John Bryant is the founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, Inc., America's first non-profit investment banking organization, based in Los Angeles. Operation HOPE is committed to the social and economic revitalization of urban inner-city and under-served communities.
He spoke at Restoration Weekend:
David Horowitz and I are dear friends. We can disagree without being disagreeable. And we agree on more things than we disagree on. I view my relationship with David as I view religion’s relationship to God. I think that God is kind of the mountain top. If God is having self-esteem problems, you can call him whatever you want. And whether you’re Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Christian or Catholic, that is your road up that mountaintop. And as long as we get to that mountaintop and believe in something larger and more important than yourself, I think that you’re pretty okay.
And so, David and I believe in the same mountaintop. And I believe that David is pretty okay. Tracy, my lady, said ‘when she met David, and she heard me and him discussing what she called an argument, George Busch’s visit to South Central.’ She -- I got off of the phone, and she said ‘I’ve never seen a stranger relationship where somebody you love so much you curse at so often.’ But that’s what love is, love is work.
I am here to talk to you about not Civil Rights, but ‘Silver Rights.’ The Silver Rights movement is built on the Civil Rights movement. But in reality I am here to talk to you about what I call, the critical question, the Epiphany, the it.
Why should I come here to talk to you, and why did I travel all night to get here from 10:00 last night in Los Angeles to 8:00 this morning? Why should I come here to talk to you, and why should you listen?
I think that that is the core question, because if we can’t, if we can’t answer that question then all this is is a one-way dialogue. It’s not a conversation, and certainly there’s no buy-in. So we must answer that question. Why should I talk to you? And why should you listen? And that’s what I’m going to try to make the case for in the next 12 to 13 minutes.
Let me start by laying out my political persuasion. I’m not Democrat, and I’m not Republican. I – if you had to label me I am either a capitalist with a heart or a principal pragmatist. Within the boundaries of what’s ethical. and what’s honest, and what has integrity, I want to know what we can do? I believe in Ph.D.s, but I want to be a Ph.Do too. It’s about delivering results.
So why should I – let’s start with why should I come to talk to you? I should first come and talk to you because the whole purpose of life is to become transparent to God’s will. And God is concerned with spirit and not political parties. And so God wants me to talk to you.
The second thing, the reason I should be here to talk to you is that I know that you care about these issues, because your God’s child. And the third thing is I believe in many of your ideas, conservative ideas, Republican ideas are good ideas, very good ideas.
And if you showed-up, and I’m not pointing at anybody in this room, I’m talking generally with respect to the Party. If you showed-up they would actually work. But you can’t raise your child by e-mail. You can’t point to someone 3,000 miles away and lecture to them about how they’re living their lives. That’s condescending, they resent it, and with all due respect, you would resent it too.
And so, I think we’ve got to find some common ground. And so now, let me talk about why I think you should listen. Because it’s in your enlightened self-interest to listen. That’s the first, most important thing. Because it’s in your enlightened self-interest to listen. And President Busch believes it’s in his enlightened self-interest to listen, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
I think the second reason is, and this is where it gets very interesting. The largest economy in the world is the United States of America. Hi, Shannon Reeves. Major leader in our community. The most diverse place on the planet, the only race, the only nation in the world where every race of people is within our borders is the United States of America. So, you may say ‘well, that’s a nice correlation, John, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a coincidence.’ Okay, let’s drill-down a little bit further.
The two leading economies in the United States of America, California, and I know some people have some weird views of California. There was an earthquake and the world tipped to one side, and all the nuts rode to California, I know. But the two leading economies in the United States of America are California and New York. The two most diverse places in the United States of America are California and New York.
Let me go one step further. One of the most diverse regions in the world is Southern California, 176 different ethnic groups. The ninth largest economy in the world is Los Angeles County.
What am I telling you? I’m saying that you shouldn’t care whether folks are white, black, red, brown, or yellow, because you should be concerned they’re going to produce for you some green. That you can’t do business with people you don’t reflect, respect, or understand. Don’t put blacks and Latinos on your boards, and in your corporations, and within your party because it looks good, do it because it ‘is’ good. Because it makes good business sense.
Let’s give it some historical context. What I’m saying is that diversity is not a goodie-two-shoes issue. It’s a business issue. Go back to the Civil War. The Civil War wasn’t about black people. Nobody is going to war to save me. It’s a nice thought, it’s great in historical context, but you know, my Mama ain’t going to war to save me, you all aren’t going to war to save me. I am clear on that. That’s fine, it’s okay, if somebody don’t like me, I like me, it’s fine!
