Remarks by HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Library of Congress
Chinese Delegation Dinner
Monday, November 1, 1999
Thank you very much. Minister Yu Zhengsheng, Minister Liu, members of the Chinese delegation, it’s my honor to welcome you to tonight’s dinner. We’ve had a truly fascinating and exhilarating day today. In just a few hours that we’ve spent together, you get a real sense of the productivity and promise that this relationship holds.
Despite the necessary pomp and circumstance, we also had a very practical discussion that I think is going to lead to real results and real products shortly.
Thank you William Toppeta, for the kind introduction. Let me thank you for the great work that Metropolitan Life has done in the field of housing. They were one of the pioneers in what we now call affordable housing. Let’s give our host Metropolitan Life a round of applause.
Now most of you know the groundbreaking work that Minister Yu has been doing in the Construction Ministry. But when we were preparing for this trip, I was amazed at how many HUD employees knew that the Minister was the Mayor of the City of Tsingtao before he was the Minister -- and how many HUD employees knew that the City of Tsingtao is known for making the best beer in China, if not the world. I don’t know if this says more about the city or the HUD employees, but I can tell you it was noticeable.
I also learned, in preparation for this evening, that the Chinese believe it’s a bad idea to give long speeches before dinner. And as many people have said to me on many occasions that it’s a bad idea for me to give long speeches, I found this amusing -- I did not know that they were repeating Chinese custom at the time they made the comment, but I’m going to take it heart tonight.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of normal relations between U.S. and China, after literally decades of avoidance and non-communication. We finally came to our senses that we can do more together than we can do apart, that there is more of a future in cooperation than there is in isolation. At one time, twenty years ago, that was a very risky and controversial decision. It was visionary at the time, but now it is undeniably correct.
In many ways this is most evident in the area that we’re talking about today – housing. When you say housing, specifically, it sounds like an isolated area. But housing and the related industries are 20 percent of this nation’s GDP. When you add up the housing, the construction, the real estate industry, the mortgage industry, the furnishings -- it’s 20 percent of GDP.
Remember that number. I use that number quite often when I’m arguing for our fair share of the federal budget. Twenty percent of GDP -- we should get 20 percent of the budget. We’re not there yet, Minister, but we will be.
Homeownership is also in my opinion, the best vehicle to forge what we would call community -- relations among people, interconnections and interrelations among people -- whether it’s in a neighborhood or a local jurisdiction.. And it gives a family a sense of pride and dignity and foundation unlike anything else that we’ve discovered.
So when we talk about housing, we’re talking about more than four walls and a roof. We’re really talking about growing the economy, we’re talking about forming community, and we’re talking about strengthening family – giving then opportunity, giving them respect., giving them dignity, and giving them human rights.
And all of this in a marvelous physical manifestation of those principles. As the poet T.S. Eliot said, "If men do not build, how shall they live? When the field is tilled, when the wheat is bread, they shall not die in a shortened bed. If men do not build, how shall they live?"
We find the same spirit in a famous Huang dynasty folk song: "When there are sound buildings north, south, east and west, then we all may float up together in happiness".
So please, friends, join me in a toast to the Peoples Republic, to Minister Yu, and to our beautiful journey together.
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