If elected president, what specific actions
will you take regarding equal opportunity programs?
For millions of Americans, affirmative action knocked down
the barriers of the past that prevented so many of us from
attending college, working in our country's leading
companies, or starting a small business.
I believe in affirmative action that opens the doors of
opportunity, but not in quotas to guarantee results. I
joined in the Michigan affirmative action cases, arguing
that diversity in higher education is a vital national
interest. The benefits of diversity for our country are real
— not only for all students in higher education but also in
our military and in our workplaces. As President, I will
continue to make America live up to its ideals. I will
support strong and sensible affirmative action. I will call
upon corporate America to be as diverse as the customers it
serves. I will reverse the staffing cuts to the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission and strengthen the
employment section of the Civil Rights Division. And I will
build an administration that not only looks like America,
but truly reflects America's diverse backgrounds and values.
The Supreme Court's recent decision holding that our cities
are not allowed to take voluntary reasonable steps to build
diverse student bodies in public schools was a betrayal of
the spirit of Brown v. Board of Education. I will direct my
Justice Department to help local school districts pursue
voluntary integration and racial equality in their schools.
I support affirmative action. When there is strong evidence
of prolonged and systemic discrimination by organizations,
affirmative action may be the only meaningful remedy
available. Affirmative action programs, when properly
structured, can open up opportunities otherwise closed to
qualified minorities without having an adverse impact on the
opportunities for whites. Given the dearth of black and
Latino Ph.D. candidates in mathematics and the sciences, for
example, a scholarship program for minorities interested in
getting advanced degrees in these fields won't keep white
students out of such programs, but can broaden the pool of
talent that we need to prosper in the new economy. We
shouldn't ignore that race continues to matter: To suggest
that our racial attitudes play no part in the socio-economic
disparities that we often observe turns a blind eye to both
our history and our experience – and relieves us of the
responsibility to make things right.
The Bush administration has made challenging affirmative
action and scholarship programs one of the core missions of
the Department of Justice. As president, I will rid the
Department of ideologues and political cronies, and for the
first time in eight years, the Civil Rights Division will
actually be staffed with civil rights lawyers who prosecute
civil rights violations, and employment discrimination, and
And while I support affirmative action for minorities, I
also support efforts to increase opportunities for qualified
students from low-income backgrounds to attend colleges and
universities – regardless of their race.
FEDERAL COMMISSION ON THE EFFECTS OF
THE INHUMANITY OF SLAVERY ON AMERICANS OF AFRICAN DESCENT
If elected President, what, if
anything, would you do to initiate discussions about race
and America's past history of slavery among all Americans,
not just people of African ancestry?
Many Americans understand that before there can be
redemption, there first must be repentance. We must
acknowledge the evils of slavery. The amazing grace that we
seek has helped to redeem America and to speed our nation's
journey from its original sin to its founding ideals.
But, still, we need to complete our journey towards justice,
and build an America where everyone who is willing to work
can contribute to this country to the fullest of their
God-given potential. We still need the capacity to look at
injustice, to say, "This is wrong," and to assume our
responsibility to put things right.
My husband knew that race would remain a central challenge
of the 21
century when he convened his Initiative on Race, which
included great Americans like John Hope Franklin. As
President, I will start a new dialogue. And through policy,
I will address the inequities and disparities that have been
invisible to this President.
The legacy and stain of slavery are immeasurable; nothing,
including reparations, can fully compensate. And though the
country has made tremendous progress, we still have so much
more to do.
I have a lot of respect for Congressman John Conyers and I'm
glad the NAACP gave him its highest honor this year. While I
know where his heart is at, I fear that reparations would be
an excuse for some to say "we've paid our debt" and to avoid
the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination
laws in employment and housing; the much harder work of
making sure that our schools are not separate and unequal;
the much harder work of providing job training programs and
rehabilitating young men coming out of prison every year;
and the much harder work of lifting 37 million Americans of
all races out of poverty.
These challenges will not go away with reparations. So while
I applaud and agree with the underlying sentiment of
recognizing the continued legacy of slavery, I would prefer
to focus on the issues that will directly address these
problems – and building a consensus to do just that.
If elected President, would you pursue initiatives that
allow federal dollars to be used to support programs in
which individuals are discriminated against based on their
Freedom of conscience and religious tolerance are vital
principles that lie at the heart of our democracy and our
Constitution. If religious freedom is to thrive in the 21st
century in our country and around the world, the United
States must be a leader in that effort. Therefore, when I am
President, federal dollars will not be used to discriminate
against individuals on the basis their religious beliefs or
refusal to participate in a religious practice. No one
should be denied access to a federally funded program on the
ground that they are religious, not religious, or practice a
I support the funding of faith-based programs that promote
the common good –feeding the hungry, sheltering the
homeless, bringing hope to those who hurt – and are
consistent with our principles. Our tax dollars come from a
great and diverse nation and we have a sacred trust in how
to morally use those funds. Faith-based programs are
essential. However, we can not use tax dollars to promote
one religion over another or discriminate in any way.
