Remarks by HUD Secretary Julián Castro
Farewell Address
Robert C. Weaver Federal Building
Washington, D.C.
January 11, 2017

As prepared for delivery. Please note that Secretary Castro concluded these remarks with his own reflections, which are not contained in this document.

Good afternoon everyone! I'd like to start by thanking Deputy Secretary Coloretti for all the incredible leadership she's displayed in building a stronger HUD. Nani, I've been honored to call you a colleague, a partner, and a friend over these past few years. So let's all give her a big round of applause!

As y'all already know, this is the last time I'll have the chance to speak with many of you as HUD Secretary. So I want to take this moment to offer my profound thanks to each and every one of you, HUD's employees, for dedicating your career to serving others.

Throughout my time as Secretary, I have been inspired by your commitment to HUD's mission, by your respect for the people we serve, by your willingness to work as a team to solve problems, and by your faith that we truly can improve lives through this work.

Too often times, HUD gets short shrift. Many folks don't consider us the most glamorous agency to work for. Everyone at Headquarters knows that we don't have the most modern building in the federal government. And I know that for a lot of employees in the field, those who live far from the bubble that can exist here in DC, many of your friends and neighbors may not even be aware of the all great work that HUD performs in your communities.

But the work you do is tremendously important to bettering the lives of Americans in every corner of our nation.

During my time as Secretary, I've had the opportunity to visit 100 communities in 39 states. Big cities, small towns, urban, rural and tribal. And I got a chance to meet some of the millions of those Americans whose lives you're helping to change for the better.

In Los Angeles, I met 11-year-old Lisette Mares. Our ConnectHome initiative has made it possible for Lisette and her family to sign-up for affordable Internet access. Lisette can now do her homework on her family's computer instead of having to use her parent's cell phone data, or visiting her neighbor's house. She and her two siblings now have an essential tool they need to compete and succeed in today's 21st century global economy.

I've also had the opportunity to visit Fort Myers, Florida, the city once known as "ground zero" of the recent housing crisis. Today, thanks in large part to the work of the FHA and our Neighborhood Stabilization Program, this community has experienced a remarkable recovery.

I toured the homes of Corey Schepp, Patricia Howard, and Renette Bourdeau, three residents of Fort Meyers who've become homeowners in the past few years.

HUD has helped provide these folks with the opportunity to secure an enduring cornerstone of the American Dream, and a gateway to the middle class. They're now building a strong foundation for their future success, and a source of wealth they can pass down to their children and their children's children.

Every year, we also provide millions of Americans living in HUD-assisted housing with a powerful platform to spark greater progress in their lives. That includes people like Jackie Parra from Central Falls, Rhode Island, who I spoke with just a few months after I became Secretary. Before she enrolled in HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency program, Jackie was struggling to support her two children despite working two-part time jobs. Now, she's earned both her Bachelor's and her Master's degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts. And she's working fulltime for the Central Falls School District, where she's helping to run a local reading program that opens the doors of education for folks in her community.

And thanks to the efforts of Opening Doors, our nation has made tremendous strides toward providing every American with a safe and stable place to call home. Our work has made a huge difference for people like Jay, who I met in Philadelphia in July of 2015. Jay had gone without a permanent home for so long that he'd gotten out of the habit of carrying around a set of keys with him. In fact, it wasn't until the fifth time he left his room that he remembered to take them with him on his way out. Today, Jay is getting job training through an apprenticeship program run by Project HOME, a nonprofit that receives support from HUD. And he's paying it forward by helping other formerly homeless Americans turn their lives around. There are so many other stories I could tell. Stories of grateful men and women who have thanked me, sometimes with tears in their eyes, for the difference that HUD has made in their lives.

Stories that never would have been possible without your commitment and your compassion. Each of you is helping to make HUD an indispensable partner in creating greater opportunity for the people we serve.

In 2015, we celebrated 50 years of HUD. It was amazing to take scope of the amazing good that this Department had done during those five decades and to understand just how many of our employees have dedicated 10, 20, 30 - sometimes even 50! - years to this mission. So whether you've been here 50 years or 5 months: thank you.

In just a few days, a new Administration will begin. Those of you who've been here during a presidential transition know that every such change brings a new team, with new perspectives and priorities.

The good news is that what that change looks like depends partly on you. Through both Democratic and Republican Administrations, Secretaries and their colleagues have joined with you to work hard to benefit the folks we serve. They've all come to quickly appreciate the positive impact that HUD's programs make.

You can help that most by continuing to improve this organization through your efforts in the following ways.

First, keep working to break through the silos that can sometimes stifle innovative service delivery. The best work that happens here is team work, collaboration across program areas. I know that's not always an easy thing to do, but we've gotten better at it, and you can get better still.

Second of all, be aspirational. Don't just settle for operating within statutes or regulations. Dream. Keep asking: how could this program be better, and then work with those in the new Administration to try to make that a reality. That's how we've been able to safeguard more children living in HUD-assisted housing from the dangers of lead based paint. And it's how we've taken decisive steps to improve how we deal with troubled properties, and to make life easier for the families who live there.

Third, and finally, always remember that you're doing a job that has human consequences. The decisions that are made here, the resources you administer, the rules you enforce, the success of that work should always be measured by the outcomes for the folks of modest means that HUD serves.


Content Archived: February 9, 2018