So what would you go to war for? Money and power. The South was based on an agricultural economy. Free labor, slaves. The North was modernized, moving into the industrial age, and when the Italian immigrant showed-up to Ellis Island and looked South and saw blacks and slavery, and looked North and saw modernization and diversity, said ‘well, South looks like a wonderful place, and I’m not black, but why test my luck?’ And headed North! For diversity!
And really, the Civil War, and this is based on the report by the Council of Foreign Affairs, not the NAACP and not by me. The Council of Foreign Affairs said that ‘really the fight for the Civil War was about control. It was about the South resisting Northern domination and modernization, diversity.’
Let’s go to – now interestingly enough, back then, blacks were Republicans. Blacks were Republicans. Why? Because Abraham Lincoln gave them from their perspective their freedom. So enlightened self-interest, folks. Folks said ‘hey, you with me? I’m with you!’ Blacks became Republicans en masse.
Let’s fast-forward to the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement was also at the end about money and power. Across the globe, our nation’s image was destroyed by images on television of black kids being watered-down with water hoses. And smart people said ‘we’ve got to stop this, it’s hurting tourism, it’s hurting our economy, so on, and so forth.’
When the legislation was passed black’s moved en masse to become Democrats. What party was the President, that passed the legislation? He was Democrat. They said ‘you’re with me, I’m with you.’ It’s not a very complicated concept.
Around the same time a little known change happened with Martin Luther King, Jr. If you go to a book called ‘The [Portibos] [ph] Campaign,’ and by the way, there’s more poor whites in America than poor anybody else so let’s not talk about this being ‘those people.’ ‘Those people’ are ‘our people.’ There are a million a people a year filing bankruptcy in this country.
The largest group of bankruptcy filers are youth between 18 and 24. Those are college students. Those are middle class, white college students. Those are college students who are getting a Masters Degree in psychology, and an Undergraduate Degree in bankruptcy, paying for their pizza with their credit card, believing a check is a form of credit. Calling home saying ‘Mom, I need another $3,000.’ And 98 percent of them have a credit card with an average balance of $3,000 before they ever get out of college.
It’s not our issue, it’s all of our issue, when Main Street America has a headache, black and brown folks have pneumonia. That’s the only difference. By the way, this is some good stuff I’m throwing at you. It’s okay if you laugh. This is – I’m here for free, you know. I’ve got low self-esteem, give me some love!
So, Martin Luther King in 1968 focused on the poor people’s campaign. Poor whites, poor blacks, poor Latinos, poor Asians, poor Indians, moving them up the economic ladder because he realized you couldn't legislate goodness, and you couldn’t pass a law to force someone to respect you.
Did you hear me? Didn’t that sound a little conservative? You can’t pass a law to force someone to respect you. You can’t legislate goodness. The only way to social justice in America, a capitalist country, is through economic parity. Now, because he was a Southern Liberal preacher he believed that meant redistribution of wealth.
The way you die real quick in America is become a Nobel Peace Prize winner, mobilize 98 percent of the U.S. population under a mission of redistribution of wealth of the top three percent. Three weeks after he made that statement, and two weeks before the march on Washington for the Pitney Weiss Campaign he was assassinated.
My mission is the creation of wealth. A slight twist, I just believe you don’t need to cut-up the pie, you can create more pie!
So I believe that Martin Luther King was a ‘pioneer of the next movement.’ That on top of Civil Rights was ‘Silver Rights.’ But he was just coming at it from the perspective that he knew, that he was still a pioneer in the thought process.
So where are we now? Black folks are a $500 billion a year consumer spending force. We’re the ninth largest consumer spending force in the free world. We buy 25 percent of every movie ticket sold in this country. We go to the movies once, we got to the movies twice, we rent the video, we bootleg copy it. I mean we copy it!
So Meta Johnson decided he was going to do the theatre in South Central L.A. with Sony Corporation. He would have said ‘oh, isn’t that nice, isn’t that sweet, that’s charity.’ No, no, no – you give a thousand dollars to Shannon Reeves at the NAACP because it’s charity. You don’t drop $20 million because it’s charity. You drop $20 million because it’s good business. That theatre is in the top 10 percent for sales for the entire Sony chain. They have now built a chain of them from L.A. to Harlem.
Operation Hope, 1992, after the worst riot in U.S. history, I decided to start this organization which is America’s first non-profit social investment bank. People said ‘social investment bank, that’s an oxymoron, and John, you are a moron, it will never work.’ We had one employee, a $61,000 operating budget, and a vision to change the world and eradicate poverty. I was 26 years old, I had a high school – actually, not a high school diploma, I had a GED Degree which Chris [Rott] [ph] called ‘a good enough diploma.’
DAVID HOROWITZ: Amen!
