Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Jack Kemp Awards Gala

Renaissance Washington Downtown

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thank you, Henry -- for that very kind introduction, for the remarkable work you do every day, and for your moving words about Jack. I also want to thank Steve Preston for his leadership, as well as Ron Terwilliger. Thank you all.

But most of all I want to thank the Kemp family -- particularly Mrs. Kemp, Jeff and Jimmy Kemp, who ensure their father's work and spirit endure through the Kemp Foundation, just as they do through our four awardees this evening. Congratulations to all of you.

This is a special evening -- as three HUD Secretaries honor the memory of another.

Indeed, I wanted to say a few words about how each of us have been influenced by Jack Kemp's work in different ways. And I'd like to concentrate on two different aspects of his legacy -- one which was built on by Henry Cisneros and another by Steve Preston.

Bringing Market Forces to Bear

As Henry mentioned, one of the great gifts of Jack Kemp's legacy has been one of the most powerful weapons to fight concentrated poverty our country has ever known -- one which Steve and I--but Henry in particular--have been privileged to take to scale in communities across the country these last two decades.

When Jack became HUD Secretary 21 years ago, the face of the nation's public housing stock was, for the most part, the most distressed developments -- properties that had been left in physical shambles by decades of neglect.

For Jack, leaving our poorest families surrounded by disinvestment, with little- to-no access to jobs, and beset by gang and drug-related violence was not only unacceptable -- it offended his core beliefs about opportunity and what this country was about.

And so, armed with the findings of the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing, he launched the HOPE VI program.

For a variety of reasons, HOPE VI wasn't just another government program. It made the Federal government a partner to local housing authorities and communities -- emphasizing mixed-income communities and incorporating supportive services.

And Jack Kemp understood something elemental:

That as much as government needed to serve these families better, it wasn't a job government could do alone.

He understood that the success of these families, and these properties, were important to whole communities--both the public sector and the private sector--and as such, each had a stake in their success.

Indeed, by the time Jack Kemp became HUD Secretary, we had already seen how the private sector could bring new capital to affordable housing through the Section 8 program and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

And indeed, the $6 billion HUD would go on to invest in HOPE VI has leveraged twice that amount in additional development capital -- $12.3 billion.

Jack was a big believer in fiscal responsibility. Well, that's a pretty a strong return for the taxpayer.

But that wasn't the only return. Indeed, it was with HOPE VI that we saw how market forces could be leveraged to transform affordable housing itself -- bringing not only new capital but also a new sense of discipline to affordable housing that extended from the way that it is financed to how properties are managed.

In many ways, that's the real legacy of HOPE VI -- and it wouldn't have happened without the vision of Jack Kemp.

And with the Obama Administration's Choice Neighborhoods initiative, we're building on that model -- bringing private capital and mixed-use, mixed income tools to transform all federally-assisted housing in a neighborhood. And I'm proud Choice Neighborhoods makes the non-profits and the private sector who Jack helped bring in to HOPE VI full partners in this transformation.

Through our Transforming Rental Assistance initiative, we hope to open all of America's public housing to this mixed-use, mixed-finance model -- opening these properties up to $25 billion of private capital and, just as importantly, providing more opportunity to families by deepening their ties with the surrounding communities, including neighborhood schools, grocery stores, and the other anchors of any successful community.

In many ways, we are not only realizing Jack Kemp's original vision -- but also that tools like these transcend party affiliation.

Helping families and building strong communities isn't about pitting government versus the market -- but rather leveraging the role of government and the market.

It's about understanding the limitations of each but also their potential -- with the right tools, the right partners and, above all, the right leadership.

And Jack understood that.

The People of HUD

Of course, the important work we do to serve families, and rebuild communities, requires us to tap HUD's most precious resource in many ways:

It's people.

Few people understood that more profoundly than Jack Kemp. I hadn't been in office long when Jack passed away, but to say that there was an outpouring of emotion at HUD for his loss and his memory would be an understatement.

Jack Kemp had enormous respect for the work that HUD's employees did -- and wasn't afraid to let them know it.

Just this week I hosted an internal town hall where we heard directly from HUD employees, both here in Washington and all across the country.

Given the scope and scale of the economic crisis, I've asked a lot of HUD staff in a very short period of time -- and this was an opportunity to thank them for it.

Indeed, Jack's legacy reminds me that the personal connection between the HUD Secretary and the staff is enormously important.

He reminds me that building up the kind of relationship he had with HUD employees isn't a matter of time -- but effort.

In many ways, that's also what my predecessor's Impact 200 initiative was all about. Even though he only had six months to lead HUD, Steve Preston was determined to help make the department more accountable and responsive, and its staff more professionally fulfilled -- and I'm thankful he was.

Of all the lessons Steve and I have learned from Jack Kemp, perhaps the most important is that we can't help people in their homes and communities unless we take care of our people in our home and our community at HUD.

That's why we're investing in our people -- in their professional development.

It's why, with their input and voices, we put together a strategic plan that will guide the agency for the next five years.

And it's why we've developed clear, measurable goals so that every employee, in every office, knows what success at HUD looks like -- and more importantly, what their role is in helping realize it for our country.

The Legacy of Jack Kemp

I'm proud of the changes we're making at HUD -- and because of Jack Kemp, I'll never forget that we don't make them alone.

It may be the quarterback who calls the plays -- but it's his teammates that get the ball in the end zone.

It may be almost two decades since he served at HUD, but thanks to so many of you in this room, Jack Kemp's legacy continues to be felt every day in every program on every floor of the Weaver Building.

Jack may be missed -- but neither he nor his legacy will ever be forgotten. Thank you all very much.


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