Video Introduction to Employees

TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 2008

Hello. I am Steve Preston, the new Secretary of the Department. I am delighted to join you by video, to speak with you. It is a great honor to work with all of you – each one of you.

Today I want to speak with you about our mission. It’s an important one. Our work promoting homeownership, community and urban development, and access to affordable or public housing touches the lives of millions of American families.

When I left the private sector I came to government because I wanted to make a different kind of contribution. Every day, the work of this department can change a life. And my job as secretary is to help you change lives. Each day we have the chance to help someone in need, to make a profound difference, and I don’t want to let an opportunity to help pass by.

Maybe that’s why someone once said that HUD is “the people’s department.” That is true because we help Americans with one of their most basic needs: shelter. And we reach out to those who need us:

  • the homeless,
  • those who cannot afford market prices for rent,
  • those looking to buy a home,
  • those looking to keep their homes,
  • people confronting disasters, and
  • people working to rebuild or revitalize their cities.

Your work goes well beyond job titles, or organizational charts, or bureaucratic lines of authority. You do whatever it takes to get the job done. You understand that the work at HUD is crucial for our constituents. You make it personal as well as professional.

As I have had the privilege of working with so many dedicated people in my time in Washington, I have come to learn that so many people serve, not so much because it is what they want to do, but more because it is who they are.

It is so important that all of us understand that whether we are in the back office or on the front lines dealing directly with people, all that we do is part of extending that hand of service. And doing it well, ultimately, is truly at the heart of compassion. Every one of us has a unique role in helping HUD fulfill its mission.

The lives of Americans are touched in the most basic way by the programs and people at HUD.

Our mission is noble and human work, and work of compassion, dedication. It is work that is respectful, decent, and important!

How important? Ask a homeowner in default who was able to keep their home after completing a HUD-approved counseling program, with its 97 percent success rate.

Or ask one of the hundreds of thousands of at-risk families who have been able to trade their risky subprime mortgage for a safe, secure FHA loan.

Or the 4 million families living in public housing or using Section 8 vouchers.

Or those working class families in affordable housing that we are dedicated to preserving and expanding.

Or the one million homeless who are served through HUD grantees.

Or the families still recovering from the Gulf Coast hurricanes, working to get back on their feet.

We want to help people help themselves, to gain a better life, to move forward on the road to financial security. We know that homeownership is part of the American Dream…and we want people who can afford to be able to buy a home to find one. Homeownership can be a source of pride, a place to grow up and grow old together, and a source of wealth creation. It gives the homeowner a stake in the community.

It is important that our constituents know that they can count on us. And they can! Your work has made a difference for them.

Our job…our mission…relies on our humanity and our concern for others. It brings out the best in each one of us at HUD. And I am excited to join you in our common endeavor to help Americans find housing.

I come to my job personally knowing the importance of housing. My mother and father were not well-off. My mother immigrated to America after the Second World War, from a continent that was torn and shredded by violence. My father grew up in a coal mining camp in eastern Kentucky…a tough town …a rough town.

They married and moved to a blue-collar town in southern Wisconsin. It was the kind of town where everyone knew everyone else, where neighbors looked after each other, and everyone felt responsible for the well-being of the community.

They didn’t have much, but they raised five children with love and warmth. And that love had to endure through some trying times. I didn’t understand then the pressures my parents faced in just putting a roof over our head. I now better understand. And I want the people we serve to know that we understand their own troubles and worries.

And my parents taught us some valuable lessons. They instilled the value of treating other people with dignity and respect. They helped us understand the importance of a good education and the importance of hard work. They also showed us the importance of commitment, and staying committed to what you pursue, through good times and bad.

I feel that same sense of pride in community here at HUD. This Department was created to help others, and to set the highest standards in doing so. That is our mission, our mandate, and our legacy.

You know, there are some who say that we won’t have much time together, that seven months isn’t enough time to do anything. Well, there was a great writer who came from my part of America, a guy named Ernest Hemingway. He put it well, time is precious, in his words, “time is that we have the least of.” Every second counts, and those seconds and days and weeks add up. When there is urgency and commitment, remarkable things can happen. We will confound our critics, showing that this department and its staff are up to the task. The world is watching us…Americans are counting on us…and we won’t let them down. We will make this time one of the most productive moments in the history of our department. I want all of us in seven months to look back on our work together with pride and satisfaction.

I have learned over my years in leadership positions that 90 percent of the best ideas are from our employees. I want to know those ideas. So I want you to email them to me at If for some reason you want your comments to remain confidential, then just put that request in the email.

This is the first of many opportunities I want to take to communicate with you. I am well-aware of the vast amount of knowledge and talent in this agency. And I am excited, energized, and eager to make the most of our time together.

Thank you for listening.


Content Archived: January 25, 2012