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Clinton Counsels Against Segregated University Life : Education: Diversity is 'a godsend,' Clinton tells Ohio State students. He urges dialogue between races instead of enclaves of black and white.

October 21, 1995|SAM FULWOOD III | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Suggesting that racial and ethnic cooperation during their college days will better prepare students for the future, President Clinton warned young people Friday against living most of their lives in separate black or white worlds.

"Even on our college campuses today, there are too many people whose lives are too segregated," Clinton said to a cheering homecoming crowd at Ohio State University. "Make sure that you have taken the time to really know and care about and understand somebody who is of a different race. Make sure you have told them the truth about how you feel. Make sure you have listened carefully to how they feel. And make sure you have done what you could in your way personally to bring your community together."

Clinton made similar remarks during a major speech on race relations Monday at the University of Texas. But unlike that broader speech intended for a national audience, Clinton's Ohio State address was a sermon-like lecture specifically to college students.

Over the last decade, as college campuses have become more ethnically diverse, many students have exhibited a growing desire to live, eat, play and study in racially isolated enclaves on campus.

Clinton, sounding like an avuncular professor from the integrationist 1960s, told the students that, if they do not reach beyond ethnic and racial boundaries, they risk missing opportunities that were not available in earlier times and would be valuable for coming generations.

"I am telling you, there are a lot of days when I wish I were your age, looking to the future that I think you'll have," Clinton said. "It can be a great and beautiful thing."

In related remarks, Clinton also appeared to enter the fray over the head count at Monday's "Million Man March" in Washington, apparently siding with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in disputing the U.S. Park Service's count of 400,000 participants.

"On Monday, nearly a million gathered in Washington, D.C., in a remarkable, remarkable march," Clinton said.

Park Service officials estimated the number of participants at 400,000. Their figures were angrily disputed by Farrakhan and other march organizers, who claimed that more than a million people had participated. They filed a suit to compel the government to revise their estimate and denounced park police as "racist" for purposely undercounting the crowd to diminish the success of the march.

Clinton was at Ohio State to serve as chairman of a Midwestern economic conference co-sponsored by the university and the U.S. Commerce Department.

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He cited the black men's rally as a prelude to his comments on race relations during a brief campus assembly. He read the rally's chief message as the need for all Americans to play a role in improving race relations to make "this great country what it ought to be."

He expressed concern over public opinion polls showing that "there are still great differences in the way we view the world based on our racial or ethnic background."

Rather than retreat into separatist racial camps, Clinton urged the students to embrace the nation's diversity as "a godsend."

"We are a multiracial, multiethnic country," he said. "In a global village where people relate to each other across national lines, nothing--nothing--could give us a greater asset for the 21st Century than our racial and ethnic diversity."

He urged young people to "insist that we do it right. . . . We have to go there consistent with the values that made this country great. We can harness all these changes to your benefit to make your life the most exciting life any generation of Americans ever had."

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