Malcolm “Mike” Peabody


The Freedom of Choice

Ep. 42 - Malcolm 'Mike' Peabody's life has been founded on giving people the freedom of choice. He is known as the man who reinvented Public Housing.

Top Takeaways:

    • Giving people the ability to be like everyone else without discrimination
    • The power of giving people the choice to do what they want to better their lives
    • The impact of experimenting with a new housing program which grew to be the largest subsidized housing program today
    • The effect of charter schools on freedom of choice

Listen to find out HOW he reinvented public housing and the effects of a new program with choice for families.

"It's a good idea to experiment with mixing the elderly and the families together, as the elderly can have a real impact on children."

Working for HUD Secretary George Romney, Malcolm Peabody helped launch the creation of Housing Choice Vouchers, one of the few anti-poverty programs with enduring bipartisan support. Mike grew up in a prominent family in Massachusetts. His ancestor, George Peabody, was born in 1795 in what was then South Danvers and is now Peabody. Though thrifty, George Peabody gave generously to public causes. He became the acknowledged father of modern philanthropy. In the United States, his philanthropy largely took the form of educational initiatives. In Britain, it took the form of providing housing for the poor. Mike tells us how that came about. He also tells the story of how his mother was drawn into civil rights.

Mike was the Co-Director of the Boston Chapter of the  SCLC which is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Many Black people who were demonstrating were getting hurt and jailed, but there was no news being reported on it. So the SCLC's decision was to get older White people, not just young people, to go down to St. Augustine to demonstrate. They hoped the image of grandmothers being hauled off to jail would gain national publicity. And that's when Mike's mother got involved. A Peabody from Massachusetts. At the time, his brother was governor of Massachusetts and up for reelection, so she was a high profile person in more than one way.

Mike's contribution to subsidized housing started when Mike came to Washington in early 1969 to work at HUD as the new Administration's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Equal Opportunity under Secretary George Romney. He previously has an illustrious career working in State and local government housing efforts. He chaired the Massachusetts Special Commission on Low-income Housing that helped create a Commonwealth Rental Assistance Program - the first vouchers for private housing in the country - and he felt it might be a potential for Federally-funded housing. He had just finished running for a Congressional District seat as a Republican, unlike his brother, Chub Peabody, who had been Governor of Massachusetts and his sister, Marietta Tree, who had served as an Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Mike brought his ideas and experience to HUD in an experimental program which eventually became the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the largest subsidized housing program in HUD today. Listen in to learn how Mike gave people the choice to better their lives in some of his programs at HUD. You will also discover how the GI bill which positively impacted the lives of the veterans and overall communities when it was first incepted because his model for freedom of choice.

Learn why Mike championed the right to choose for housing, for the military, and for charter schools.

Key Moments:

He narrates his story that led to the recognition of his last name by both the US and British historians [3:16]

He explains why his mother became an activist when he was running for a political seat [5:35]

He explains in detail the program that gave people the freedom of choice and eliminated discrimination [8:16]

The GI bill programs and the difference they made after the war in the United States [18:13]

He describes why he started a real estate company and other endeavors when he left HUD [22:41]

He talks about the impact of the GI bill on the standard of living when it was first incepted [32:05]

Why HUD needs to bring the elderly and children together by getting rid of old cheap housing and building nicer affordable housing [35:18]

The Man Who Reinvented Public Housing

Citizens Association of Georgetown Interview

Recognition by the National Alliance for Public Chartered Schools

An Unusual Donation

Washington Post Article on Mike and Charter Schools

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