order non hybrid seeds LandRightsNFarming: Re: Dan Glickman Speech, USDA Coalition Civil Rights Forum,Big Conf. August 19, 1997

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Re: Dan Glickman Speech, USDA Coalition Civil Rights Forum,Big Conf. August 19, 1997

On Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 11:02 AM, <LawrLCL@aol.com> wrote:
Remarks OF SECRETARY DAN GLICKMAN BLACKS IN GOVERNMENT                                                            Release No. 0279.97 Remarks OF SECRETARY DAN GLICKMAN BLACKS IN GOVERNMENT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- AUGUST 19, 1997  INTRODUCTION Thank you all for inviting me here today. I'm glad to see such a good crowd for this topic. It's deserving of attention -- within USDA, within the federal government, and across the country.  You know, on the North Lawn of the Whitten Building, which houses USDA's headquarters, there's a big tree that was planted many years ago in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. The placard in front of it reads,  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge.'  These are times of challenge at USDA -- challenges that we are meeting head on.  We're gathering momentum from many corners -- from folks like Senator Robb and Rep. Conyers on the Hill, from Lawrence Lucas and the Coalition of Minority Employees, from John Boyd and the National Association of Black Farmers, President Clinton -- and we're facing a problem that's been allowed to fester since really the mid-1800s. It's not been given the attention that we now demand people pay to it.  I was in Detroit not too long ago for an empowerment zone conference with Secretary Cuomo. I took some time out to visit the new museum of African American history. There, I was struck by just how much of America's racial history is rooted in agriculture.  We fought a civil war largely over the right Southern plantation owners asserted to enslave men, women and children to work in their fields.   After the war, while some former slaves went North, many more stayed in the South and worked the land. Of course, they couldn't own land, and regularly faced the worst kinds of abuse and discrimination -- pushing them on to the cities and factories, whether they wanted to go or not.  Then, during the Industrial Revolution and on into the Depression Era, as agriculture evolved and became less labor-intensive, even more African Americans left the farm for the city.  In many ways, when this country laid down its arms, the real battle began: How could we take the ideals of our nation, values that we had reaffirmed with our blood -- and rebuild a United States.  In many ways, that's what we're still talking about today. At Gettysburg, Lincoln talked about a nation  dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.' A century later, Dr. King talked about a dream that he would not live to see fulfilled. Today, President Clinton talks about the need to build  one America.'  We are going to realize that dream at the Department of Agriculture.  Just over a month ago, I testified before the House Agriculture Committee on what's happening at USDA. It was the first hearing by that committee ever on civil rights at USDA. I served in Congress for 18 years, and I told my former colleagues that neither past Administrations nor past Congresses gave this issue the time of day. I said that too many of us look back on the progress made in the 1960s, of the historic civil rights laws passed in that time, and think we got the job done. But I know that our nation does not yet fully practice what we preach. I've talked to people who've lost their farm ... good people ... who lost their family land ... not because of a bad crop, not because of a flood, but because of the color of their skin. I've talked to employees ... dedicated public servants ... who've been humiliated, abused and then punished for speaking up.  Looking back over the decisions I've made, one that I'm most proud of was refusing to draw a dividing line between what's happening to our employees and what's happening to our customers. In both cases, our ultimate challenge is the same as our nation's: We must find a way to turn civil rights into civil realities.  You know, too many folks tend to tune out when people start talking about racial healing and the need to find strength in our diversity. I understand their cynicism. But I also ask them to take a look at what we're doing at USDA.  We're 6 months out the gate from the release of our independent, candid civil rights report. It was precisely what we needed. It was blunt, highly critical, and mostly a series of bullets recommending specific actions that could help make things tangibly better. Now, we're busy putting that plan into action.    A lot of what we're doing right now is trying to institutionalize common sense and fairness:  -- It is now a condition of employment that every USDA employee treat every customer and co-worker fairly and equitably, with dignity and respect.  -- We have a zero-tolerance policy against reprisals. I've made it crystal clear that people who think about retaliating against an employee who stands up for his or her rights had better think first about keeping their own job.  -- We have a new foreclosure policy: When a civil rights complaint is filed, the foreclosure is immediately frozen -- wherever it is in the process -- until an independent review determines the merits of the case. I simply will not stand for the loss of another farm due to discrimination.  -- We have new lending policies: Now, when someone has a complaint pending, we've made sure they can still apply for a loan. If it's the loan officer who's been charged, then another person handles the application. If the loan's denied, there's a meeting and a letter of explanation. This way, if there is a legitimate reason for turning folks down, we make sure they understand why.  -- We're also trying to change the law that bars folks who've had a debt write down from our loan programs. Plenty of good people lost their shirts -- through no fault of their own -- in the  80s farm slump. We need to reintroduce the notion of redemption to our credit policies.  -- Without question, part of the problem is economic. I've established a National Commission on the Small Farm to explore race, class and other factors that make it hard for small farmers to stay on the land. Like every other major sector of our economy -- health care, banking, retail stores -- agriculture is concentrating into fewer and larger operations, putting the squeeze on small farmers of every race. We need a national strategy to save the small farm and keep the rural American dream alive -- so folks can earn a decent living for themselves and their families from the land.  -- We're also bringing more accountability to our ranks. One hurdle we face is the structure of USDA. Since the days of FDR, USDA has had people in every county of the country -- helping farmers and putting a human face on the federal government. We need a strong, local USDA presence, but we can do a better job of making sure it works for all the people it's meant to serve.   Right now, we have 2 sets of workers -- county-based and federal employees. Both get their paycheck from the federal government. They work side by side, in the same office, doing the same business of USDA. But they don't have the same boss. I don't want to be their boss when it comes to tailoring federal programs to that county's needs. But when it comes to civil rights, I do want the power to ensure that we're serving all the people of that county to the best of our ability. We are working with our allies on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Robb, Rep. Conyers, Rep. Clayton and others, to pass legislation that draws the distinction. It hasn't exactly been met with open arms, but it's the right thing to do, and we can do it the right way -- protecting people's human rights and dignity without encroaching on the local voices that make our farm programs work.  -- We need accountability at the top, too. From now on, our civil rights enforcer, the Assistant Secretary of Administration -- who right now is Mr. Pearlie Reed who headed up the Civil Rights Action Team -- will review all our top department officials. I've made it clear that his review of their civil rights performance is as important as their performance on any specific program.  -- We will soon have an Office of Outreach, so we can do a better job of working with communities that have been underserved in the past. And, we're hiring on a civil rights arm for our Office of General Counsel, so we have full-time civil rights advocates on our legal team.  I'm proud of the progress we've made, but I've also undergone a serious reality check as to the massive amounts of time, resources, people power and leadership that it's going to take -- at USDA, in Congress, and in our communities -- to institutionalize lasting change.  One problem that's been particularly tenacious is the backlog in civil rights complaints. We've had people stuck in the system literally for years. And, I don't have to explain to any of you what life's like for an employee who's filed a complaint against her boss, and then has to wait year after year for closure. A lot of the problem dates back to the fact that in the mid-80s, our civil rights investigators were disbanded. We're now hiring back those positions, and expect that will help us break up the logjam and move on at a more fair and humane clip, so people can get on with their lives, and we no longer have to worry about justice delayed being justice denied.  When you take all these changes together, when you hold people personally accountable for being a part of the solution, when you put new policies on the books with words like  zero tolerance,'  condition of employment,' and the rest, people take notice.  But I'd also like to say that the vast majority of our folks -- both at headquarters and in the field -- are good people. They are dedicated, fair-minded, overworked and underpaid. There are a lot of folks out there who say,  Well, Secretary Glickman seems to care about this, but no one else does.' They're wrong. I understand their cynicism, but we will prove them wrong. We will build a work force that both reflects and respects the rich diversity of this nation.  You know, this has been as much a lesson in the nature of humanity as the nature of bureaucracy. We're dealing with policies and programs, but we're also dealing with people's hearts and minds. Some things change faster than others. But they will change.  My goal is to get USDA out from under a history of discrimination, and have it emerge in the dawn of the next century as the federal civil rights leader. I'm under no illusions about the magnitude of this task, but neither am I under any illusions as to its significance.  USDA is struggling with problems that are not unique to agriculture, that are not unique to government, that in some respects are not even unique to our nation. But they have everything to do with what we are about as a nation.  The history of the world has given us far too many examples of the destructiveness of mindless divisions. For more than 2 centuries, the world has looked to us, to America -- the relative newcomers -- to forge a new path -- one that seeks out and finds the unity, pride and strength that so many of us truly believe can come of all our differences.  Not every chapter in our history is exemplary of this quest, but we've been given glimpses of what our workplaces, our communities, our country and our world might be like if we could transcend the schisms of our many differences.   I believe that we change the world by each of us changing our little corner of the world. That's what we're doing at the Department of Agriculture.   I made a promise to President Clinton that civil rights would be my legacy at USDA. I make that same promise to all of you today.  Thank you.                                       #