Ronald Reagan on affirmative action: "Radio Address to the Nation on Civil Rights" June 15, 1985
My fellow Americans:
In less than 3 weeks we'll be celebrating the greatest blow ever struck for the cause of freedom -- the Declaration of Independence. ``We hold these truths to be self-evident,'' our Founding Fathers proclaimed, ``that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights.''
That declaration inspired our nation to reach new heights of human freedom, but its promise wasn't complete until we abolished the shame of slavery from our land and, in the lifetime of many of us, wrote the civil rights statutes that outlawed discrimination by race, religion, gender, or national origin.
Discrimination is still not yet a thing of the past, unfortunately; and for the last 4\1/2\ years, this administration has acted vigorously to defend and extend every American's fundamental right to equal treatment.
The Justice Department has worked energetically to end discrimination in employment, voting, housing -- in all the areas covered by law. Our record on enforcing minority voting rights is at the top of the list. And we've increased to an all-time high the number of criminal civil rights cases filed. We have a proud record on civil rights.
The principle that guides us and the principle embodied in the law is one of nondiscrimination. I'm sure that you have all seen the statue representing justice that presides in many of our courtrooms -- the woman with the blindfold covering her eyes. Her eyes are covered because true justice should never depend on whether you're rich or poor, or black or white, or if you're Hispanic or Asian, or if your ancestors came from Italy, Poland, Latvia, or any other country, including Ireland, where some of my family's from.
Equal treatment and equality before the law -- these are the foundations on which a just and free society is built. But there are some today who, in the name of equality, would have us practice discrimination. They have turned our civil rights laws on their head, claiming they mean exactly the opposite of what they say. These people tell us that the Government should enforce discrimination in favor of some groups through hiring quotas, under which people get or lose particular jobs or promotions solely because of their race or sex. Some bluntly assert that our civil rights laws only apply to special groups and were never intended to protect every American.
Well, they couldn't be more wrong. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being debated in the Congress, Senator Hubert Humphrey, one of its leading advocates, said he'd start eating the pages of the act if it contained any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota. But I think if Senator Humphrey saw how some people today are interpreting that act, he'd get a severe case of indigestion.
The truth is, quotas deny jobs to many who would have gotten them otherwise, but who weren't born a specified race or sex. That's discrimination pure and simple and is exactly what the civil rights laws were designed to stop. Quotas also cast a shadow on the real achievements of minorities, which makes quotas a double tragedy.
In 1980 and 1984 I ran for President and told you I was opposed to quotas. In response to your mandate, our administration has worked to return the civil rights laws to their original meaning -- to prevent discrimination against any and all Americans.
William Bradford Reynolds, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, has played a key role in that effort. Brad Reynolds is not only a tireless fighter against discrimination, he's a brilliant and dedicated lawyer. Recently, I nominated Brad Reynolds to be Associate Attorney General -- the number three job in the Justice Department. He deserves that promotion, but his nomination is being opposed by some who don't agree with us about civil rights, by some who favor the discrimination of quotas.
Brad Reynolds' qualifications and character are impeccable. Indeed everyone knows Brad Reynolds is a man of integrity and strong ideals, that he's firmly committed to the same vision of a just society that I am. I've nominated Brad Reynolds to carry out my policies, the policies for which you elected me, the policies that reflect our best principles as a nation. I'm confident that the Senate will confirm him.
Twenty-two years ago Martin Luther King proclaimed his dream of a society rid of discrimination and prejudice, a society where people would be judged on the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. That's the vision our entire administration is committed to -- a society that keeps faith with the promise of our Declaration of Independence, a proud society in which all men and women truly are created free and equal under God.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. from Camp David, MD.