Ward Connerly, founder and President of the American Civil Rights Institute, spoke about his efforts to end state-sponsored, racial and gender preferences across America. Mr. Connerly discussed the insidiousness of quotas and preferences, the impact that President Barack Obama has had on this issue, the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin affirmative action case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the need to constantly remind Americans that civil rights is not just for one group of people but for everybody.
Mr. Connerly has gained national attention as an outspoken advocate of equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background. As a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Mr. Connerly focused the attention of the nation on the University's race-based system of preferences in its admissions policy. On July 20, 1995, following Mr. Connerly's lead, a majority of the Regents voted to end the University's use of race as a means for admissions.
In 1995, Mr. Connerly accepted chairmanship of the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) campaign. Under his leadership, the campaign successfully obtained more than 1 million signatures and qualified for the November 1996 ballot. California voters passed Proposition 209 by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin. Mr. Connerly also led the efforts to pass initiatives in the States of Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona and Oklahoma that were patterned after California's Proposition 209, to require equal treatment under the law for all residents in public education, public employment and public contracting.