Secretary Jackson's Remarks at the HBCU Conference


Thank you, Dr. (Mickey) Burnim. And I also want to thank Secretary (Samuel) Bodman for his remarks.

I thank Executive Director (Charles) Greene and Board Chairman (Louis) Sullivan for their leadership and hard work. Thanks to Charles and Lou, the Board Members, and everyone involved, the initiative has been very successful.

We meet on a sober day of remembrance, the anniversary of loss and resolve, horror and heroism.

[Photo: Secretary Alphonso Jackson]

While we meet to discuss educational matters, I know we all have our private thoughts, our deep feelings about this day, six years ago. I think back on people like Benjamin Clark, known as "Keefe." A former Marine, he was on the 96th Floor of the South Tower when the North Tower was hit. Quickly, he took charge in the evacuation of his office. That's what you would expect from a Marine. He helped hundreds of people leave for safety, only to die when the South Tower was hit and the building collapsed. The last time anyone saw him, he was helping a woman in a wheelchair down the stairwell.

"Keefe" Clark will be remembered today, along with the 343 firefighters who died, and over 2,400 office workers. But you and I have a special reason to remember Keefe...his employer, Solodex, set up a fund in Keefe's name with the United Negro College Fund. This fund is for students attending HBCUs...students whose parents were victims of the 9/11 attack. His son, Chaz Clarke, was one of the first recipients to get a scholarship. Last Spring, with the assistance provided by this scholarship, Chaz Clark graduated from Morehouse College, turning unspeakable tragedy into defiant triumph.

Each day, with every graduate, we see the victory of education...and we remember those who studied with us and grew up with us. It is tough to think about those we trained...and then lost. Each institution knows its loss, like Johnson C. Smith University, whose alumni included a Washington, D.C. teacher (James Debeuneure) killed less than a mile from this spot in the attack on the Pentagon.

Those deaths still silently speak to us. And they urge us continue to live, to give, and to protect our loved ones.

On this day we listen, and carry on, doing our work. For that is our best response. We know the power of education, and that education can help transform a world of hatred and violence into one of understanding and peace. The President and Mrs. Bush have both said this again and again in their advocacy for universal education and global literacy. And we know this is true in America, where HBCUs were born after the bondage of slavery to educate the mind and liberate the soul of Black Americans.

That was the hope at the first HBCU, Cheyney University, and those that followed... Lincoln, Virginia Union, Meherry, Spelman, and all of the 105 HBCUs in America. They were born of sacrifice, often financed with only faith and prayer, becoming a beacon of hope, sustained by the belief that education equals empowerment and opportunity.

We know this was true a century-and-a-half ago, and it remains true today. This was the message of our Black Founding Fathers...Douglass, DuBois, Mays, King, and others to whom we owe so much

I was interested to see an editorial one week ago, on September 4th in the Wall Street Journal. The author was Michael Meyers, the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP. Perhaps you read it too. You will remember that he called on American's black leadership, and specifically organizations like the NAACP, to "make education the defining civil-rights issue of our time." He forcefully argued that education was the best solution to alienation, the warped values of many of our young people, and those who want to "ghettoize" Black Americans. He says that we need a "general alarm" to save our youth from "illiteracy, welfare dependency, criminality, and social dysfunction."

I can only agree. I've been saying this for years. So has the President. So have many of the people in this room. HBCUs have been working to address these very issues from the beginning. In my view, the mission of responsibility and reform is not limited to our elementary and secondary schools. It continues in college classrooms and on the quads. And because of the enduring and unmatched leadership of our HBCUs, hundreds of thousands of Black Americans have received an outstanding education. In my view, government at all levels and non-profit organizations need to support the good work on campus.

We know our work is important to the safety, security, and strength of this country. For HBCUs are forceful parts of the greatness of America, with our students contributing to this country in countless ways. You know, 9/11 also is the day when tens of thousands of lives were saved. Our graduates were among the firefighters, the policemen, the doctors and nurses, government officials and the clergy who responded on September 11th. They are those who serve our country in countless ways today and every day. As my friend, Juan Williams, has said, HBCUs prepare their students "for greatness." And indeed they do...most of you here are the products of these schools...proud graduates of Grambling, Bethune-Cookman, Morgan State, and other wonderful schools.

Earlier I spoke of Keefe Clark. So let me finish my story about his son. Morehouse grad Chaz Clark chose to stay in Atlanta and work for Price Waterhouse. That is his way of carrying on his father's life...honoring his courage and sacrifice. Others choose careers in medicine, law, national defense, high technology, veterinary sciences, and, just as important, the humanities and education itself.

Companies like Solodex recognize the powerful, profound important of HBCUs, and so does the President. He understands that our institutions are essential, dynamic, and powerful contributors to our educational enterprise, our cultural legacy, and our scientific contributions. And the President has been a stalwart supporter of HBCUs, with influential guidance from each one of you.

That is why this Presidential Initiative has been so inspiring and so necessary. HBCUs are the training ground of our future leaders. They are outstanding centers of learning and culture. They are unifying communities of learning in our communities and states throughout the nation. And their influence stretches to every part of our global village.

As a product of an HBCU, I am proud that HUD is a part of the initiative. Through our Office of University Partnerships we try to match the skills of students on campus with the needs of our nation. Our funding for this office was increased five-fold under this administration. And our funding at HUD for HBCUs has increased five-fold too.

Our meeting today comes just a few weeks after we remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina two years ago, which damaged several HBCUs throughout the Gulf. These outstanding educational institutions are a vibrant and important part of their communities...schools like Dillard, Xavier, Alcorn State, Jackson State, and others. Their recovery must be part of the Gulf's recovery, their rebirth a part of the rebirth of the entire region. And I am pleased that HUD has been able to provide some competitive grant awards to many of these institutions over the past few years. I am impressed that these schools have continued to operate, often in dire circumstances, because the lessons in the classroom are quickly turned into tools of recovery throughout the region.

As you know, our Office of University Partnerships provides a variety of grants to HBCUs. Since 1991, HUD has awarded more than $67 million to HBCUs to stimulate economic and community development activities. These grants may benefit low-and-moderate income residents around the college. They may be used to eliminate slums or urban blight. They can be used to meet urgent community development needs. They can be used to rehabilitate residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. They help to revitalize the communities around HBCUs.

Two years ago, the office of University partnerships created a one-time program that helped students at nine HBCUs and other schools to put their design skills to use in the recovery effort.

And close to this spot, just a few metro stops away, is the National Fair Housing Training Academy at Howard University. We provided initial funding for this academy, the first and only government institution that trains lawyers and others in the prevention of housing discrimination. It is a good resource for our nation.

We have constructed a good working partnership between HUD and HBCUs. Today, I would like to announce this year's grant recipients. These grants were awarded on a competitive basis, following the regulations governed by statute. Congratulations to all the grant recipients. And, again, thank you for including me in this meeting.

Grant Announcement:

Tuskegee University
Dillard University
Southern University at Shreveport
Coppin State University
Hinds Community College – Utica Campus
Rust College
Johnson C. Smith University
Winston-Salem State University
Benedict College
Clinton Junior College
South Carolina State University
LeMoyne-Owens College
Tennessee State University
Texas Southern University

NOTE: To read the Press Release, visit

Content Archived: December 27, 2011