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AND I QUOTE / What Political Books Are Saying

The Affirmative Action Debate. Edited by George E. Curry (Addison-Wesley: $15, paper; 368 pp.)

August 04, 1996|John Balzar

"Freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, do as you desire. . . . Thus it is not enough to just open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity . . . equality as a fact and as a result."

--Lyndon Johnson, June 1965, in support of affirmative action.

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"Is American equality about guaranteeing equality of results? Is equality only meaningful if, at the end of the day, all Americans are equal not merely in right, but in fact? Or does equality consist primarily of the equal application of the laws, such that each citizen has an equal opportunity to advance, regardless of racial or gender considerations?"

--Rep. Charles T. Canady, author of a bill to repeal affirmative action in federal employment.

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So, what would politics be without the simplistic shorthand of television commercials? This worthy book is evidence that it would be more interesting, at the least. Affirmative action has absorbed the courts, now shadows the presidential campaign and looms large on the California November election ballot as Prop. 209 to abolish gender and race preferences in government. Here is a chance to prepare the mind and heart for the coming siege of rhetoric aimed at the gut. Curry, editor of Emerge magazine, chooses 29 essays and speeches, ranging in view from Jesse Jackson to Pete Wilson, from Xerox executive A. Barry Rand to pollster Louis Harris. These are the best of the arguments. The worst are coming.

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