U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson addressed the HUD’s employees for the first time publicly on Monday.
Carson’s speech was more motivational, and he opted not to speak on housing as much. He started off the address by reflecting on some of his encounters as a surgeon and his vision for America moving forward. He spoke about how Americans need to work together to reach their full potential of prosperity.
“This is America. This used to be known as the can-do society, not the what-can-you-do-for-me society,” he said. “And there is a lot that we can do if we are simply willing to reach outside of ourselves and recognize that each person, all our fellow Americans, we are one.”
At one point during Carson’s speech come up with an acronym “THINK BIG.” “T is for talent, which God gave to every person,” he began, assigning word phrases H for honest, I for Insight, N for Nice, K for Knowledge, B for Book, I for Indepth Learning, and G for God. Carson then asked those in attendance to raise their hands to “take the niceness pledge.”
“Just raise your hand, everybody raise your hand,” he said, as the staff obeyed. “Now what did you just pledge to do? Be nice to every single person you encounter for one week, including your spouse!”
An audience member asked Dr. Carson: “ What are your plans for the division of housing and equal opportunity overall, and how do you plan on furthering civil rights while you are here at HUD?”Dr. Carson’s answer was not direct, though he used the opportunity to address inequality and fairness for all.
“I am going to do be doing what you are and that is watching to see what people are doing and more importantly listen to what people have to say,” Dr. Carson said. “There's always a lot of different perspectives and one of the things that I have found is when you have divergent perspectives, if you can get those people to sit down and talk to each other, they will frequently be able to come up with extremely good solutions,” he said. “I believe in always giving the first pass to the people who are actually involved as opposed to imposing upon them from above.”
“One of the things you will notice in this department under my leadership is that there will be a very big emphasis on fairness for everybody,” Carson told the staff. “Everything that we do, every policy; no favorites for anybody, no extra for anybody, but complete fairness for everybody. Because that is what the founders of this nation had in mind, and if you read the Constitution, it becomes very clear that that was the goal.”
He would later briefly talk about find alternative ways to work with the private sector to find solutions homelessness and affordable housing availability.
“We don't necessarily have to always depend on the government and government financing,” he said when asked about such partnerships by a staffer during the question-and-answer session. “There's a lot more money outside of government than there is inside of government, although there's some people who would like to change that, but anyway, I won't get into that.”
At the end of the town hall meeting, one staffer stood up and thanked Carson for his speech, telling him that her and follow employees had been afraid about how the Trump administration would select HUD programs. She said his speech had reassured her that he is invested in HUD's mission.