Building One America

“The ideals that bind us together are as old as our nation, but so are the forces that pull us apart.  Our founders sought to form a more perfect union.  The humility and hope of that phrase is the story of America, and it is our mission today.”

–President Clinton, Commencement Address at the University of California San Diego, June 14, 1997

President Clinton took office at a time when racial demographics in the United States were changing while social and economic gaps were widening.  He saw the country’s diversity as a source of strength and made sure that diversity was reflected in those who staffed his administration.  To help alleviate poverty, he raised the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He called for the creation of Empowerment Zones to encourage private investment in economically disadvantaged communities.  And he defended affirmative action against those who sought to end it.

Wood from Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal ChurchPresident Clinton sought to promote dialogue between groups, inviting leaders of all major faiths to the White House, creating a White House office on racial issues, and establishing the first presidential liaison to the gay community.  In the wake of a number of high-profile hate crimes in the 1990s, he called for tougher laws against them, and made church arson a federal crime.  In 1993, President Clinton created AmeriCorps, a domestic Peace Corps that enabled young people to gain work experience and pay for college through community service.

This exhibit alcove supplements its story with speeches and correspondence dealing with these issues, as well as memorabilia from AmeriCorps teams representing different parts of the country.

Highlighted Object from the Exhibit: Burnt wood from Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, Greeleyville, South Carolina.