President Clinton will deserve considerable credit or blame, depending on your politics, if affirmative action survives many more decades. Early on he boasted that he would select a cabinet that “looks like America” and then proceeded to seek out racial minorities and women appointees. That a cabinet (or faculty or jury or firm) should demographically resemble its jurisdiction was not conceived by Clinton. But he popularized the idea and helped make it a norm by which many people judge leaders and organizations.

Later, after initiating a highly publicized review of the policy, the president declared on July 15, 1995, that “affirmative action has been good for America.” He conceded that some affirmative action programs had been sloppily or even corruptly administered and that others had become obsolescent. But his central point was that affirmative action had addressed racial and gender injustices and that such programs needed to be continued. “Mend it, don’t end it,” he declared.

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