that there is more housing discrimination in America than I had thought there was when I became President, and that that has been kept alive too long in too many neighborhoods, keeping, among other things, too many families from sending their children to the schools of their choice. So I applaud what Secretary Cuomo is doing and I will strongly support him.
Let me say again, I look forward to today's discussion. I think it's important that we build on that -- where I thought we were at the end of the ceremony in Little Rock, where there was a great sense among the people there and I felt around the country who were watching it, a great sense that now we have to do things, and that every individual American just about is interested in this issue and understands how important it is and understands that we'll all have to do our part if we expect to come out where we want to be.
So, Dr. Franklin, I look forward to going on with the discussion. And I think maybe the Vice President might like to say a word or two, and then we could go forward.
END 10:21 A.M. EDT