JOHN BRYANT: But I had a vision! And the Bible says ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’ And I believed in what I wanted to do. Today we have 120 bank partners with 2.6 trillion dollars in assets between them. We have an annual operating budget of $5 million. We have served 500,000 people.
We’re in the conversion business. We convert check-cashing customers into banking customers. We convert renters into homeowners. We convert small business dreamers into small business owners. We convert minimum wage workers into living wage workers with new jobs, deals. We converted the economically uneducated to the economically empowered, and we are results oriented.
And we are partners with these banks and corporations. We’re not asking anybody for a hand-out, we’re asking them for a hand-up. I believe in the James Brown version of affirmative action ‘open the door, I’ll get it myself!’
Results. We have created 500 homeowners in South Central L.A. Now, you may not think that’s a lot. That’s $80 million in lending. According to the Greenlining Institute we made more loans in South Central L.A. to blacks and Latinos making $35,000 or less for home ownership than the top eight banks in California combined. And in eight years not one home loan has ever gone bad.
DAVID HOROWITZ: You helped them out!
JOHN BRYANT: Now, it’s an honor for me to say ‘we’ve made 500 homeowners.’ But it’s a tragedy for me to say that ‘banks have made combined less than me.’ Eight of the largest banks in California, Mr. Member of the Banking Committee, have made far less loans than this little non-profit with a dream. And I’m sure their delinquencies are much higher than my in-suburban, middle class neighborhoods.
The tragedy for me, though, is there’s six million people in the City of Los Angeles. There’s 18 million people in the county, and there’s 34 million people in the State, which means I’m doing a despicable job, and I’m still doing it much better than everybody else. We created 100 homeowners. We have $130 million in outstanding lending commitments. We have, we went in and we said ‘there are no bank branches.’ And most people said ‘well, black folks and Latinos, and they don’t need bank branches, they don’t have any money.’
We said ‘we believe what the Bible says where there’s no vision the people perish.’ We built a bank branch in South Central L.A. Then we built a second one in [Watts], and a third one in East L.A. We became the first non-profit in history two months ago to build a bank branch and sell it to a bank. We have 16,000 customers every month.
And that was on the front page – that story was on the front page of the ‘Business Section of L.A. Times,’ not Community Relations, not Metro. It was also on the front page of ‘The American Banker,’ when we announced those landmark deals. Never been done before in history. We flipped the bank branches to banks, because they said ‘my God! These are new markets!’ Hello!
We decided – I hate check cashers. I hate check cashers, but I didn’t – you know, I could sit and moralize about it, or I can do something about it. So we partnered with the third largest bank in California, The Union Bank of California. And we decided to go-in and buy the largest check casher in South Central L.A., 47 locations, 600,000 people. We’re now – I’ve got them out of the check-cashing business and into the conversion business, and we now convert 40 percent of all check-cashing customers into banking customers, moving them up and out of poverty.
And so my last point, the most important thing that we do is to bank on the future. I am crazy. I believe we can eradicate poverty. I believe in partnership with good people, like Marlene [Miskieb], who worked with mentally ill and is a big supporter of yours, and parties with people like this, and working with members of the Bank Committee and the U.S. Senate.
And remember, because we partner with the Government, the community, and the private sector. I believe that it’s in our enlightened self-interest to create stakeholders. People don’t necessarily make more money, but make better decisions with the money they make. 3,000 structures damaged in the riots of ’92. David mentioned it, but was a little liberal in his description. 3,000 structures damaged in the riot of ’92, a billion dollars in property damage.
Guess how many were homes? Well who said that? You’ve been in one of my speeches, you read my pamphlet? Good! Because you don’t burn that which you own. It’s enlightened self-interest. 35 percent of the residents in South Central L.A. owned a home, 65 percent rented for the same cost as a mortgage payment.
Now that has to be a combination of low self-esteem, lack of education, and a lack of access, the reason you would do something unintelligent like that. Because if you knew better you’d do better! There’s not a welfare mother in this country in her right mind that doesn’t want her child to grow-up to be successful, intelligent, hard-working, and tax-paying so you can feel proud of them. but you can’t give what you don’t have. And in a blind town a one-eyed man is King!
Now here’s the real magic. 35 percent of the residents own homes. The voter turnout rate was 38 percent. Because I don’t care about tax policy unless I’ve got a job! I don’t care about a bond issue for infrastructure repairs unless I own a home or a business! And by the way, we’re talking about a job, like I recognize the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao is in the room – God bless you!
So I made a mission. I decided I’m going to educate every child in this country, by the time they get to eighth grade, on the basis of a checking account and a savings account, and the importance of credit and investment in their young lives. We have educated 96,000 kids in 400 schools, with 1,500 banker teachers, economic literacy.
