Carla Hills describes the events that lead up to her appointment as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and reflects on her work with President Ford. April, 2014.
[ Music ]
>> As part of the ongoing celebration of the centennial President Gerald Ford's birth, Susan Collins, Dean of the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford's School of Public Policy, welcomes students to a presentation and Q&A with a key number of President Ford's Cabinet.
>> President Ford appointed Carla Hills as the fifth Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1975, making her one of the youngest individuals and also the third woman to achieve cabinet rank level in US history.
>> In 1975, Carla Hills was an Assistant United States Attorney General, when she got a phone call that changed her life.
>> One Saturday I got a call from the White House, asking if I would come down and speak to the President. And when I got there, he said to me, "I'd like you to go over and be my Secretary of Housing." And I said, "Mr. President, I'm not an urbanologist, I'm a lawyer." He said, "I need a manager."
>> Ford tasked Hills with making HUD less bureaucratic and more effective in helping communities address problems on the ground.
>> They knew better than Washington what their community needed.
>> While Hills worked to remake HUD, President Ford signed into law Fast Track Legislation to streamline the negotiation and approval of trade agreements. For Hills, the Fast Track Legislation may be the most enduring of all Ford's achievements.
>> President Ford recognized that it was impossible to conclude a significant trade agreement if 535 members of Congress could amend it. Fast Track is a compact between the President and the Legislative Branches that enables our government to negotiate and approve trade agreements. Congress can vote to prohibit the proposed negotiation, but once it agrees to the negotiation, when the agreement is presented, it must vote it up or down, no amendments. And for the next quarter century, our nation has used Fast Track procedure successfully to negotiate lower tariffs and to remove barriers to our products around the world; and the results have been spectacular.
>> Hills later benefitted from Fast Track as the lead negotiator on NAFTA, and the US Trade Representative under George H.W. Bush. Her experience dealing with trade issues prompted a lot of questions from the Ford school students.
>> My question for you is: How can we make sure that the American people have a voice in these trade agreements that will directly affect their lives?
>> Trade is a bad 5-letter word to some elements of our society. So this is an educational effort, and universities, you when you graduate, go out and sale it.
>> It is true that, you know, NAFTA is like the big [inaudible] for Mexico, we multiply [inaudible] but we haven't reached prosperity. My question to you is: Is there necessary NAFTA too?
>> NAFTA definitely helped Mexico. Middle-class has grown. Immigration is flat. I enjoyed thoroughly the community discussion, it was a wonderful experience for me, and I hope that they got just something trifling out of it the other side. I think that the legacy that President Ford left and that this school stands on as a platform is just extraordinarily valuable.
[ Music ]