Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast Conference 2018
Washington, D.C., June 13, 2018

Introduction

Thank you for the kind introduction.

As many of you know, I am great believer in the power of prayer – it can heal a broken soul or a transform the heart of a nation. Ours is a journey which allows us to make change and to guard tradition while helping others. Your deeds are those borne from a place of love and compassion. The Hispanic contribution to America is just too big to summarize in an after dinner speech. So, let me just thank you for all you have done, and are doing, to strive for justice and peace – to uplift the poor and bring hope to our country, to help us remain the “light unto the nations” of the world.

The Hispanic contribution to America is just too big to summarize in an after dinner speech. So, let me just thank you for all you have done, and are doing, to strive for justice and peace – to uplift the poor and bring hope to our country, to help us remain the “light unto the nations” of the world.

A Call to Action to Maintain Our Values

Now, more than ever, we need courageous people like you to stand up and do what the Bible commands us to do -- to heal the sick, feed the hungry, provide shelter, and bring hope (and the word of God) to those who despair.  I firmly believe that America’s social fabric can’t be mended unless we also repair the spiritual fibers of our nation – and you are already doing both.  

Clearly, as a nation, we need more spiritual well-being. It’s up to all of us, the people of this nation to reject the voices of division and hatred that have cropped up.

I believe that the strength of America lies in our values and principles.

I believe in an America where people care about their neighbors, have a strong sense of community, and a well-defined vision of America as a land of opportunity, justice, and freedom for all. And where we respectfully disagree, find common ground, and seek our moral grounding on time-tested Judeo-Christian values.

It’s no secret to anyone in this audience, that our country’s social fault lines are beginning to erode the fabric that makes this nation great.  I often use the analogy that the American eagle has two wings, a left and a right, and that it cannot fly without both in coordination and unity.     

You are the people who will sew the social fabric of the future.  As advocates and members of the cloth, you in the frontlines of tackling many of our nation’s preeminent ills, especially homelessness, addiction, and Fair Housing.

Advocating on Behalf of the Poor

I appreciate all you are doing, and please don’t believe everything you read about me or my agency.  We are totally committed to Fair Housing and helping our public housing tenants and families graduate out of dependency and into a better life of self-sufficiency. 

HUD is entrusted with caring for some of American’s most vulnerable families as well as taxpayer’s money. Both have been seriously mismanaged in the past.  We are talking about millions of public housing tenants never reaching their full God given potential, and billions of tax dollars wasted for little gain. 

These are tremendous loses for our nation and for our communities.

Too often we have heard that we should just leave things be, keep the status quo, and let tenants remain where they are -- without any hope of making a successful life outside of public housing or off the streets.

This kind of indifference happens too frequently, as it is so much easier to look away from the poor and their lives.  But how can we build, or remain, a just and moral society based on such indifference? 

The despair of any of our families in public housing is all of our business and problem to help solve.

Putting Faith into Action

Fortunately, I am in a good position tackle these challenges. And I believe that my work as a pediatric neurosurgeon helped prepared me for my current position as Secretary of HUD.

Let me tell you how.

When I was operating on young children, my goal was to help them overcome very serious health problems, to mitigate at times seemingly intractable illnesses. I would often give a very young child a second chance on life. I knew some of the children I treated would receive just that. I also knew that some of my patients would leave the relative comfort of a renowned hospital only to return to a home that was full of mold, paint chips, rats and despair.

My heart was often broken.

Now, I am able to do something about this – to help turn this situation around.

Just this week, we announced a historic agreement with the nation’s largest public housing authority to correct dangerous lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards.

Under the terms of the agreement, New York City will invest at least $1.2 billion to abate lead-based paint hazards in tens of thousands of public housing units and will correct a number of longstanding housing deficiencies including inadequate heating, failing elevators and a significant backlog of work orders.

This historic agreement marks a new era for New York City’s public housing -- one that puts families and their children first.

This is not indifference to the plight of the poor, but making a real difference in their lives, and I am blessed that I was able to be a part of this agreement. 

Conclusion

Of course, helping people grow out of poverty is not just the responsibility of the government. It’s the duty and obligation of everyone here to “act justly and love mercy.” And to focus on the needs of the whole family – education, health, employment -- and not just providing a roof over their heads.

Getting out of dependency and into a better life is no easy task -- either for the tenant, homeless, or addicted person, or for that matter, the federal government or community group which is trying to help them.

But we all must join together and try.

Our nation’s vulnerable families deserve nothing less.

Thank you again for the invitation to join you this evening and celebrate your achievements.