OCTOBER 13th, 2017

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Hello everyone! Thank you for having me.

It's a great pleasure to be here with you, the guardians of the helpless and the hopeful, who have dedicated your work to the protection of the most important part of our nation.

And with apologies to my wonderful colleagues at the Department of the Treasury, the most important part of our nation isn't the US dollar.

And I'm sure the brave men and women who serve our country in the Department of Defense would be the first to agree: tanks and aircraft carriers aren't the most important thing, either.

They exist to defend something else.

Because whether it is corn at the Department of Agriculture, or clean rivers at the EPA, or nuclear reactors at the Department of Energy, all these gears and wheels of our society-even our very freedoms themselves-exist so that we may care for the most precious heart of our humanity.

The family.

It is the basic unit of society. It is a classroom, a church, a dining hall-and sometimes juvenile hall! It is where we learn that we need to learn.

It is where we first feel love. For each other, our neighbors, towns, and churches-and for our country.

If our public institutions forget our families-forget their deepest purpose-then all the laws and regulations, all the Mars Rovers and fighter jets, every grand achievement of our government, is not that grand at all.

Every day, at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, thousands of dedicated men and women live out this lesson in their work. They strive to end homelessness, and ensure Americans can afford their homes. They eliminate poisons and dangers from old buildings, so that no child suffers terrible illness. They help families so much.

And it fills me with gratitude and inspiration. For I have seen a family struggle and fight and succeed against the odds.

My own.

I grew up in a time when it would have been hard enough out there for my family with both parents-let alone one.

Abraham Lincoln said: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

My sentiments exactly, Mr. President.

She worked hard jobs, day and night. She exhausted herself, cleaning up after families with more money than us-and then she would come home every day to raise us.

She made us read books every week, and write book reports, because she knew it was important to our development. Even though she had not received that education herself.

She taught us that hard work and learning was a better ladder than self-pity, or blaming others for our problems.

And she taught us to be kind. She taught us faith. And to believe in something greater than ourselves.

We had to move around a lot. Sometimes, we relied on relatives, or on our Church community.

There wasn't a Family Promise back then. But there were those who made that same promise to our family. And we learned to make that promise to others.

I did my best to keep it when I was blessed with an opportunity to heal children, later in life.

As a pediatric neurosurgeon, there was never anything so fulfilling as telling parents that their son or daughter was going to be okay.

And there was nothing so humbling, or heartbreaking, as when you couldn't tell them that.

But we do not design our own brains. Fixing some things is, for now, beyond our powers.

But we can choose how to build our society. There are some things-like homelessness, hunger, and unemployment-which we have no excuse not to fix.

And everyone in this room today is working on them. You get to tell more and more families: you are going to be okay.

I came to HUD because the challenge of affordable housing in America deeply affects the most vulnerable among us.

The choices we make in this arena-the solutions we pursue-can be designed not only to help those in need, but lift them up, give them options for learning and employment, and help them to achieve independence.

Independence and self-sufficiency. As you know, these are not bad words, but the greatest gift we can give our countrymen.

Because if our efforts end at the shelter or the voucher, we have only served families halfway. It is not enough to help them survive-we must help them thrive.

And thriving means that one day, they won't need us anymore.

But we have not yet reached that day.

There are many Americans who do need us now. There are many who need you, Family Promise, to lend a helping hand, and to build a foundation they may one day stand upon, on their own.

That is the future we work toward.

That one day, when no mother worries where to spend a night, no father fears hunger, and no child shivers from the cold...

When every family has a home...

We may finally say in triumph:

"Promise kept."


Content Archived: January 2, 2019