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Bush Urges Use of Federal Aid for Minority Businesses

June 12, 1988

WILBERFORCE, Ohio (AP) _ Republican presidential hopeful George Bush, in an effort to broaden his support among blacks, on Sunday urged the use of federal aid to assist minority businesses.

″I support strongly increased minority development efforts by the federal government: We must bring black Americans and other minorities into the free enterprise system, as we must into the government,″ Bush said as he delivered the commencement address at predominantly black Central State University.

The vice president’s pledge is a break with the Reagan administration, which has opposed state and local programs that set aside a portion of contracts for members of a particular race.

The set-asides have been used by federal, state and local governments as a way to remedy past racial discrimination against minority businessmen.

In his speech, Bush called for a ″a positive civil rights agenda, one that protects the civil rights of every American,″ but he said the policy must go beyond that to ″knock down the walls of indifference and other barriers that result in economic exclusion.″

The vice president told the 275 Central State graduates they made it thrugh college despite ″poverty, broken homes, inadequate schools, and the social challenges or threat of drugs and violence.″

He urged them to continue taking risks and become among those Americans who create one million businesses a year.

″Risk-taking is the heartbeat of the American dream,″ he said, and the resulting economic growth lets those just entering the job market ″get a piece of the pie without taking it away from someone who’s already there.″

Bush, responding to questions from reporters, said he would work to ″broaden the base of our party, talk on the issues that I think transcend black, white, American issues that are out there and are going to appeal.″

Bush, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Sunday, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The award was announced last year, but Bush was unable to receive until Sunday, said Ed Chamness, a spokesman for the university.

In honor of the vice president’s birthday, a reporter presented Bush with a t-shirt bearing a photo of embattled Attorney General Edwin Meese III and the inscription, ″What, Me Worry?″

But the vice president refused to show the shirt to reporters during a tour of the neighboring National Afro-American museum prior to the speech.

Bush met privately with about 20 local dignitaries at the museum and was presented with two paintings by Willis Bing Davis, a Central State professor whose paintings are on display.

Bush later flew to to Danville, Va., where he campaigned for Republican congressional candidate Linda Arey.