Crystal City, Va. _ Housing Secretary Julián Castro, a potential vice presidential candidate, cheered a ruling this week ordering the cancellation of the Washington NFL football team's name, which he called "offensive."
Castro spoke Saturday afternoon to the Native News Media Conference sponsored by the Native American Journalists Association and Native Public Media, which ends its four-day meeting this week.
Castro, who is approaching a year in his role as HUD secretary and is Mexican American, has been thought of as a possible runningmate to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Castro's speech on housing and Native American communities followed a panel discussion on use of the mascot name, which many attendees referred to as "the R-word." He was asked his view on the mascot name in a question-and-answer session.
"I very much agree that the name is offensive," Castro said.
He said he and his staff watched television coverage of the removal of the Confederate flag from the Charleston, S.C. Capitol Friday.
"There's a feeling in our nation that there's this moment, this window of opportunity, to address these deep-seated challenges, these wounds that we've had, certainly with the African American community, but also with the Native American community. My hope is that that may mold change," Castro said.
Castro was asked how the administration could ensure programs for tribal communities accomplished by the Obama administration could ensure they continue in the next administration.
He said Congress needs to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act, which he said the administration has made a priority.
"We want to put a blueprint of passion and effort forward so that there's so much forward momentum on Jan. 20, 2017, that whomever's the next president will see the good work and progress that's being made," he said.
"But we believe that we can show better measurement of the outcomes, that we're actually bringing down numbers of homeless individuals in tribal communities," Castro said. "If we can make the case and truly have a group of advocates out there that is energized and ready to go, when that turnover happens, the likelihood of continuing and strengthening these efforts will be good."
He chuckled when he was asked in a followup question, what he would do if he was part of the next administration, which drew applause.
"That's a clever way of asking the question," he said, but as he as been doing in other public forums when asked wether he wants to be vice president, said he's focused on his HUD work.
On housing issues, Castro said he's met with Native American communities in the time he's been HUD secretary. He said the most poignant moment, he's had as HUD secretary came on a visit to Pine Ridge, S.D. where 12 people were living in a four-bedroom old and dilapidated home and a second four-bedroom with 17 people living in it, including two families in the basement.
HUD has proposed spending $748 million, $25 million more than last fiscal year, to address housing needs in Native American communities, he said. HUD also has proposed increasing the Indian Housing block grant by $10 million to $660 million, Castro said.
"In his remaining time in office the president is fully committed to using every single day to build on the progress we've made together," Castro said.
Separately, Castro expressed sadness at the resignation of Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta, one of the top Latinos in the Obama administration, a day after the government revealed that more than 22 million people had their data stolen in a pair of massive cyberattacks on the agency.
"I understand the circumstances but I'm still sad to see her go," Castro said. "The president has shown a strong commitment to diversity over the years and I'm confident that will remain the case for the duration of the administration."