George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for Steven C. Preston as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

June 06, 2008

Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you. Welcome. Thank you. It's a—so glad to be here at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And I've come to introduce you to your new boss, Secretary Steve Preston. I want to thank Steve's wife Molly, five children, and his mom and dad, Lee and Ursula.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming—Secretary Kempthorne; and Director John Walters. It's good to see two of your predecessors here, Steve—Alphonso Jackson and Jack Kemp. Thank you all for coming.

This is a time of turbulence in the housing market and slow growth for our overall economy. This morning the Labor Department reported that our economy lost 49,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent. This rise was caused, in part, by a surge of new, young entrants into the job market, but it's clearly a sign that is consistent with slow economic growth.

To help keep this economy growing, we did pass an economic stimulus package that provides tax rebates for American families and incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment. We're beginning to see the signs that the stimulus may be working. And now the Congress needs to take the next steps. At a time when Americans are concerned about higher gas prices, Congress needs to pass legislation that expands—it will allow for the expansion of American energy production.

In this period of economic uncertainty, the last thing the Americans need is a massive tax increase. So Congress needs to send a clear message that the tax relief that we passed will be made permanent.

Unfortunately, these policies are being blocked by the Democratic Congress. So I call on congressional leaders to put partisanship aside and work with me to enact these important initiatives for the American people.

This Department is also critical to meeting the challenges we face in our economy. We need strong leadership in the Secretary's office. Steve Preston is the right man for the job. He's a financial expert who understands how the housing market impacts our broader economy. He's a skilled manager. He's a person of character and integrity.

Secretary Preston will work to strengthen homeownership with the same dedication he brought to his previous job of strengthening the American small-business community. As the head of the SBA, Steve presided over loan guarantee programs that are similar in structure to those run by the Federal Housing Administration. And just as entrepreneur across our Nation found a trusted friend in Steve Preston, so will America's homeowners.

Before coming to the SBA, Steve gained valuable financial and leadership experience in the private sector. His impressive career has taken him from investment banking to senior financial posts at major corporations. Wherever he's gone, Steve has earned the admiration of his colleagues. He takes on this new challenge with my full confidence and my trust.

Steve takes over for a good man, my longtime buddy, Secretary Alphonso Jackson. I thank you for your compassion and your hard work. You helped change a lot of lives. And I wish you and Marcia all the very best. See you back in Texas. [Laughter]

I also want to thank Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi for his service. He filled in as the Acting Secretary during this transition. He spent nearly 7 years of his life here at this Department. And I appreciate your hard work on behalf of all Americans.

As Steve takes office, his first priority will [be] * to help lead my administration's response to the challenges in the housing market. We've taken aggressive action to help responsible homeowners to keep their homes by giving the FHA greater flexibility to offer refinancing options. We're also helping to bring together what's now called the HOPE NOW Alliance. By working together, participants in the mortgage industry have helped more than 1 million—11⁄2 million families stay in their homes. HOPE NOW is working, but we've got more to do.

Yesterday we learned that the foreclosure rates continued to rise in the first quarter. So Steve will work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to address this challenge. We need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We need to pass legislation to modernize the Federal Housing Administration and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. By taking these steps, we'll help more responsible homeowners weather this rough patch and, at the same time, strengthen the dream of homeownership for generations to come.

I've got confidence that we're going to meet these challenges, and I got confidence in the people who work in this Department. I appreciate what you do every day to expand the dream of homeownership. I thank you for your efforts to provide low-income Americans with access to affordable housing. You work hard to make sure our communities are more vibrant and hopeful. The United States is fortunate to have such devoted public servants in this Department, and I'm grateful for your service.

You're going to have a worthy leader in Steve Preston. I thank the Senate for confirming Steve as your new Secretary. I now ask the Senate to confirm the three remaining HUD nominees to help him lead this Department.

Steve, I appreciate your stepping forward to serve your country once again. I congratulate you. And now I ask my Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, to administer the oath of office.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In his remarks, he referred to Marcia Jackson, wife of former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso R. Jackson. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Secretary Preston.

* White House correction.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Swearing-In Ceremony for Steven C. Preston as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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