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Angela E. Oh, advisor to President Clinton's Initiative on Race, discussed her perspectives on racial tensions before an audience of about 30 at Harvard Law School on Saturday.
"We have to be courageous about those ideas that are controversial," she said. "It is so important that we find acceptable resolutions [to our racial problems] as a nation."
Oh, a second generation Korean-American and the oldest of four children, said the seven-member advisory board is designed to provide President Clinton with advice on racial matters.
"We are seven Americans who have been asked by the President to advise him on this issue," she said." "We are really presidential advisors for a special purpose."
Oh said that racial tensions are often based on misconceptions and ignorance.
"Most people don't know people different from them so they can't appreciate humanity of others and so rely on stories of others from television," Oh said.
Oh said that the advisors will work together on addressing racially charged issues.
"The common quality is that each one of us in our own areas of work have dedicated a significant amount of our talent and time and energy to trying to build bridges across racial and ethnic divides," Oh said.
In an interview with The Crimson after the speech, Oh said she wants to bring the issue of race forward during her term.
"My goal is to be able during my one year term to at least bring forward some of the more difficult questions about race both on a personal and an institutional level and to investigate the possibility of reconciliation," she said.
Oh is currently a trial lawyer in Los Angeles. She said she was initially reluctant to join the President's advisory board.
"People are righteously angry and righteously confused because there has been no leadership. Anything that relies on Congressional action does not stand much of a chance," Oh said.
Aurore Y. Victor, a first-year law student said she attended the discussion because she was "curious to see what Clinton is doing about the issues of race."
"Race is still a salient part of American society," she said.
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