May 20, 2010
Thank you all. Thanks very, very much. Dr. Richter, thank you for that wonderful and humbling introduction. I think it’s a continuing sign of God’s grace in this world and the goodness of the people that we call our neighbors that Maryland continues to make progress, any progress, given what we’re up against.
And I really thank you also for being such a great neighbor to my family and to me as we live in some of the nicest government housing in Maryland. (Laughter.)
It is true that I go to mass at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, but when I wake up in the morning I pray to St. Anne’s. (Laughter.) That’s a fact.
It is great to be with all of you, and thank you Raghid Shourbaji and Reverend Dr. Browning gave us some great material today, didn’t he? If nothing else has come of this breakfast, you have some good material for this Sunday, don’t you? I’ll remember – what I take away, Dr. Browning, is romance without finances is a nuisance. (Laughter and applause.)
And to all our speakers today, including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. The highest ranking elected official in the United States of America is your Lieutenant Governor – the highest ranking elected official to have served a tour of duty in Iraq. And, so, Anthony, thank you for everything that you do. (Applause.)
Secretary Skinner, for fighting this fight, against foreclosure – it looks like we hit our peak about five months ago and we’re coming down from that mountain of pain. And I do want to focus my short time with you on that foreclosure bill that we’ll be signing shortly today that so many of you helped us pass.
And to our emcee, Dr. Anderson, thank you. And to Mr. Quentin Lynton and Desiree Hill, thank you for the great music. Ms. Hill, we try, as you’ve now betrayed, we try only to hire people with musical backgrounds. (Laughter and applause.) In these times you’ve got to have some music in you, because you’ve got to keep moving forward.
And Carrie Hill, good to see you today and thank you to the collective banking and everything that you are doing to help us save every home possible.
I like the themes that are coming out today and I’m going to use them, not just this Sunday, but throughout this long, hot summer. I like the notion of “praction” – it’s not enough to have prayer, you have to have action. And I also like the idea that love requires more. And, indeed, that’s what encourages all of us through these difficult times. You know, leadership is important at any time, but leadership is critically important when times are tough and people are hurting and when a response to a phone call or a nonresponse is the difference between whether a family is put out on the curb or whether they’re not.
So I have some quotes that fall under ideas of praction, and love requires more, that I want to share with you that just kind of came to me as I was listening to the prior speakers.
“The arc of history bends towards justice.” Of course, Dr. King. This one from Robert Kennedy: “The future is not a gift, it is an achievement.”
St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” This one from Irish singer Luka Bloom: “Everything is possible in God’s time, but nothing is for sure.”
And one that, if they were shoes, I’d have them worn out by now – the words of St. Ignatius, who said, “Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve as you deserve, to give and not heed the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to toil and not seek for rest, to labor and ask no reward, save to know that I do your will.”
And this one from John 17:20, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one.”
There’s nothing more powerful in this world, I think, no more powerful place in this world, than a family’s home. And there’s nothing more essential for keeping that home than a job. And so during these difficult times, we fight for the dignity of every human being, we fight for the most important place in this world and we fight for that definition of dignity, which is a job, and an ability to give your children a better life than the one that our parents gave us.
And we have a – the Lieutenant Governor went through a pretty impressive list of the sorts of praction and love requiring more, reducing violent crime to its lowest level since 1975. There are about 111 people in this room today. That’s how many fewer people died violent deaths last year, compared to four years ago.
So far this year, six children have died violent deaths. Last year at this same date, 22.
Every life is important, every life matters. 165,000 people now have health care. Not another state in the union has been extending health care benefits, rather than cutting them. These are things we do as a people.
And similarly, on the job front I have some encouraging news for you. We’ve been doing a number of things. I know it’s fashionable to say the government doesn’t work, the government can’t do anything, but the truth is last March -- this most recent March, rather -- your State created more jobs than any other state in the union. (Applause.)
That was the first month of positive job creation that we’ve had in a long time. But the things that we’re doing are all part of the equation and each one of those actions is needed – the 5,700 jobs coming to the Port of Baltimore because of public-private partnership; the new cyber command that’s coming to Fort Meade and everything that that entails.
April was our second positive month in a row of positive job creation. So we want to string together positive months every month. And that really is what’s going to get us out of this recession. And, frankly, I think because of your good work Maryland is going to lead all states out of this recession.
And that’s what we do. A great thing about the people that we call our neighbors is that in times of adversity we don’t make excuses, we make progress and that’s how we get to better times.
This housing foreclosure crisis has really delivered quite a body blow, hasn’t it, to the strength of the middle-class, to the dignity of families. I get so many sad letters, as I know you do, as well. Or people coming up and telling you after services, just trying to get some faceless giant mortgage service company in Topeka or who knows where to pick up the phone before they put the family out of their home.
