It is that time of year again, time for the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. Thousands of credit union professionals and volunteers will come to our nation’s capital to hear speakers ranging from television and sports personalities, authors, senators and congressman to federal regulators. They will attend numerous workshops, receptions and have an excellent opportunity to network with their counterparts from across the country.
They will walk up the long flight of steps to the Capitol doors and enter the office of the elected representative from their home districts as they hike the hill. They will have the chance to look at the photographs hanging in the reception area along with the artifacts that identify the state of the elected official. Then they will be escorted into the inner chamber, the private office, where they will have a short period of time to make their case. A few minutes to explain who they are and why they are there.
In recent years, the conversation has focused on increased member business lending and alternative capital. Two important issues that credit unions should be afforded. Two important issues that thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears have been expended in an effort to put together the vote to get it done. Two important issues that have not been realized in spite of the efforts made.
So while these two ideas remain good ones and achievable sometime in the future, they perhaps are not the ones that should be the main focus of the time spent with the elected officials.
What may be a better use of the personal meeting this year would be to re-educate, reacquaint, and reintroduce to the members of the House and the Senate what credit unions are all about. The message is that credit unions provided financial help and education in areas where other financial institutions do not. Credit unions support businesses in communities across the country by loaning them money to grow and provide jobs. They are not owned by shareholders of corporations. Rather, they are owned by their members, the people who save with them and whose homes they mortgage, care they finance and loans they provide to send their children to college. They are neighborhood financial institutions that represent and serve the people who live, work and worship in those neighborhoods. Credit unions care for those people and they care for our country.
This week as thousands of credit union professionals and volunteers meet in Washington to interact with one another on how to continue to provide needed financial resources to over 94 million Americans from Maine to Michigan to Hawaii. Credit unions have a sound message to share and reintroducing credit unions to House and Senate members is an idea to focus on.
This may also be a time to ask Congress to remember credit unions and the job they do as they work to make our country strong again. The credit union system is not broken as some bloggers would claim it to be. The message is there and very much alive.
I look forward to seeing you at this year’s GAC.
Michael E. Fryzel