In July 1995, President Bill Clinton delivered a major speech at the White House in defense of Affirmative Action programs across the nation at a time when many critics were calling for their repeal. He argued that such programs were still needed in a talk he officially titled, The Job of Ending Discrimination in this Country is Not Over, but which popularly became known by its most memorable phrase, Mend it, but dont end it. That speech appears below:
Thank you very much. To the members of Congress who are here; members of the Cabinet and the administration, my fellow Americans: In recent weeks I have begun a conversation with the American people about our fate and our duty to prepare our nation not only to meet the new century, but to live and lead in a world transformed to a degree seldom seen in all of our history. Much of this change is good, but it is not all good, and all of us are affected by it. Therefore, we must reach beyond our fears and our divisions to a new time of great and common purpose.
Our challenge is twofold: first, to restore the American dream of opportunity and the American value of responsibility; and second, to bring our country together amid all our diversity into a stronger community, so that we can find common ground and move forward as one.
More than ever these two endeavors are inseparable. I am absolutely convinced we cannot restore economic opportunity or solve our social problems unless we find a way to bring the American people together. To bring our people together we must openly and honestly deal with the issues that divide us. Today I want to discuss one of those issues: affirmative action.
It is, in a way, ironic that this issue should be divisive today, because affirmative action began 25 years ago by a Republican president with bipartisan support. It began simply as a means to an end of enduring national purpose – equal opportunity for all Americans.
So let us today trace the roots of affirmative action in our never-ending search for equal opportunity. Let