The gains made through the social programs sponsored by the federal government --and the dismantling of the artificial roadblocks to equal access mandated by successive national administrations--helped black Americans to get on the road to equality. But ensuring the right of access was only a beginning. We must now make certain that black Americans stay on that road and move along it into the mainstream of social and economic equality.
The problems that persist, as both Kenneth Clark and John Hope Franklin have written, may be seen most graphically in the inferior schools in many of our cities that still resist desegregation; in the atmosphere of despair in the deteriorating neighborhoods of our urban ghettos; in the persistent, chronic unemployment and underemployment of millions of black Ameicans; and, most alarmingly, in the erosion of the values and the cohesiveness of family life in the growing number of single-parent, black American households. Among all the casualties suffered in the past two decades of social and economic struggle, these losses in the stability and quality of home and family life are the most grievous.
Mastering problems of this magnitude will constitute, as W. E. B. Du Bois predicted, the most difficult phase of the final struggle for full equality. The prospects for success, I believe, will be improved by the presence of a phenomenon whose influence Du Bois could not have fully evaluated: the active assistance of politicians at the state level; specifically, a new generation of governors who not only understand the nature and dimension of the problems so critical to black Americans, but are committed to help achieve substantive, enduring solutions to them in the very arena where real progress in the next phase must be achieved--at the state level.
The driving force in this effort is, and will continue to be, the conviction that access to the political process and participation in government must be open at every level to all of our citizens. States must assist their black citizens in moving steadily toward inclusion in the mainstream by intensifying the focus of governmental activity at the state level in three crucial areas--education, economic development and voter registration.
In this respect, the experience we've had in Virginia during the last two years reflects what I believe to be a new philosophy of government at the state level. We began with the idea of creating a government of inclusion--a government in which there is room for everyone committed to building a future of real opportunity for all.
Among the Virginians who supported us in this enterprise were an overwhelming majority of our black citizens, as well as a range of groups and individuals representing the broadest possible spectrum of opinion. In the hopes of all these people, we've found that a remarkable number of traditional, fiscal conservatives and moderates, and political independents are also deeply committed to social justice and economic progress, to an atmosphere of greater harmony among all Virginia's people and to a future of growth and prosperity in which the enrichment of life becomes a phenomenon blind to color and unencumbered by prejudice.
The able men and women we've recruited to key positions in the government serve in a variety of policy- and decision-making positions that affect the most vital areas of both state government and life in Virginia. But the critical point in this respect is not just that we've broken new ground, but rather that the new ground is being broken by superbly qualified people who understand how state government can help achieve progress in equalizing opportunities.
The temper of the times we are now in, the shifting pattern of federal priorities that have caused Washington to retreat from its historic commitments in social service and educational programs, and the limited resources available to states have presented a real challenge to those of us determined to press on rather than pause.
In Virginia, this has meant the most careful, and the most exhaustive, exercise ever in preparing the biennial budget we will submit to the state legislature this coming January. Virginia's budget will be a document designed to help the poor. We're also revising priorities to commit more state money to those areas where the needs of our black citizens intersect with the long-range objectives for building a better future for all Virginians --in public education, in economic and industrial development, in the stimulation of more and stronger minority business enterprises, and in major public and private employment and job training initiatives for underskilled and displaced workers, and for minority and disadvantaged youth.
In addition to the $17.5 million we're going to spend for the improvement of our traditionally black institutions, we're proposing a 20 percent across-the-board increase in salary for all our teachers and faculty members over the next two years; an experimental program of extra rewards for our most effective and innovative teachers; and a stronger curriculum to ensure that our children take the courses they need to prepare them for college and for the world of work. We also plan to revise and expand our vocational and technical programs.
We're concentrating on preventing unemployment by helping those high school seniors who seem most likely to become unemployed once they leave school. To strengthen the incentive for work among those who stand to gain the most from it, we're trying to give our disadvantaged young people the benefit of the positive experiences that come with work--through a variety of public/private summer jobs programs.
We've expanded the operations of Virginia's Office of Minority Business Enterprise. This agency not only works to provide our minority businesses with a range of services and assistance, but is now actively involved in our efforts to increase the business our state itself does with the minority enterprises through state purchase and procurement contracts. For the future of this nation the expansion of black- owned businesses will be critical to the growth of the American economy.
There is yet another, and even more important, thing we must do--at both the national and state levels. The political process has to be opened wider through voter registration. In Virginia alone there are still more than 1 million eligible but unregistered citizens. I signed an executive order last week creating a special Commission to Increase Voter Registration in Virginia, to study registration patterns and registrar practices across the state and to make whatever recommendations and take whatever appropriate actions are necessary to increase the number of registered voters.
For the government of a southern state to commit its resources and energies, and its hope for the future, to the political and economic inclusion of its black citizens is a prospect as natural today as it was but dimly perceived half a century ago. Then only the boldest of prophets predicted what I believe we will live to see. Among those gifted with the vision that penetrates time was W. J. Cash, a great southerner and a great historian. Looking forward to an America whose greatness lay ahead, rather than behind it, he predicted the nation would come of age, in the wisdom of maturity, when it found in the dilemma of its race relations the solution of social and economic equality. That solution, Cash believed, would come earliest in the South, because southern blacks and southern whites understood each other better than any other people in any other region of America.
It is, I'm convinced, that understanding that animates the process now so natural, and so irreversible, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.