Whenever one mom or dad has to look their child in the eyes and say the mortgage company says we have to move – I mean, that does affect all of us. And whether we feel it or not, we should. It affects all of us, it affects everything we’re trying to do, this journey of a great people.
And so that’s why we were – we passed some of the most leading foreclosure prevention legislation about two years ago. I hesitate to think where that mountain would be if we had not done that.
But it wasn’t enough, because many of you in your own counseling agencies came back to us and as a people we started putting – I think annually about almost $3 million or $2.6
into nonprofit housing counselors. We created these mortgage – what do we call them – used to be loan originators, I think now they’re mitigation originators, trying to get these mortgage service companies on the phone. And so many people came back and said we can’t even get them to pick up the phone. You pay us all day and, you know what, we spend seven out of eight hours on hold.
So we believe that if a big mortgage servicer can pick up the phone to put a family into a home, they should have to pick up the phone before they can throw a family out of a home. (Applause.)
So with your help now we are going to be signing in 24 short minutes – we are going to be signing the mandatory mediation bill, which passed the House and the Senate into law, which means that any family in Maryland, when those guys aren’t picking up the phone, can demand that there be a mediation, conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings. We put a fee on the big mortgage servicers so that they’re the ones that pay for this, rather than the family who is already having financial problems. And to bring them to the table.
And I absolutely believe there are a couple of other states where they’ve done this. I think most notably Connecticut and South Carolina.
So now we hope to sign into this law this right of a mandatory mediation, so that any family can insist that these guys come to the table. Will it save every house? No, it won’t save every house. There’s a lot of us – all of us who are probably living beyond our means these last several years and we’ve got to make a cultural transformation and adjustment ourselves, even as our economy transforms to embrace what’s important and a style of living that’s more sustainable.
But we have battled for every house and we’ve been there every step of the way, too. It would be a lot worse had it not been for your efforts and it’s going to get a lot better, because of your efforts.
This is one of those pieces of legislation that actually passed with some pretty substantial bipartisan support. When even the banking industry comes to the table and say let’s make a deal, you know that we are One Maryland and we’re able to bring people together around this crisis.
The HOPE Network has counseled nearly 40,000 people. And we need your help getting the word out on this mandatory mediation, because the loss of a home for a parent, for a breadwinner, for a mom or dad is – it can be such a source of shame that many of the people that lose their homes never talk to you or to me or to anybody. They kind of – they suck it up and they walk away. And they’re ashamed to talk about it.
I thank you all so much – and, Ms. Maun, thank you for all the churches that you have been getting outside of your church by going around with these – the brochures. I really need your help reaching out and letting people know about this right to mandatory mediation. I believe the start date on this bill is July 1 – July 1st. Within the next few weeks now we’re ramping up at the Office of Administrative Hearings in order to be able to handle this. But I need your help getting out the word on this.
Judge Bell has been terrific. He recruited about 1,000 lawyers to pro bono, take these cases. (Applause.)
Pastor Wilson was asking me how we get in touch or become part of this network – I mean, Ray is here, which is part of the reason that we’re having this breakfast. So, please, if you haven’t done any outreach, if you perhaps would like to do something at your church, you know, after services and, you know, go wherever the social happens and the coffee. And we can bring people there and make this happen.
So Ray Skinner is the person I always call or that I send letters to when people are in danger of losing their home.
There’s a hotline number which is 877 – and this, I assume, in the material that we’re giving out in the hall – it’s 877-462-7555, a number, sadly, I’ve memorized. And there’s also the www.mdhope.org. That’s mdhope.org.
So let me conclude by again saying thank you for the progress that you made together these last several years. It would be remarkable in easy times. The fact that we’re doing such important and meaningful things on education, four years in a row without an increase in college tuition, dental benefits for poor kids, so that no child ever has to die for lack of an ability to get a toothache seen.
These are all things that define a great people and a great State. Along with efforts that sometimes that fall short. I know that many of you were there in that noble and courageous battle to repeal the death penalty in Maryland. And we might not have succeeded, but you know what, we saved a lot of lives in the meantime anyway because of the violent crime reduction that you and courageous police officers have been effecting.
We’ve set a goal to eradicate childhood hunger by 2015 and we can do it. And the great thing is, it doesn’t require more money, it requires more connection. It requires more oneness, more awareness of where the children are who go to bed hungry, go to school hungry, have to survive an entire summer without an ability to go get the meal that they had depended on when they were in school.
The restoration of voting rights for people getting out of prison and so many other things. All of this defines who we are as a State. You know, we choose to work hand in hand because we know, we believe, that there is more that unites us than divides us. That every individual is needed and loved and important and that we all share a responsibility to advance the greater good.
And those are really the most important things that get us through the dark times, because they’re the things that come from the source of all light.
And I thank you all so very, very much for giving me the privilege to be able to work alongside of you to serve such a great people at such an important and challenging time. Thank you. (Applause.)