March 26, 1996

From time to time a figure arises on the American political landscape, whose message is one of division...of intolerance...of fear.

This year we have seen the rise and the apparent fall of Patrick Buchanan, who appeals to a fear of "foreigners," of people who look, speak and act differently than ourselves....

Patrick Buchanan represents precisely the opposite direction from the one New York City needs to follow...because we are interested in moving beyond the politics of race...the politics of division. To concentrate on the politics of unity...of common goals and common aspirations.

It's time we recognized that prejudice and stereotyping can emanate from any direction...from any community...from any neighborhood.

I believe the best way to combat prejudice is to examine and expose the irrational process that makes someone a bigot.

When you've stripped away the rhetoric...the rationalizations...and the'll find a common basis for all prejudice...and that is fear...pure and simple.

Haters come in all colors, shapes and sizes. And so do their victims. The haters react to different stimuli...their hatred manifests itself in different ways. But all haters go through the same process.

And the best way to battle hate is to join together...for the victim of racism to join together with the victim of religious persecution...

Every community contains a few people who seek to divide...a few people who want to vilify and victimize others. And every community has at one time or another been the target of such hatred.

That simple truth presents us with a choice:

We can close our selves off in our respective communities...accepting and defending the worst among us...or we can seek out our true allies: decent and sensible people of every race and religion.

We must recognize that our relationship to one another as brother and sister goes deeper than our racial, ethnic or religious is our common humanity...our identity as human beings.

So what can elected officials do to promote racial understanding and harmony? We can exercise moral leadership. We can reject appeals to racial, ethnic and religious division. We can talk and hope that people listen.

When I was a U.S. attorney I prosecuted members of the Mafia. Some Italian-Americans criticized me for it, saying I was giving my community a bad name.

I disagreed. From my perspective I was helping the Italian-American community by demonstrating that the overwhelming majority of Italian-Americans reject the Mafia and everything it stands for.

I believed that the Italian-American community had to make a choice:

We could close ranks with the mobsters out of fear that condemnation of any Italian-American would ultimately reflect negatively on the whole community.

Which is exactly what Mafia kingpin Joe Colombo tried to encourage when he formed the Italian-American Anti-Defamation league. Lots of decent people joined thinking it was a viable way to combat prejudice.

But I believe the better choice is for Italian-Americans to rise up and tell the world that Americans of Italian ancestry condemn the law breakers in their midst.

The same choice faced the residents of Howard Beach following the Michael Griffith tragedy. Some residents closed ranks with the killers, because they feared the whole community was being condemned because of a single crime.

Most recently, it was the Harlem community that faced this dilemma following the burning of Freddy's on 125th Street. The mere possibility that race was a motivator in that terrible crime, prompted some in the Harlem community to close ranks with the haters in their midst.

I say that we must have a new way of thinking about these cases.

The allies of good, decent, law-abiding Italian-Americans are not Mafia killers...but rather, good and decent members of other communities.

The allies of the good, decent, law-abiding residents of Howard Beach aren't the young men who beat and chased Michael Griffith...but rather, good and decent members of communities in every borough of our city.

And the allies of the good, decent, law-abiding residents of Harlem are not the racists who incite hatred and violence...but rather, good and decent people everywhere.

It's time we recognized that anti-social, criminal elements exist in every group...and these people -- the haters -- are the ones we must oppose. There's a barrier to that realization in our thinking -- and it's time we broke through.

In a case like Howard Beach whites must stand up stronger and taller than anyone else in condemning the haters.

In a case like the burning of Freddy's African-Americans must stand up taller and stronger than anyone else in condemning this hateful act.

When we have broken this barrier we will have reached closer to the ideal of unity as human beings.

And I think we are much closer to that ideal than people realize.

Government can't change the way people relate to one another. But elected officials can set an example by speaking honestly and frankly to every every individual.

In this Administration we strive to treat the African-American community, the Latino community, the Chinese community, the Korean community and every other community with the utmost deal with each and every community in precisely the same way.

