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Farewell to Outgoing Secretary Mel Martinez

Remarks as Delivered by Alphonso R. Jackson
Deputy Secretary

Washington, DC
December 11, 2003

Mr. Secretary, to Kitty, to Marcia, to the President, to Clay, thank you very much.

You know, I have worked for a lot of fine people in my career, but these past three years at HUD have been very special. I have come to know Secretary Martinez as one of the finest, most compassionate, most decent, honest, and upright public servants in government, and I mean that truly. To use an expression you don't hear most of the time, Secretary Martinez is a man of character, shaped by his life experience and by the road he traveled from Cuba to America.

He came to this country - this land of democracy, with equal rights and tolerance - as an adopted son. And he has made a wonderful contribution to our country.

Secretary Martinez knows the American dream because he has lived it, and he doesn't take it for granted. He knows that those who realize the American dream have an obligation to further it with others. He feels strongly that he should give something back to the nation that has given him much.

It's been my honor the last three years to serve with him, and he's built a remarkable record. He has had the commitment to expand homeownership, used bold goals to end chronic homelessness, and focused on tearing down barriers that have been barriers for years.

It is important for me to say it today that there is no place as great and wonderful as this country. I say, with all sincerity and honesty, you have today two men of color who have lived the American dream.

Let me assure you today, Mr. Secretary, what you have achieved here, I will protect. What you have started, I will finish.

I want to say something about RESPA in particular. Secretary Martinez had the courage to undertake comprehensive mortgage reform, even though people outside of the Department said it couldn't be done. In fact, I've heard some suggest his departure will mean RESPA reform is dead.

Let me make this as clear as I can: The Department will continue the work Secretary Martinez began of making the process of buying and refinancing homes simple and less expensive to consumers across this country. RESPA reform is alive and well, and you have my word on that.

I look forward to working with all of the professional employees on many initiatives ahead. As I traveled this country with Secretary Martinez, we have said often that we admire and respect the dedication that we've seen in our employees around this country.

We visited a lot of offices, and I think sometimes some of the things I've said have been very shocking in the sense that I've said that the least amount of knowledge that exists at HUD is on the tenth floor. We have a bulk of knowledge existing between the second and the ninth floor, but a huge amount of it exists in our regional and field offices. Secretary Martinez and I have tapped into that, and I think that's why we have been so successful these last three years. The heart of HUD is found with the staff.

As Secretary Martinez moves on, I can assure you he will be sorely missed because he has given us the kind of leadership that I think all of us deserve.

Now, on behalf of the 9,300 employees nationwide, I would like to present a farewell gift. We give this with admiration and with our heartfelt appreciation for this Department, and we give it out of love and respect for your leadership, Secretary Martinez.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and may God bless you and Kitty in your future endeavors.

Content Archived: March 16, 2010

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