EL PASO, Texas -- Reaching out to the disenfranchised and taking a grassroots approach were some of the parallels that credit union leaders used to describe the historical election of President-elect Barack Obama with the movement.
His mantra for change resonated with Larry Garcia, vice chairman of the Network of Credit Union Latino Professionals, a group dedicated to increasing the representation and participation of Latinos in the industry. Just as important a connection was Obama's efforts to include all Americans regardless of party affiliation, gender or race, he added.
"Credit unions were a reaction to a problem that many immigrants had when they came to America--not being included," said Garcia, who is also CEO of El Paso Affordable Housing CUSO, an entity owned by eight credit unions. "Credit unions serve immigrants, low-income and those who have been disenfranchised by the mainstream."
Barbara Stephens said she can not help but make the link between the way Obama ran his campaign and the credit union's founding philosophy. As president/CEO of Houston Municipal Employees FCU, she is always reminded of the differences between credit unions and banks.
"I hear it all the time. 'If it wasn't for my credit union, I would not have been able to get a loan,'" said Stephens, who is also chairwoman of the African American Credit Union Coalition.
Michael Chan, chairman of Northeast Community Federal Credit Union, said the hundreds of thousands of people who donated to Obama's "people-driven, technology-driven" campaign was a strong indicator of inclusion.
"These were people from all walks of life. His message touched people and it resonated with them," Chan said.
"[The troubled economy] goes beyond the traditional populations served by [community development credit unions]. It extends far into the middle class," Chan said.
In his travels around the world, Pete Crear, president/CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions, said he doesn't think he's been in a cab this year where the driver didn't ask about the election in the United States.
"It would appear to me that his presidency is aimed at the groups that credit unions serve including families and all things credit unions stand for," Crear said. "Other movements [worldwide] have expressed interest in the election and think it is a positive for the United States. It is changing the perception of and what this country stands for."