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Ward Connerly Presentation

Comments by Manny Klausner

November 10, 2003
New York City

Ward, we are delighted to recognize you as this year's recipient of the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties Award for the General Category.

You have been selected for your achievements in reshaping the national dialogue on race in America, and moving the nation towards the ideal of a colorblind government.

You have gained national attention and respect as a courageous and effective advocate of equal rights for all Americans, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background.

You have lifted yourself out of poverty, and you were the first in your family to earn a college degree.

You have participated on the front lines of the ongoing struggle for equality of rights. You joined the NAACP over 40 years ago as a student at Sacramento State College, when the NAACP was dedicated to passing laws that guaranteed voting rights for blacks in the South as well as the right to have a meal at a lunch counter regardless of your skin color.

When you married Ilene, you didn't wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to hold unconstitutional state laws which banned interracial marriage.

You have consistently put forth your views in an eloquent, reasoned and respectful manner. In return, you have been slandered and subjected to mindless invective by the likes of Julian Bond and other representatives of the old-line civil-rights groups -- groups who have retreated from their advocacy of equality of rights, and now favor naked racial preferences. As you stated in your interview in Reason, you knew that you would have to contend with being called names such as "sellout" and "Uncle Tom" and "traitor." Yet you did not retreat in your efforts to achieve your vision.

In 1993, you were appointed to a 12-year term as University of California Regent. Two years later, as a member of the UC Board of Regents, you led a majority of the Regents to end the University’s use of racial preferences in its admissions policy.

Later that year, you accepted chairmanship of the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) campaign. California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996 by a 55 to 45 percent margin. Proposition 209 banned racial- and gender-preferences and discrimination in California public education and contracting.

In 1997, you founded the American Civil Rights Institute to take your battle against racial preferences nationwide. Later, I-200, an initiative in Washington similar to Prop. 209, won with 58 percent of the vote. Your current campaign for a similar initiative in Michigan, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, would provide an ideal repudiation of the Supreme Court's decisions in the University of Michigan racial preference cases.

You spearheaded the campaign for the Racial Privacy Initiative (RPI) in California -- which embodied your vision of a colorblind government. RPI would have prohibited the state of California from collecting information about race or ancestry except for clearly appropriate areas, such as medical research. Unfortunately, RPI was the object of a cynical and well-financed campaign of massive distortion -- which led to RPI's defeat in the October 2003 California election. Many people support your plans to try again to pass a revised version of RPI.

Your autobiography, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences tells the moving story of your extraordinary career. Your efforts have led to honors and awards from supporters around the nation. You have appeared frequently on radio and television, and you have been profiled on 60 Minutes, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and virtually every major news magazine in America.

As President and Chief Executive Officer of Connerly & Associates, Inc., a Sacramento-based land development consulting firm, you are regarded as one of the housing industry’s top experts -- and you possess a comprehensive knowledge of housing and development issues.

The Thomas S. Szasz Award is a tribute conferred annually in the general and professional categories on persons or organizations, American or foreign, judged to have contributed in an outstanding degree to the cause of civil liberty.

The award is intended to encourage civil libertarians to persevere in the battle to protect personal autonomy from state encroachment. During your career, you have distinguished yourself as a courageous defender of individual rights and equality of rights.

When he spoke about your qualifications to receive the award, Tom Szasz stated that he believes that "unqualified equality before the law -- uninfluenced by race, religion, gender, social status -- is, and ought to be for a long time to come, our foremost civil rights agenda."

Just as Tom Szasz, you have remained a steadfast champion of the classical-liberal values of voluntary interaction, the rule of law, and an open society. Just as Tom Szasz, your struggle on behalf of civil liberties has been indefatigable, despite intense opposition.

We are proud to present to you the Thomas Szasz Award for your Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties.

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