Good evening. I am pleased to join my friends and colleagues, President (Francesco) Ventura Teixidor and Governor (An�bal) Acevedo Vila, in welcoming you to the 52nd IFHP World Congress. I also want to thank Dr. (Anibal) Sep�lveda Rivera and Plan. (Lucilla) Fuller-Marvel for their upcoming comments.
I am certain that I speak for all the conference participants in thanking our gracious hosts for their hospitality.
I bring greetings from President Bush and his warm welcome to the United States. He knows that our work together is vital to the economic strength and stability of each country and for our global economy. He sends his best wishes for a successful and productive conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be part of this welcoming ceremony. Puerto Rico is a great island with wonderful people, an inspirational place to visit. Puerto Rico is a land of culture, music, beauty, and education. It is a place of ideas, dreams, vision, and decision. For hundreds of years Puerto Rico has functioned as a bridge between the Old World and the New World, a crossroads between North and South, a fixed point on the center of the map for global gatherings. Whether by boat or plane, people make a pilgrimage here to meet and discuss pressing international issues, including the direction and course of the housing market. And you and I have come here for such a purpose.
In fact, we meet at a decisive moment in global economic history. The housing market in the United States is experiencing tremendous turbulence. Other countries are confronting similar problems. The housing crisis has devastated some markets. The cumulative international impact can be seen in the fluctuations in the global markets. The housing crisis has rippled out to touch every city and country on our planet, from Reykjavik to Santiago, from London to Hong Kong.
More important than the financial impact is the human toll. In my country hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes. We are implementing unprecedented programs to help millions of current homeowners stay in their homes. We must do this - it is imperative - because the home is a place where our families live together, grow together, and grown old together. The home is more than shelter...it is a part of our lives, a place where we dream, an investment, a source of financial security for later life. It is even a mark of success, a place that gives us a stake in the community. A home is the fulfillment of the dream of homeownership.
I know we will think of those families who need us throughout the conference.
We must also look beyond the needs of the moment. The decisions we make today will go beyond the present crisis and set the foundation for the future. I believe that we can return to a long period of sustained equity and wealth creation, a future of growing homeownership with mortgages that people can afford. In the future we will need more transparency, responsible decision-making, and greater prudence. We must learn from our current experiences and create a smoother housing cycle in the future.
So, this is a time for our best efforts. We need the experience, wisdom, and leadership of everyone at this conference. Everyone has something valuable to share. We hope to learn from your individual knowledge and wisdom, as well as from the programs and initiatives underway in your own countries. We need all of this now. There must be a sense of urgency. Millions of people count on us.
Again, welcome. Thank you for coming.