White House Initiative/HBCU Conference
REMARKS PREPARED FOR
STEVE PRESTON, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2008
Thank you, President (George) French. And, belatedly, may I congratulate you on receiving a distinguished leadership award last year from Project One (faith-based organization in Louisville). The recognition is well-deserved. Your work to help disadvantaged youth is an inspiration to us all. And I appreciate your strong advocacy for affordable housing and urban revitalization. Congratulations.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to this conference. For more than 171 years, since the founding of Cheyney University in 1837, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have made powerful contributions in mathematics, science, literature, law, medicine, and the arts. Your institutions have made this country stronger, better, and nobler, both through your graduates and through your institutional influence in our communities. HBCUs have been a beacon of hope for students seeking an education and an inspiration for those who want to make a difference with their lives. We see that difference in my own department, where HBCU graduates have been in top leadership positions and have worked to provide housing for those in need.
In addition to your educational achievements, HBCUs have been a source of other bountiful gifts to our nation. Journalist Juan Williams, the co-author of a book on HBCUs (I'll Find a Way or Make One, with Dwayne Ashley), has called the role of HBCUs in American education "indispensable." I agree. And they are indispensable in our communities, too.
I want to thank you for your many efforts to improve our communities, through participation in urban revitalization, city planning, and provision of services to those in need. In fact, HBCUs are often visionary, energetic, and invaluable partners with government and non-profits in efforts to address poverty, homelessness, and other problems.
Let me give you an example…what has now become a textbook case. Fifty years ago, in 1958, a young man earned his degree at Morgan State University, a great school just 40 miles from here in Baltimore. He majored in economics. It became part of his DNA. His education was sound, preparing him for an expanding business climate long before we spoke of "globalization" or "global market shares." He founded a magazine, Black Enterprise, which I read in business school at Chicago, as did my professors. That magazine continues to reach out to more than 3 million readers, with yearly sales in excess of $33 million. But he wasn't finished. He then presided over the largest minority-owned franchise of Pepsi-Cola, right here in Washington, DC.
And that graduate, Earl Graves, created a media and business empire, using the knowledge and inspiration from his teachers at Morgan State. He did more than make money…he invested in people and in our communities. He created jobs and brought commerce, used liquidity to help spark a healthier economy. This one student, armed with a degree and determination, dramatically improved the business climate of our nation's capital at a time when entrepreneurs were sorely needed here. And he continues to give back to this country by serving on the Board of Trustees at Howard University and as a presidential appointee of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Earl Graves is an HBCU success story. And, there are so many others. In one way or another, HBCU graduates have become leaders in every field. They know they received an excellent education. And they know that knowledge must be used for positive action.
Consider the impact in my own area, housing and urban development. We see this pro-active sense of mission in your graduates, in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who worked to help Americans gain access to affordable housing. We see that sense of mission in former Senator Edward Brooke, a proud graduate of Howard, who co-sponsored the "Fair Housing Act of 1968." Or with Justice Thurgood Marshall, who voted to enforce that law. And we see it in leaders like Dr. Louis Sullivan, who spoke earlier, a proud "Morehouse Man," who has devoted his life to helping people who live in American housing remain healthy and safe. Or in the fact that two secretaries at the Department of Housing and Urban Development have been the product of HBCUs (Patricia Harris and Alphonso Jackson).
HBCUs prepare their students for great achievements. That is one of many reasons why President Bush has been an enthusiastic supporter of HBCUs. He understands that your institutions are essential, profound, and powerful contributors to our educational enterprise, our cultural legacy, and our scientific contributions.
I am proud that HUD is a part of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Our partnership works in a variety of situations. For instance, we have been involved with schools recovering from natural disasters. Our meeting today comes just a few days after we remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina three 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, Southern, Alcorn State, Jackson State, and others. Recovery must include these schools. 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. I was just down in the Gulf to survey our efforts for Hurricane Gustav. And I will continue to look for ways to assist these schools as part of the recovery efforts for the Gulf.
And we have been creative, looking for joint efforts outside the normal government box. Three years ago, after Katrina and Rita, HUD learned of the combined loss of the affected HBCUs in the Gulf Region was over $1 billion, HUD sought ways to provide competitive grants that would encourage rebuilding and directing the great capacity all academic institutions to the Gulf Region. We developed the Universities Rebuilding America Partnerships (URAP) HBCU and Community Design programs. URAP-HBCU provided critical resources and assistance to communities and URAP Community Design provided funds to schools of architecture, urban planning and design, or construction to develop long-range neighborhood designs and architectural design assessments to devastated communities
And close to this spot, just a few metro stops away, is the National Fair Housing Training Academy at Howard University. We provided other HUD 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 an excellent working partnership between HUD and HBCUs. We benefit greatly from your advice and counsel. And we work together to revitalize our cities.
Your input is valuable to us. As you know, the nation faces a serious downturn in the housing market. We know that the turbulence touches your students and your communities. We are working to help homeowners through a variety of initiatives, including expansion of the Federal Housing Administration. So far, we have helped hundreds of thousands of families stay in their homes.
But we have more to do. We welcome your insights. We also welcome your partnership in revitalizing our communities.
For example, since 1991, HUD has awarded approximately $147 million to HBCUs to stimulate economic and community development activities. These grants must meet one of our national objectives:
- benefit low-and-moderate income residents,
- eliminate slums or urban blight, or
- meet urgent community development needs.
They can be used to rehabilitate residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. They help to revitalize the communities around HBCUs.
Today, I would like to announce this year's grant recipients. I believe we have representatives from each of the colleges with us. Each recipient will receive approximately $700,000. These grants were awarded on a competitive basis. I would like to introduce Darlene Williams, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at HUD. She will read the names of the grant awardees. I would ask them to come forward one at a time to receive a plaque. And thank you again for including me in this conference.
(Assistant Secretary Williams will then announce the grant winners)
Alabama A&M University
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
District of Columbia:
Savannah State University
North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina Central University
Winston Salem State University
Southern University and A&M College
Virginia University at Lynchburg
West Virginia State University