HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan’s inspiration

July 28, 2009
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Earlier this month at the Brookings Institution, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan talked with former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros about the challenges posed by concentrated poverty and the lessons of recent development initiatives.
In the midst of the discussion, Donovan told Cisneros that:

As I embark on my own path as HUD Secretary, Henry I want to say to you that I’m in the midst of reading Robert Weaver’s biography. A great biography that was recently published and I say quite seriously that only in Weaver’s example can I find any other HUD Secretary that has brought together the intellectual leadership, the practice, the passion, the commitment that you have brought to the work that you did not only as HUD Secretary, but to literally a lifetime of work in transforming neighborhoods and communities.

The “great biography,” of course, can’t be any other than Wendell Pritchett’s Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City, the first and only biography of the first African American to hold a cabinet position in the federal government. From his role as FDR’s “negro advisor” to his appointment, under Lyndon Johnson, as the first secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Robert Clifton Weaver was one of the most influential domestic policy makers and civil rights advocates of the twentieth century. Tracing Weaver’s career through the creation, expansion, and contraction of New Deal liberalism, Pritchett’s book illuminates his instrumental role in the birth of almost every urban initiative of the period, from public housing and urban renewal to affirmative action and rent control.
We’re pleased to know that, in doing so, it’s now reached a uniquely important target audience.

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