Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Robert C. Weaver Chapter of Blacks in Government
Black History Month Closing Ceremony
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Washington, DC

 As prepared for delivery

Good morning, everyone. How is the great HUD team doing? Thank you so much for that warm welcome and for the chance to offer some opening remarks today.  

First, I want to thank Nicholas Padilla for his kind introduction. I'd also like to thank Milton Turner for his powerful words today. And thank you to Reverend Patrick Walker for joining us as today's keynote speaker. I know the entire HUD family looks forward to his insights.

I'd like to recognize Marcus Canty, who'll be sharing his musical talents with us later. Marcus had to perform in front of Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid when he was a contestant on the X Factor, so singing here at HUD should be a piece of cake.

A special thanks to Sandra Wright and the Widening Opportunities for Women Chapter of Federal Executive Women. I know that today was supposed to be the opening program to celebrate Women's History Month, and that you graciously gave this time slot to hold this Black History Month event which had been postponed by the weather.

I thank you for your efforts, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to celebrate the role women have played in our nation's forward progress.

Finally, I'd like to thank Lawanda Young—and everyone with the Robert C. Weaver Chapter of Blacks in Government—for organizing this great event in honor of Black History Month.  

The snowy weather may have delayed us, but it could never deny us from coming together to pay tribute to so many men and women who've made a profound impact on our nation. Today we gather to honor the remarkable role the African American community has played in shaping the American story. 

We recognize the many folks—both well-known and unsung—who had the courage to challenge our nation when it was falling short of its founding ideals, and who ultimately changed it for the better. 

And we celebrate the lasting contributions that African Americans have made to every aspect of our nation's life — from the classroom to the boardroom, from the community center to the battlefield as part of our Armed Forces.

And I know I speak for everyone here in expressing how proud I am of HUD's place in this history. Our organization has produced many "firsts." Former Secretary Robert Weaver was the first African American ever appointed to the Cabinet. Former Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African American woman to hold a Cabinet position.

One of the individuals that this auditorium is named after, Ed Brooke, was the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote, and a co-author of the Fair Housing Act that HUD enforces every day.

And HUD itself is a product of the Civil Rights Movement, and for decades has served as an instrument of justice for all Americans. Dr. Weaver once said that "you cannot have a physical renewal without a human renewal." 

In other words, the work that we do is about more than bricks and mortar. It's about dignity, respect and fairness. Block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, city-by-city, HUD has built bridges of opportunity that have allowed millions of Americans to get ahead in life and achieve their dreams.

And although we should all be gratified by these achievements, we can't be satisfied. We can't be satisfied as long as discrimination still exists in our housing market. We can't be satisfied as long as children are seeing their hopes for the future dimmed by the pain of poverty. 

We can't be satisfied as long as there are disparities in who can access good schools and quality job opportunities. That's why it's important to recognize that history is not just something nice to reflect on. It has meaning today. It informs what we must do as a nation to continue to form a "more perfect union."

And the next chapter of our history won't just be written by those we see on TV or in the newspaper — it will be written by all of us. We can all make a difference. The Weaver Chapter of BIG is an example of the power of service. 

Y'all are contributing to black history every day, from expanding access to credit for the underserved, to eradicating injustice in the housing market, to turning neighborhoods with problems into neighborhoods with promise.

Across the board you're building a foundation where all Americans can prosper. This is a fitting tribute to the many Americans throughout history who've put everything on the line for the greater good. 

One of them is Congressman John Lewis who, roughly 50 years ago, was beaten and bloodied by Alabama State Troopers as he and others tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to advance the struggle for voting rights.

This past weekend I joined Congressman Lewis and thousands of other Americans from all backgrounds in Selma, Alabama to mark the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday", the historic march for justice and freedom.

On one hand it was a celebration of how much progress has been realized. From voting rights to civil rights, change has been proven possible. This change is visible at every level of our society. Selma's Mayor is African American. Its Congresswoman is African American. And, of course, so is our boss, President Obama.

One the other hand, for all the progress we've made, our work is far from complete. There is still a long way to go. So let's recommit ourselves to the unfinished business that lies before us. 

There are still many challenges to address, and it's up to all of us to provide the solutions. To quote Congressman Lewis, "if not us, then who? If not now, then when?"

When it comes to creating a more perfect union, the answer is all of us. The time is now.

I thank all of you with the Weaver Chapter of BIG for your commitment to shaping a future where opportunity is available to all. Let us continue to honor the courageous heroes of yesterday by working to shape a better today and tomorrow. 

We can ensure that the next chapter of black history, and our nation's history, will be one of its greatest yet. Thank you very much.


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