And the Chairman of the FDIC and I are doing this economic literacy marathon across America. And when we get to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday of next week, when we get Secretary of Education, [Pace], Secretary of HUD, Martinez, the Chairman of the FDIC, the Mayor of the City, and hopefully, the Secretary of Labor, and others, in the classrooms, in the District of Columbia, in D.C., we will have educated our 100,000 child in checking, savings, credit, and investment, giving them the tools to compete in the 21st Century, because it’s not their fault if their mother is on crack and their father has been missing in action. It is their responsibility to move-forward, but we cannot blame poverty on the poor.
I am going to do that, and then I am going to [Fed] across this country and recruit people to help me help people help themselves.
And so I end my comments by telling you I’m ‘on fire with a passion to do well by doing good!’ And I admire people like the Senator who stand-up for the inner-city, not as a place for, you should write-off, or you should look at as a wasteland, but the last bashing of lost capitalism.
Here is my – here is what I leave you with. The 20th Century was marked by issues of race and the color line, all over the world. Aparti in South Africa, Civil Rights in the South, the Southern States of America. The 21st Century is going to be marked by issues of class and poverty. The rich are going to get richer, the poor are going to get poorer.
And unless we do something it’s going to be harder to be middle class. If you are middle class today it’s both parents working. If you’re middle class – I don’t care, black no class, white no class, orange no class, both parents – can I get an Amen?
JOHN BRYANT: And according to CNN half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s not half of a minority, but that’s half of all Americans. So if you’re living in California and New York and you make less than $50,000 a year you are struggling to make ends meet. This is an American issue, folks. This is an American issue, it’s not a minority issue.
And so these communities are not black communities, or brown communities, they are under-served communities. Where you and I live there’s too many gas stations, too many grocery stores, and too many supermarkets, and there are too many banks. But in these markets there’s under-served everything, which means you can benefit by doing well and doing good! May God bless you!
DAVID HOROWITZ: I posed a question ‘how do Republicans and conservatives show-up? How do we get involved? How do we build different influence and image in the inner-cities of America?’ The answer is simple ‘get behind John Bryant, and help him out.’
I’m going to be very brief, and this is unfair to Jim Bunning. But just the time factor. Like other, other young people of my generation when I was young, I knew more about our next speaker than I did about any politician, and I had more admiration for him. But for those of you who are not – Senator is, of course, a Hall of Famer. But he is not – the Hall of Fame is getting very large now. He is a ‘select’ Hall of Famer.
For those of you who don’t understand baseball, let me put it this way, there have been since the beginning of baseball probably, you know, a million players. And tens of thousands of pitchers. Jim Bunning was a pitcher. He is at striking-out batters, which is what pitchers need to do, there’s only one man who ever lived who struck-out more men than Jim Bunning. He is on the – I wish I could go on and on, but I want to let him speak!
He is on the Banking Committee, but he has been a leader in Social Security reform. And in my view Social Security is the political issue with which we can break-through and do a lot of the things that John has been speaking about. If we can get people their own control over their own personal accounts so they can pass-on their Social Security to their children we will do more to liberate poor people in this country and minorities in this country than any other thing that we can do. This is where the revolution is.
SENATOR JIM BUNNING: Principle, pragmatist. That’s a tough act. It really is. Thank you.
The subject that was given was ‘how to try to make the inner-cities better.’ And there are a lot of things we can do, and he is doing them. But there’s also a lot of things that we can do in the Senate and in the House of Representatives to try to assist.
The most important thing we could do is to change our basic philosophy. Ever since the new deal, and the Liberals have argued that more spending and programs can save the cities. We’ve fallen into a, what I call a trap. And let the public think the debate is about how much money we can spend, and how many programs we can start.
We’ve emphasized quantity rather than quality. I think we’ve suffocated our cities under a layer of programs and Government bureaucracy. And the result has been a decline in the cities in the quality of life for those who live in urban areas.
Instead of top-down Federal programs I think we have to peel-back layers of bureaucracy and empower individuals, businesses, community institutions, to help improve our cities. Where we can make a difference Government should act. Where we can’t we’ve got to get out of the way, and let others do what they can do best.
For instance, instead of passing another housing and urban renewal program we should reform tax policy to make it cheaper and more affordable for houses and families to buy homes in the cities -- exactly what you’re doing!
Less Government can actually mean more progress. Instead of quantity let’s be like the Marines and look for a few good men and women, or laws.
Let’s talk about tax policy first. Tax policy needs to be totally overhauled. If we want to bring people back to the cities tax policy should encourage individuals and families and not punish them for living in the city.
