There’s a simple notation near the beginning of the White House transcript of President Obama’s remarks at the Housing and Urban Development Department Thursday: “(Applause).”
Apparently, the reaction from the assembled HUD employees went a little beyond mere polite clapping, though.
“Clearly, HUD has the rowdiest employees,” Obama said of his reception at HUD headquarters -- which only served to set off more applause. Of course, the president then acknowledged that his appearance wasn’t as exciting to employees as First Lady Michelle Obama’s was.
Obama was at HUD to talk up both the department’s recently departed secretary, Shaun Donovan (who decamped to the Office of Management and Budget) and its new leader, Julián Castro. “I am here today because I stole one terrific Secretary of HUD from you, but I've delivered another terrific Secretary of HUD to you,” Obama said.
Calling Donovan a “geek” and a “wonk,” Obama said, “he promised that if everyone here at HUD worked just a little bit harder, you could really turn things around for struggling families. And all of you accepted that challenge.”
As for Castro, Obama said “nobody is more passionate” about housing issues.
The president also urged the assembled employees to “remember why you got into this work in the first place.”
“If you remember that this is not just a job but it should also be a passion, that it should also be part of giving back, that you shouldn’t just be checking in and punching the clock, but every single day there’s somebody out there who could use your help -- and I know when they get that help.... They write letters to me and they’ll tell me, 'You know what, you transformed my life.' ”