And in doing so, we are saying that no matter what the color of your skin, no matter what your religion, we view you first and foremost as a human being.

We believe that you shouldn't deal with people as members or representatives of a particular group. To do so is demeaning. To do so strips the individual of his or her uniqueness.

To define an individual solely or primarily by race ignores any number of other characteristics that may be central to that person's identity, including gender, religion, and occupation.

To those in our city's minority communities who doubt our commitment to improving your quality of life, we ask just one thing.

Give us a chance to let our ideas work for you.

The programs and policies we reject are programs and policies that have been in place for twenty years...and they have failed.

For instance, our approach to welfare reflects a fuller understanding of the human personality. We've substituted work for just a check. That's not harsh -- in fact, its a more dignified way of offering people help. It empowers them. It gives them a chance to help achieve self-sufficiency.

Our anchor program is intended to provide something that is missing from many minority communities...something that existed in the past -- business and home ownership.

And the anchor program emphasizes local initiative...local empowerment.

These are the values that will enable our city to move forward together to a brighter future.

Conclusion: realistic expectations.

We have turned a corner in New York City.

We've reduced crime...reduced the size of government, while increasing the number of jobs and opportunities in our city...and we've begun to move people off welfare and into lives of independence.

We've set honest, sensible goals for government. We've redefined its role in resolving social problems and reaffirmed the pivotal role of the individual in building a better society.

Across the nation people are revaluating their expectations for local, state and federal policies. There is an increasing recognition that government must play a secondary role to families and individuals in resolving social problems.

In his book, the good life and its discontents, Robert J. Samuelson calls the past half century the "age of entitlement," during which government promised perfect and complete solutions for all our social ills.

Expectations of government were raised to impossibly high levels...and the all-too predictable result is the widespread disillusionment with government and national institutions pollsters tell us infects the American public today.

The seemingly limitless economic expansion of the fifties and sixties created utopian ideals: the war on crime, the war on poverty, the war on racism, the war on drugs.

By promising solutions government misleads. Samuelson writes, "'solution' implies a perfect resolution, but many social problems do not admit to that. Race relations, poverty, and crime are conditions with which we must struggle, for better or worse. So are many other problems, ranging from immigration to environmental degradation."

The best way to restore the public's shaken faith in government and in national institutions is to speak realistically about the challenges we face and what government can do to help individuals achieve their goals.

Samuelson calls this new era "the age of responsibility."

We must replace the sense of entitlement which is pervasive throughout our society -- from the elderly to the affluent to the poor -- with the principle of reciprocity.

We must create a better understanding both of government's power and its limitations...and at the same time foster a deeper appreciation for the responsibilities and capabilities of the individual.

Instead of a war on drugs, we must talk about strategies for reducing drugs.

Instead of a war on poverty, we must talk about programs to alleviate its worst effects and to move people into lives of independence and self-sufficiency.

Instead of looking for the government program that will eliminate racism, government must try to educate, spreading a message of tolerance, equality and inclusion.

And with each of these concerns -- drugs, poverty, racism -- we must recognize that the real solution won't come from a government office...but from within ourselves.

If the past 30 years has taught us anything, it is that the solutions to our greatest problems will come from the smallest units within society -- individuals.

And the institutions that will have the greatest impact on the lives of individuals will be those that are closest -- the family, the church, the school, civic and volunteer organizations.

As a nation we have accomplished so much in the last fifty years: becoming the world's leading economic and political power, creating a standard of living unmatched on the planet, removing barriers to equality.

Ironically, the American people undervalue these achievements, because government for too long promised far too much. Tragically, many Americans have lost faith not just in government, but in our ability as a people to create new solutions.

We must restore that faith. We can do it by tackling the tough problems in our society with new, innovative solutions that reflect a better understanding of human nature. By harnessing the enormous power of our communities...the power of individual talent and determination...the power of churches...schools...civic and volunteer organizations...we can build the better future that we all want for our children, and our city.

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