Some of my opponents in the race for the U.S. Senate seem to like to ask me if I am in favor of affirmative action. I'm sick and tired of people trying to divide us on race. So let me make my answer as plain as day, so that even a congressman can understand it. If by affirmative action you mean quotas - then no. But if you mean, do I favor giving all people equal opportunity? You bet. I don't understand how my opponents could not agree with the idea of removing all barriers for people to have equal opportunity.
When my father left a dirt farm at age 18 to pursue his American dream, he knew it would not be easy. He worked three jobs as a barber, chauffeur and janitor. My father struggled but never wavered in his three basic beliefs: his belief in God, his belief in himself and his belief that if he wanted to achieve something in this country, he could. He taught me that you get what you earn. I took that lesson to heart. After 20 years of hard work, I became a vice-president of the same company where dad worked as a janitor.
We were all taught, as my father taught me, that you can achieve anything in this country if you will put forth the effort. What we need to work on is removing the obstacles that get in the way of each individual's American dream. Fundamentally, I believe government needs to be smaller and get their hand out of everything.
Recent news reports indicate that the University of Georgia is considering adding race as one of the factors in their admission criteria. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling on the constitutionality of using race in college admission. The convoluted ruling found the University of Michigan's admissions practices - which gave bonus points to minorities simply because they are minorities - to be unconstitutional. And I agree with that ruling. Racial quotas should never be used as an admission policy.
But the court gave the go-ahead to the University of Michigan law school to consider race on a case-by-case basis. This is very tricky. If it means that economically impoverished kids who happen to be minorities should get consideration for assistance, that's great. If that means that minorities get slots in place of white kids with better academic credentials, then that is not fair.
College acceptance should be based on how well a student has performed and excelled in school. Like everything else in life, people need to earn what they get, and earn it by working hard. Quotas are not the answer and they never will be.
The reality today is that more black kids are attending college than ever before. And they are getting to college the old-fashioned way, by earning it. There are more minority doctors, lawyers and other professionals than ever before. We need to continue this trend, by not focusing on race but focusing on encouraging our kids to work harder to succeed.
There are many ways to help educate all of our children and help everyone achieve their American dream, but they do not include quotas, government handouts or special government preferences. No matter who you are, in the United States you can be anything you want to be, you can dream whatever you want to dream. There is no quota on success in this country if you are willing to work hard enough and long enough. I, and millions of other people, am proof of that fact.
(Editor's note; The writer, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is a former chairman and CEO of Godfathers Pizza and head of the National Restaurant Association.)