Comparing and Contrasting Clinton and Connerly's Speeches on Affirmative Action
Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States. Elected in 1992 and again in 1996, Clinton served as President until January of 2001, when George W. Bush became the 43rd President. Ward Connerly is the founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute. He has gained national attention as an outspoken advocate of equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background. In this paper, I will discuss the position of these two politicians from affirmative action, I will highlight how each of them thinks about affirmative action, whether he sees it beneficial or harmful to the American society, and how he argues to mend or abolish this system. On July 19, 1995, in his speech on affirmative action at the National Archives, Clinton explained how men were created equal, and that they are entitled by their creator, and by United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, to certain rights such as, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He pointed to the enduring effort throughout our history to preserve these rights, but he also referred to the gap between the plain theory and reality where the rights of minorities are still violated: There could be no better place for this discussion than here at the National Archives, for within these walls are America's bedrocks of our common ground―the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents are America's only crown jewels. Beyond all else, our country is a set of convictions: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our whole history can be seen first as an effort to preserve these rights and then as an effort to make them real in the lives of all our citizens. We know that from the beginning there was a great gap between the plain meaning of our creed and the meaner [lower] reality of our daily lives. (Clinton 1) Almost a year later, just like Clinton, on April 30, 1996, in his speech on affirmative action to the Heritage Foundation, Connerly also explained how certain rights such as liberty, the right to vote, the right to due process, and the right to equal treatment under the law were guaranteed to every citizen at birth or otherwise. These rights were valid for life and they should be honored by every government, but they had not been always honored to some citizens because of their color or race: When we become citizens of this nation, at birth or otherwise, we get a warranty. That warranty is supposed to be honored by every government franchise in every village and hamlet [town] of this nation. It is not transferable, and it is good for the life of the vehicle. We are guaranteed the right to vote; the right to due process; the right to be free, as long as we conduct ourselves in accordance with the laws of our nation; and the right to equal treatment under the law, regardless of our race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. These are rights which attach to each of us as individuals, not as members of a group. This warranty has not always been honored for some of us. Because of the color of our skin or the place from whence [where] we came, some of us were denied the right to vote; we were enslaved; we were denied due process; and the equal treatment granted to others was not ours to enjoy. (Connerly 2) It seemed ironic to Clinton how affirmative action started to be divisive, because when it first began twenty five years ago, it was supported by all parties and was meant to achieve equal opportunity for all Americans: It is, in a way, ironic that this issue should be divisive today, because affirmative action began twenty-five years ago by a Republican president, with bipartisan support. It began simply as a means to an end of enduring...
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