From remarks by Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to the National Rainbow Coalition's Spring Conference last month in Atlanta:

There was a time when it was considered proper and appropriate that only a few people should address America's challenges. Those few people were those who looked alike, spoke alike and thought alike: believing that all men were not created equal; that women had no place in the decision making process; and that government was not meant to be of, for and by all of the people.

For years, we were a nation in which reality fell short of our ideals about equality and justice for all. In short, freedom and fairness may have been our founding principles, but they have not always been the guidelines which have determined our actions.

It is said that we cannot escape history; and moreover, that our past shapes our present and foretells our future. Yet we know that the only thing that is constant is constant change. And I have seen changes take place during my lifetime that were once deemed impossible to achieve by those who were a part of the "mainstream." And you know of which mainstream I speak: the mainstream in which exclusion and intolerance were powerful currents ...

And yet, despite occasional indifference, we are seeing evidence that the gap between what is believed and what is practiced is narrowing. ...

That is why it is particularly appealing to me to bear witness to the emergence of a new mainstream: those individuals who practice inclusion, rather than exclusion; who bring people together, rather than pit people against each other; who want to build upon our progress, rather than destroy those achievements; and those who fearlessly look to the future.