For business, expand environment zones to spark business, and even Liberals like Charlie Wrangle from Harlan are for that kind of a program. Business focus on one thing, the bottom line. Make it worth their while to come back to the cities, and they will.
For individuals they need tax relief to put more money in their pocket. For example, how about a homebuyer’s credit? In D.C. there’s a $5,000 credit for first-time homebuyers. And it has helped stem the flight out of that great city.
Some cities have sale tax holidays, and certain times like in August for back-to-school sales. Exempt this and expand it, and let the people keep more of the money in their pockets. Let them see that living in a city improves their bottom line.
Improve education in schools. This is a basic, really basic problem. Another aspect of cities is how to change that education. Urban schools must improve. Families have to want to send their children to the public schools in urban areas. If they can afford it they send them to private schools right now, and you don’t have to look any further than the members of Congress of the United States in Washington, D.C. About 80 percent send their kids to private schools.
We have to improve education in the cities, we have to change the debate with the Liberals, from talking about spending to talking about quality. We can’t outbid the Left when it comes to public spending. And we shouldn’t even try. As long as the public think that more programs and spending mean compensate, compassion, and concern, we’re going to lose the debate.
So if we want to improve education, especially in our cities, we have to first change the rules of the debate. The Liberals know this, and that’s why they kick and scream when we talk about issues that focus on quality, vouchers, teachers’ accountability, competitive ideas, like charter schools. And we need to qualify teachers.
Teaching, I talk about Kentucky because I know about it. Teaching the subjects that they know. In Kentucky we have to encourage teachers to get qualified in the subjects that they are then teaching in schools. Over 50 percent of the people, teaching our children in schools are teaching them subjects they’re not qualified to teach.
And we reward those teachers for getting Masters Degrees, rather than getting degrees in English, Spanish, French, math, science, so they can go into the school system and teach those subjects. We ought to reward that first, and then put in rewards for getting your Masters Degree.
More money is not the answer. In Washington, D.C. the third highest per pupil expenditures in the country. $10,000 annually for each child in the school system in Washington. And it’s awful. It doesn’t get the job done.
Each Fall they scramble to find the money to make sure that the schools have roofs. Each year! The Teachers Union always say the answer is more money. Instead, we need to talk about how to better spend the resources that we now have. We have to talk about competition and conservative needs to borrow a page from the Liberal playbook, and talk about what’s best for the kids.
What is best for the kids. William Jefferson Clinton, no matter what you think of him, was a master at this. Absolute master. Whenever he had a problem he would talk about how he was trying to help the kids, or some needy group. He was great at it. We need to frame the debate about education so that it shows that competition and quality, and not just more money, will improve the quality of our own kids’ education.
I want you to think about that, because that is so important in changing the way that people look at the inner-city. Education should be a birthright for school students, and not the teachers’ unions and the Board of Education bureaucrats.
Some Democrats have already figured this out, like Mayor Daly in Chicago. He took over that school system, and he’s trying to turn it around. When education and schools improves families will be wanting to move back into the cities. And until that happens they’re going to continue to head for the suburbs.
On the housing market, and he’s involved in that. There is a very big saying that Margaret Thatcher used to use. She said that ‘the most important things that worry her opponents, most of which she has done to turn the residents of public housing into tenants and homeowners.’ We need to continue that trend and make sure it happens.
My friend, Jack Kemp, who I am a soul brother with, we came together almost to the Congress of the United States. He has moved-on to bigger and better things, serving on many boards of directors, but he’s still my very good friend.
And I think this current Administration needs to look and focus on just the programs that he talked about when he was at HUD. It’s preached about – he sure did preach! And he continues to do that with me every time I see him!
It’s smart politics and it’s smart policy. It’s just common sense that you’re going to be – take better care, as you said, of something you own. You’re going to have a bigger stake in your neighborhood if you own rather than rent. We need to turn the people who live in public housing from tenants to homeowners, give them a stake, and watch them improve the quality of life in their inner-cities.
Another thing that the Busch Administration have talked about, and I wholeheartedly agree, is faith-based initiatives. This is one of the President’s best ideas, and I hope Congress keeps pushing to pass a bill to unshackle private charities and to give them more leeway to do good deeds with public money.
For a long time we’ve tried to improve cities through top-down management, central planning from the Federal Government. Well, it hasn’t worked. Instead, we need to pass legislation that empowers communities to fashion their own effective solutions, faith-based initiatives are part of this.
Let churches and charities and others who want to do good receive public money to run their programs. They can’t do any worse than the Civil Service is going right now. Make them accountable. Make them show results on a regular basis, but let them experiment. God, we need that!
There will be failures, but there will be a lot more successes. If they can’t deliver help and training better than Government programs I’d be very much surprised. At least let us try it. Instead of an agnostic Government program maybe we need to see how a faith-based initiative can do.
