The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
I was fortunate enough to attend Harvard University for college. I attended Stanford University for Law School. And those are two academic institutions that had surprisingly low numbers of African-Americans enrolled in those schools just a generation ago. And if it weren't for affirmative action, people like me who are interested in pursuing higher education like that and were interested in reaching as high as we possibly could, did not have an opportunity like that.
In addition to being a recipient of affirmative action and being a part of affirmative action policy I also worked part-time in the admissions office and I saw firsthand that there are a tremendous amount of people who are highly qualified and very motivated and interested in pursuing higher education at a place like Harvard. Far too many people apply to be able to grant admission to all of them and so Harvard takes a very specific look, an individualized look at every application. It involves both a rigorous look at their academic levels, their test scores, but also things that set students apart from each other: who is a special viola player, who is a student from Iowa, who is an African-American student, who comes from a background where they might be the first person from their family to go to college. Those are all things that Harvard considers in their admissions policy and thinks of as very important factors. So race is one of the many factors like this.
Taking race as one of many factors in considering admissions to colleges and universities, has been a very positive change in America's admission policies over the last generation or so. I think that it affords students from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds, an opportunity to be in an environment where they see people whose experiences are different from their own, to be able to learn from what those people have to share and to say, and I think that it provides some beneficial cross-racial interaction that really does not take place anywhere else in America.
In my view, if the Court upholds the general policy of affirmative action, it will mean that the Court's decision has reinforced the fact that racial integration and diversity are central to the fabric of America and central to what we believe in, in terms of creating fair opportunities for people and I think that's the most important thing to remember.
I am Lia Epperson. I am Assistant Counsel with NAACPLDF.