I support government efforts to partner with faith-based
organizations. I have said repeatedly that these
organizations can be important partners in delivering social
services, whether it's helping with prisoner re-entry
programs or providing job training skills. However, my
administration will not pursue initiatives that permit
taxpayer dollars to be used to support programs that
practice discrimination in hiring.
If elected President, which initiatives would you pursue
to ensure that every eligible American is allowed to cast a
free and unfettered vote, and to be assured that their vote
Thousands of American heroes marched and died or were beaten
and jailed while struggling to bring the right to vote to
all Americans. Their struggle must be redeemed today.
I have proposed the Count Every Vote Act, and introduced it
with my colleagues Senator Boxer and
Representatives Stephanie Tubbs Jones and John Lewis on the
42nd anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march from Selma,
Alabama. This legislation redeems the voting rights of
minority voters by calling for a voter-verified paper
ballot; guaranteeing equal access to polling stations — and
equal distribution of voting machines — for all Americans,
and requiring states to work to reduce wait times for
voters; creating a new federal crime for deceptive voter
suppression tactics, such as sending flyers into minority
neighborhoods telling voters the wrong voting date;
mandating "no-excuse absentee balloting," as well as fair
and uniform registration and identification rules, including
same-day registration; authorizing ex-offenders who have
paid their debt to society to vote in federal elections;
creating and enforcing standards for purging voters to
prevent voter disenfranchisement; and making Election Day a
federal holiday so that voters do not have to take time off
from work. This bill has been called the "gold standard" of
federal election bills.
More than 40 years after the passage of the Voting Rights
Act (VRA), there are still numerous obstacles to ensuring
that every citizen can vote. As a community organizer, I
successfully registered 150,000 new black voters. As a civil
rights lawyer, I worked on voting rights cases. In the U.S.
Senate, I helped lead the fight in the Senate to reauthorize
the VRA and I led the opposition to photo identification
requirements for voting. For me, protecting the right to
vote has not just been a cause of this campaign; it has been
a cause of my career.
As president, I will sign into law my Deceptive Practices
and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, a bill that cracks
down on insidious misinformation campaigns
designed to keep voters — usually racial minorities, the
poor, the elderly, and the disabled — from exercising their
right to vote. We must also do everything we can to regain
the trust and confidence in our electoral system that has
been lost in recent years, and voter-verification should be
a top priority in that effort. I think we should require the
use of accessible paper trail systems at every polling place
that uses electronic voting machines. I also believe that a
paper trail requirement will be most effective if we combine
it with a system of reasonable manual audits. I am cosponsor
of legislation in the Senate that would implement these
systems within the next few years.
If elected President what, if anything, would you do to help
restore the voting rights of ex-felony offenders?
I have written the Count Every Vote Act, which seeks to
redeem a right that is fundamental to our democracy – the
right to vote. And I'm proud that one of the many provisions
of the Count Every Vote Act restores voting rights for
ex-felons who have repaid their debt to society.
I will work hard to pass the Count Every Vote Act, and when
it passes I will proudly sign it into law. But my work won't
end there. I will aggressively enforce our voting laws.
Under the Bush administration, not a single voting
discrimination case was brought on behalf of an
African-American voter between 2001 and 2006. That will
change when I am President.
I support restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders. I
am a cosponsor of the Count Every Vote Act, and would sign
that legislation into law as president.
If elected President, what would you do to promote the
rights of the citizens of the District of Columbia?
Fair representation for the 600,000 residents of the
District of Columbia is long overdue. Our nation was born
out of a struggle against taxation without representation,
and yet —even as we endeavor to promote democracy around the
world — we shamefully deny our own American citizens who
live in the District the right to voting representation in
Congress. This is an injustice that tarnishes our democracy.
The right of citizens to be represented in Congress is
fundamental to our core American values.
I opposed the decision of a Republican minority in the
Senate to filibuster the DC Voting Rights Act earlier this
year. As President, I will drive Congress to pass, and I
intend to sign, a bill that recognizes the right of D.C.
residents to have voting representation in Congress.
