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Clinton tovisit Akron in December

By Sonya RossAssociated Press Published: November 13, 1997 12:00 AM

Clinton chose Akron for the Dec. 3 town hall meeting because of such efforts as the Coming Together Project, designed to promote awareness of other cultures through the arts, and the Akron Beacon Journal's yearlong examination of race, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

"We think Akron as a community has really stepped up to deal honestly and openly on race relations," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Wednesday.

The Akron meeting is expected to last about 90 minutes, and will focus on attitudes among young people, at the suggestion of Clinton's race advisory board.

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"They've already given us good advice on education and economics and focusing on youth," said Sylvia Mathews, deputy White House chief of staff. "I think the initiative has picked up its speed."

Choosing the medium-sized Ohio city also eliminates the prospect that a town hall meeting designed to provoke a blunt discussion on U.S. racial problems would be conducted in a large, urban venue where whites would be unlikely to attend. Akron is 73 percent white, 24.5 percent black and 2 percent Asian, Hispanic and American Indian.

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The president, accompanied by Vice President Al Gore, announced his choice of Akron at an hourlong meeting in the White House Cabinet Room with a half-dozen key aides and a few members of the staff of his race advisory board.

Aides floated policy ideas and gave Clinton options for the town hall meetings, which are expected to take place over the next seven months. Policy suggestions included some long-term options that may extend into 2000, Lockhart said.

"The president's satisfied that we're moving forward," Lockhart said. "He believes we're definitely moving in the right direction."

With that business done, the meeting turned to a discussion of where the race initiative is headed philosophically. That has bothered Clinton since he stepped up last month to take a larger planning role out of frustration with the slow pace at which his advisory board is working.

Since its inception in June, the seven-member board, headed by historian John Hope Franklin, has met only twice. Its third meeting is to be next week at the University of Maryland.

White House officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the philosophical portion of the meeting focused on acknowledging and examining differences among Americans in order to transcend them.

Gore identified two areas that need to be addressed, the officials said _ fostering a broader understanding of the "unique suffering" of minority and ethnic groups and the "unique contributions" such groups have made.

There also was a decision to acknowledge that not all Americans are struggling with race but are resolving racial problems in creative ways.

To that end, the advisory board has posted a list of "promising practices" on its Internet site, so that local communities can duplicate those efforts. Akron's Coming Together Project is among them.

Others include Cleveland's Residential Housing and Mortgage Credit Project, which works to identify and address home mortgage discrimination; Pride, an effort in Philadelphia to promote discussions on race and ethnicity; and Team Harmony, a Boston program that gets young people of all races involved in various projects.

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