Private institutions and charities that are accountable and have to perform to earn more funding will be more responsive than Government programs run by people who usually don’t have to worry about job security.
Last but not least, crime. Everybody wants to live in a safe environment. Crime continues to be an area of concern, a major concern, when it comes to revitalizing our citizens. Statistics show that shifts in population tracts, the rise and fall of murder rates in cities. If the murder rate goes down in a city the population tends to increase. If it goes-up people move-out.
In the 1990s New York City gained population as Mayor Giuliani brought-down the murder rate to 8.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. Over the same time, Baltimore had a rate of 41 murders per 100,000 inhabitants and it lost 11.5 percent of its population. Philadelphia lost 4.5 percent of its population. It’s murder rate was 21 per 100,000 residents.
We should learn from what Rudy Giuliani and what New York did, aggressively prosecute, show you mean business, quickly go into high crime rate areas with a large police presence.
New York City in the 90’s also had good success with an even simpler idea. They focused on things as simple as improving the environment to help reduce crime. Replacing smashed windows, cleaning up areas, made an important symbolic statement and actually helped cut the crime rate. Simply by doing these little things made a big psychological difference.
This has worked in Washington also. Look at something as simple as the metro system in Washington D.C. It’s pristine, and the authorities work hard to keep it that way. And there is very little crime on the metro. Studies show that it – if it fell into disrepair that the atmosphere changed, crime would increase. It just proves that people respond to their surroundings.
There is still great potential in our cities. Over the last 50 years the suburbs grew and cities declined. Much of this was based on the rise of automobiles and our ability to live in a different place from where we work.
Now we’re starting to pay the price in terms of congestion, urban sprawl, and pollution. Now I believe we could start to see a shift in that mindset. With technology we can live where we work. The [dichotomy] between work and home will shrink. There will be less need to commute. There might even be an incentive to keep individuals in the suburbs more, or it might be easier and simpler to work and live in the cities if they are attractive and affordable.
In any event, this could represent a fundamental shift for our cities. I think if we work on these issues that I’ve talked about and other things that John has talked about, individual initiative, things might change better for our urban centers. At least I’ve seen it work in some areas, and I hope we can make it work in most of the areas. And you’ll see a dramatic shift from urban flight to suburban, returning to the inner-cites.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
DAVID HOROWITZ: I think we have the makings of an alliance here. I would like to ask John just to say a couple of words about what’s happening on Tuesday, Banking on America, to show you how far this alliance has already moved.
JOHN BRYANT: We have, as I mentioned briefly, the Chairman of the FDIC has agreed to be the National Honorary Chairman of something I call ‘Banking On Our Future Across America.’ The FDIC has made Operation Hope and our Banking On Our Future Program their national partner to teach the entire family economic literacy.
And we will come together, we’ve gone from L.A. to the Bay area, to Chicago, to New York, and now to D.C. We have to teach 15,000 kids and 400 class sessions on five days and five cities, checking, savings, credit, and investment.
And when we finish in D.C. on Tuesday we will have taught our hundredth thousandth child economic literacy at a cost of $20 per child, no cost to Government, and no cost to schools. And we will light-up D.C. with a bipartisan effort to eradicate poverty. I don’t think that poverty eradication should be a partisan issue, it’s an American issue.
And so we have the Mayor of D.C., a Democrat, in the classroom teaching. We’ve got the Secretary of HUD, as I mentioned. The Secretary of Education, part of, of course, the Busch Administration in a classroom. The Chairman of the FDIC, a Busch appointee in classrooms. We have Deputy Secretaries and Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries in classrooms along with a banker, teacher, training and educating children economic literacy.
And the beauty here is that most of these kids have only – the only financial planner they’ve ever met is the drug dealer on the street corner. So this is the first time they’ll ever meet a banker. This is the first time they’ll ever see a Senator. This is the first time they’ll ever – it may be the first time they’ll ever see a Secretary of the Cabinet.
How inspiring that is for their lives, for them to be introduced to this world, and for these people to say ‘my life is not perfect. I used to be a renter. Let me tell you how I became a homeowner.’ These are Senators talking, these are Cabinet members talking. ‘I made mistakes, but a saint is a sinner that got-up.’
And so we’re asking these folks to get-up. And I think that Tuesday is going to be a great day for our nation. And I think the first time that a Republican Administration has ever done something like this, which is basically blitz an inner-city school with hope.
I want to commend the Senator on his remarks. I, 99.9 percent everything he said I was cheering inside, and the one percent I didn’t cheer I just don’t understand yet.