I am an original cosponsor of the Senate bill that will
provide the District of Columbia with voting representation
in the House of Representatives. I consider passage of this
bill to be an important step toward justice. In our great
democracy, it's a shame that residents of the District who
pay taxes, fight in wars, and enjoy the same rights as every
other American have no voting representation in our nation's
capital. I will continue to champion this issue as
If elected President, what criteria would you use in
determining who to nominate for positions in the federal
I strongly opposed the confirmations of Samuel Alito and
John Roberts as Supreme Court Justices, and those of Charles
Pickering, Miguel Estrada, Janice Rogers Brown, and
Priscilla Owen as federal circuit court judges. I was not
confident they would be committed to upholding the civil
rights and liberties of all Americans.
I believe it is vital to the health and future of our
democracy that our justice system responds to the diversity
of our country, protecting and promoting the rights of all
citizens equally. I would insist that nominees for positions
to the federal judiciary share that belief.
Due to the power wielded by life-long federal judges, it is
vital that these positions be filled by qualified persons
who are committed to equality before the law and the
upholding of civil rights and liberties. It is also
important to appoint directors and staff in the Department
of Justice who are committed to advancing civil rights and
civil liberties in America, not handicapping them.
As a Senator, I have a track record of opposing nominees on
the basis of their record on civil rights issues — a record
born out of my own experiences as a civil rights lawyer and
constitutional law professor. I opposed the confirmation of
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Arno to the
Supreme Court in large part because of their records on
civil rights and civil liberties. More recently, I led the
opposition in the Senate to the nomination of Judge Leslie
Southwick to the United States Court of Appeals for the
As president, I will select federal judges who are
highly-qualified and who have a clear record of public
service. And I will select men and women who I think bring a
certain emphathy to the task of judging — the ability to see
themselves in other people's lives. This is not an
insignificant consideration. When I opposed the Roberts and
Alito nominations, I gave a speech on the Senate floor about
those 5% of cases that often turn on what's in a judge's
heart. Some may have scoffed at that. But when you have the
Supreme Court of the United States doing what we saw last
term —equating Jim Crow segregation of schools with efforts
to voluntary diversify K- 12 education — it shows you why
you should care about what's in a judge's heart. Because
what's in their heart tells you a lot about their judgment.
Chief Justice Roberts likened being a judge to an umpire in
his confirmation hearings. But law is not sport; and the art
of judging is not the art of calling balls and strikes. I
will appoint judges who understand that being a judge is
also about empathy and sound judgment — that's why we call
them judges. And that's what we need to do to make sure our
judiciary protects and honors civil rights and civil
If elected President, what basic elements would you include
in any proposal to reform our Nations immigration laws?
As President, I will work to enact comprehensive immigration
reform that respects the rule of law, our immigrant
heritage, and our American values. I support reform that
provides a path to earned legalization for people who learn
English and pay fines. I will ensure that we protect the
sanctity of families and repair the broken, unfair
bureaucratic system that forces lawful immigrants to live
apart from their families. I also believe we have to toughen
security at our borders by placing more people and
technology there. And I will ensure that my policy penalizes
employers who hire undocumented immigrants and applies
strict penalties to employers who exploit these workers.
During this campaign, I have been proud to challenge the
leading Republican candidates to stop treating immigrants as
scapegoats. Passing comprehensive immigration reform that
respects people's human rights and preserves our heritage as
a nation of immigrants will be a high priority for me, if I
am elected President. There is constantly mounting evidence
that our system is broken, Recently, Citizenship and
Immigration officials have reportedly said that it could
take more than a year to process many recent naturalization
applications. I think that is wrong, and as President, I
will begin working to fix our system immediately.
I am committed to fighting for comprehensive immigration
reform during my first term as president. As president, I
will put comprehensive immigration reform back on the
nation's agenda, and I will not rest until it is passed once
and for all. We are a nation of laws and a nation of
immigrants. We need comprehensive immigration reform that
creates a system that is fair, consistent, compassionate,
and emphasizes both maintaining the rule of law and the
security of our borders while working to keep families
together and putting the undocumented on an earned path to
In the most recent immigration debate on the U.S. Senate
floor, I fought to improve and pass amendments to put
greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together and
to revisit a controversial new points system that never
received a proper public hearing. On security, comprehensive
reform has to mean gaining operational control of our
borders by using better technology, improving
infrastructure, and making smart choices about where we
deploy resources on the Southern and Northern borders. These
actions can strengthen our security while discouraging
people from taking the risk of crossing the border and a
dangerous desert illegally. And at the workplace, we need a
simple, but mandatory electronic system that enables
employers to verify the legal status of the people they
hire. We also need to bring the 12 million
undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. We need to be
realistic about the fact that they are here, we can't deport
them, and they have become an integral part of our society.
We need to give this population a chance to pay a fine, to
have provisional status in the country, and to get into the
back of the line for citizenship.
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Vernellia Randall. All Rights Reserved
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