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The White House

Remarks by the First Lady to Department of Housing and Urban Development Staff

The First Lady arrived at Housing and Urban Development HQ in Washington wearing a grey jacket and skirt suit with a purple top. A purple print scarf was removed before her entrance, a White House official confided.
She was introduced to crowd of quite enthusiastic HUD employees by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. According to the Secret Service, as relayed by the White House, the room included 800 people with a separate overflow group of another 200. As she entered, gleeful cheers and applause and lots of cameras held high. Someone called out "We love you," and the sentiment was echoed throughout the room. She responded, "I love you."
Mrs. Obama described her appearance as the second stop on a general tour she is making of the agencies, during which she wants to say "hello" and thank the federal workers. She urged HUD employees to rededicate themselves to their work, given the need to keep people in their homes. A transcript will follow.
Notable that before her entrance, thumping dance floor music was on to get the crowd warmed up. They didn’t need it.
Keith Koffler
Roll Call
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release
February 4, 2009
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, D.C.
2:13 P.M. EST
      MRS. OBAMA:  Wow, there are a lot of you here.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much for taking the time to --
      AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!  (Applause.)
      MRS. OBAMA:  I love you, too.  That's one of the reasons why I'm here.  And I want to thank Secretary Donovan for those kind remarks, that wonderful introduction.  I am so pleased to be here.  I mean, my task here today is simple.  I've been -- this is my second stop.  I'm visiting -- trying to visit all the agencies here to say a few things -- one, to say hello.  (Applause.)
      AUDIENCE:  Hello!
      MRS. OBAMA:  I want to learn, listen, know what's going on from you.  But I also want to say thank you, on behalf of my husband, my family, and this country.  (Applause.)  Because what we do know, even though this is a brand new administration, the folks working in this department, many of you have been here for decades --
      AUDIENCE:  Yes!
      MRS. OBAMA:  -- working hard on the issues that impact our communities -- say yes.
      AUDIENCE:  Yes!
      MRS. OBAMA:  I can get an amen on that, right? 
      AUDIENCE:  Amen!
      MRS. OBAMA:  And you have been doing outstanding work, and I want to thank you for the work that you've done, the work that you're going to do, and the work that has to be done in the months and years to come. 
      That's my first task.  Because the truth is, is that everyone in this room is a public servant, and every day you carry out the nation's work without any fanfare, oftentimes, attention, acknowledgment.  You do it and get the job done because it's the right thing to do. 
      And Barack and I and all the folks over in the West Wing and the East Wing, we're very proud of what you've done for this country.  There's a lot more to do.  And at times like these -- and we know times are hard right now -- there's so many families who've lost their homes, and millions are struggling to keep up with their mortgages.  You know this firsthand.  You and your colleagues are going to be asked to do even more, that's for sure.  It's of critical importance that we stem the tide of foreclosures and find a way to keep people in their homes.  (Applause.)  Because what we do know is that homeownership, at least as I know it, growing up on the south side of Chicago, has always been one of the building blocks for strong neighborhoods, for strong schools and strong families.  People who own their homes and take care of their homes, it leads to the well-being of the entire community.  It's critical.  And the housing crisis has drastic consequences, not just on our economy but on the very fiber of our communities all across this country.
      So in addition to meeting you all here at these agencies, I'm taking time out, as well as Barack, to get to know the community that we're in.  We're going to be visiting schools and neighborhoods throughout this area, because Barack and I always believe that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical.  And for the people here in this agency, we are now your neighbors.  (Applause.)
      So it's important to remember -- not that you need any reminding -- but the issues that you're working on every single day, in whatever way you are working on them, in whatever capacity, affect this community that we live in, as well.  They affect you, your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors.  And under Secretary Donovan's leadership, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to play a critical role in implementing elements of the economic recovery and reinvestment plan that will help our communities.  This plan is important.  (Applause.)  With these investments, it's important to remember we'll be able to strengthen the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to help communities purchased foreclosed or abandoned properties, and rehabilitate or resell or redevelop these homes so that they don't contribute to community blight and force down the value of neighboring properties.
      This investment will allow us to put people to work, weatherizing at least 2 million low-income homes, which will also save working families on average $350 per year in heating costs.  It's important to remember that these investments will expand the availability of affordable housing by 15,000 units -- and that is not insignificant -- which, coupled with other homeless programs here at HUD will play an important role in preventing an increase in homelessness during these tough economic times.
      And I am very, very pleased that the stimulus plan is going to make much needed repairs to military family housing so the quality -- (applause) -- so that the quality of troops' homes matches the quality and excellence of their service to this nation.
      AUDIENCE:  Amen!
      MRS. OBAMA:  So there's a lot of work to do.  And we have great leaders in Secretary Donovan and in Barack Obama.  (Applause.)  But great leaders are only as great as the people who hold them up.  (Applause.)  So that's why it's important for us to come here now, before the hard work happens, to say thank you and to remind you that we need each and every one of you to recommit to the task at hand, to look at your work with a new level of passion and vigor, and to know that everything you do every day is going to lead to stronger communities all over this nation.
      So I thank you again.  We appreciate and value who you are as our neighbors and our coworkers.  And let's get to work.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)
                              END                2:20 P.M. EST