And so I would suggest that – my recommendation is that we need to have a Civil Rights Senate, we need to have a Civil Rights Congress, and we need to have a Civil Rights President. And if you do that, if you stay issue focused to get the politics, to get the, you know, ‘he against me’ and ‘calling Democrats idiots.’
And you know, ‘I said,’ and you read that pamphlet. I said ‘you know, look, if I grew-up and my Mother is an idiot, I can call my Mother an idiot, you can’t call my Mother an idiot!’ The point is ‘she’s my Mother, and she’s been with me for 20 years.’ And that’s the wrong strategy.
The right strategy is the way you replace a bad idea is with a better one. And if you help me get through college, if you help me get a job, if you help me become a homeowner, I’m going to say ‘I’m with you!’ If you can’t help me do those things then you’re just wasting my time.
And President Busch when he came to South Central was issue focused and they rallied behind him, because that’s what people are concerned with are improving the quality of their lives.
Senator, thank you very, very much.
SENATOR JIM BUNNING: Thank you, John.
DAVID HOROWITZ: And we put in your bags John’s speech at the last Restoration Weekend called ‘Leave No Community Behind,’ which outlines the programs.
Sir, go ahead. We have a very short time, so make it really short.
CONGRESSMAN ROGER WICKER: Two very good presentations. I can ask Jim Bunning all the questions I want to when we get back to Washington.
But, Mr. Bryant, you’ve already partially answered my question. My question is what can Government do? What can we in the Congress do?
Now, part of what I understand you’re saying is that the FDI officials and Cabinet members come as sort of public figures and they try to inspire people in a way to be examples.
But when you founded this non-profit with a dream, and when you partnered with banks to actually put people in homes, did -- was their a Government program that helped? And is there some act or some agency that helps you do what you do in that respect?
JOHN BRYANT: What’s your name?
CONGRESSMAN ROGER WICKER: I’m Roger Wicker.
JOHN BRYANT: God bless you! I’ve got to talk to you later. I mean, you – the question you’re asking is ‘the question.’
CONGRESSMAN ROGER WICKER: Gosh!
JOHN BRYANT: Can I answer, respond.
CONGRESSMAN ROGER WICKER: Sure, yeah.
JOHN BRYANT: Number one, the one Federal law that any banker in America who is enlightened, and who gets it, and who is profitable, will tell you has helped him or her make a profit is the Community Reinvestment Act, CRA. Now, the OCRA was a giveaway program. The new CRA stresses investment, lending, and service.
And if you talk to the Chairman of the Bank of America, you talk to the Chairman of Citi Group, you talk to the Chairman of Wells Fargo, or the Chairman of the Union Bank of California, they will tell you ‘I hated this program, I thought it was a giveaway program, but I – the Government forced me to put my toe in the water, and now I’m doing laps in the pool by myself because I found-out there is money in them there hills, there’s unmet need.’
And they’re profitable business blocks of business. No bank has ever gone broke lending to poor people. But countless have gone broke lending to the Enrons of the world. And so the CRA was a start.
But I have actually produced – or introduced something to the President that I’m trying to push called ‘the April 29th Accord,’ which signifies the date that President Busch came into South Central, 10 years after the worst riot in U.S. history. And he should be commended for that. Everybody thought he wouldn’t do it.
And it’s the ‘Leave No Community Behind Accord.’ And it seeks to leverage private sector resources and volunteerism with Federal existing resources in a way that is not quantitative but qualitative, producing results.
Bureaucrats in Government is horrible on the ground. Stakeholders are beautiful on the ground, but they don’t have the resources. If you can match the resources with people who are passionate about change you can drive results to the bottom line.
So I’d love to chat with you about it in more detail later.
CONGRESSMAN ROGER WICKER: Good, right.
JOHN BRYANT: But it’s exactly what I’m talking about, and what you’re suggesting by your question is that you get it already. And so that has inspired me to want to take that to the next level.
What we’re doing on Tuesday is inspirational but is not enough. It’s a beginning. You’ve got to do more than just show-up and be a teacher in the classroom. But it is a genuine beginning. I think that the next thing we have to do is to make the programs truly work for the people, and make them on-the-ground effective.
And so I think what I’d say is Operation Hope has done a good job, but if we need Government to help me magnify the model. Because I can’t eradicate poverty in my lifetime even growing 100 percent a year with my limited resources.
So we’ve got models that work, best practices, let the Government take them and magnify them in cities of need.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Congressman, when you asked that question it reminded me how I met John Bryant. And this is – we need to pay a tribute to our leaders. Unfortunately, J.C. Watts is now leaving the Congress.
But J.C. Watts and Senator [Santorum] created the American Community Renewal Alliance, and they asked me to hold a -- they wanted to do a field kind of, you know, investigation in South Central in Los Angeles to see exactly what you asked, what Congress can do to help organizations like John’s. And that’s how John, that’s how he came to it, and we formed this alliance, and that’s how the President of the United States got to South Central on the Anniversary of the riots. So thank you for the question.
QUESTION: Okay, I have a question for both speakers, which is directly based on my recent, direct experience. About two or three weeks ago I ran an ad recruiting a secretary for me. I am based in Oakland, California.
I was flooded by zillions of phone calls and tons of resumes looking for jobs. There’s – and most of those applicants were black Americans. They want to work, they have been out of work for six months or a year. They have no money to buy food. They really don’t want to go on welfare, but simply they can’t find jobs.
They’re saying that there are many jobs require that job applicants speak foreign languages, in Spanish, or Chinese, or all those different languages. And they also, of course, I mean the legal immigrants were out of work. Would have the same problem with me.
And I asked that, you know, some of them. And I said ‘why don’t you become nursing aids? You know, I heard there’s a shortage.’ They said ‘the problem is, at least in California, you are required to take some classes, and to take those classes you need $400.’ They don’t have $400, yet we, we – in California especially, we are subsidizing illegal immigration by granting in-State tuition. We spend billions of dollars educating illegal kids. And we spend billions of billions of dollars nationally giving welfare to illegals.
Now, Senator Bunning was talking about improving education by hiring, let’s say, qualified teachers. Not only in California. We have one in four kids who does not understand English well enough to follow the instructions in the classroom. You have schools throughout the U.S. in many States that are swarmed with immigration related enrollments. In North Carolina, kids there speak 107 languages. In some schools in Arkansas the number of [ES well] kids have gone-up 27 times, 2,007 percent since 1990.
Schools are absolutely overwhelmed by immigration related enrollments, so how could you hire -- there are many, many teachers without proper credentials who are being hired to just cope with this immigrant enrollments. So again, how could you really do what you want to do without at the same time calling for some sort of time-out for immigration?
You were talking about helping people buy houses. The fact of the matter is many people don’t even have jobs, don’t even have money to put food on the table. Thank you.
DAVID HOROWITZ: We have one minute, and we can’t open the whole immigration issue here. Just make this a one-sentence question.
QUESTION: I’m not a banker, and I’m not in Congress, what can I do?
JOHN BRYANT: Oh, God bless you! First of all, you can write to your Senator.
SENATOR JIM BUNNING: She can come see me!
QUESTION: That will be Mrs. Dole.
JOHN BRYANT: Okay, well actually I’m serious. You can, you can write to your Senator, and say ‘you’re interested in this issue.’ And if she’s not briefed on this issue she should go talk to Senator Bunning so that he can give her the insight. So I’m serious about that, that’s number one.
Number two, you can volunteer. Go to USA Freedom Corp, the President’s National Service Organization, for which we are affiliated. Come to Operation Hope, we can put use to you. There are tons of opportunities to volunteer.
But most people volunteer within their comfort zones. If you live in the suburbs you volunteer in the YMCA in your suburbs, your school in the suburbs, and so what I say is ‘kind of push the envelope a bit, get beyond your comfort zones.’
And if you call me I will walk you into some opportunities which may be outside of your comfort zone, but will be inside of your quality zones.
I want to – to the point that was raised earlier by the young lady about jobs. I want to commend, again, the Secretary of Labor for trying to actually bridge the gap on this issue. You have in D.C. thousands of people who want jobs. You have in Virginia and D.C. thousands of job providers looking for applicants.
The problem is not intent. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, the problem is skills. You need to be computer literate to work in corporate America in the information age, and most, and a quarter of all residents of D.C. don’t have a high school diploma.
So we have an inner-cities job partnership that seeks to give you those skills, bridge, give you a certificate from UCLA extension, give you 16 college credits, and then we place you in a job at a living wage moving from $8 to $18 an hour.
But things like that need to be supported, and you need to, again, tell you, your accounts person, your Senator support Labor Department when they put bills forward, to expand these areas, these issues of creating people who are job ready.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Thank you. Thank you, John. Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR JIM BUNNING: Just one …
DAVID HOROWITZ: Yeah, go ahead.
SENATOR JIM BUNNING: Just one response. Both Senator Edwards and Senator Elect Dole could get your information and your request to look at CRA, if that is the agency that has been helpful to John. Then one of those two may be on the Banking Committee, and one of them may be able to assist in increasing CRA. So that was my suggestion.
DAVID HOROWITZ: You could also go to the John Locke Foundation and get them to invite John and Shannon to come speak to them, and start a movement in your State.
Thank you all for coming. Thank you, John. God bless you all!