Upon setting down earlier today in mother South Africa, I felt a calm breeze come cross my face; it was the air and the aroma of freedom I was feeling. And while black South Africans have achieved a significant measure of freedom, political power, and even social justice since Nelson Mandela, de Klerk and the ANC helped to "open wide the freedom gates," quoting my friend Dr. Dorothy Height, like American blacks following the civil rights movement at home, today they long for, and need, something more.
That something more is not just what we called civil rights at home, later modeled all around the world, including here in South Africa, ...but silver rights too. It is not a matter of one or the other, but a need for both.
And just as we have been working hard at Operation HOPE to move America from civil rights to silver rights over the past 15 years, so too are we now coming to South Africa as a result of a local invitation, and later other parts of this great African continent, offering the fruits of a growing silver rights movement to the poor and the underserved here as well.
Ambassador Andrew Young, the senior aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement and now my personal hero, mentor and our global spokesman for Operation HOPE, once told me that "we integrated the lunch counters, but now we must integrate the dollar." That is our calling here at Operation HOPE, to "fix the Jericho Roads" of this world and not simply settle for the role of the Good Samaritan. We must all go further in the 21st century, because the problems are so much deeper, the need so urgent, the opportunity there for the taking, and the timing now.
As I often have said, I see the mission of the silver rights movement as nothing short of "making capitalism and the free enterprise system relevant to the poor," and ultimately to make it "work for the poor." And that is why we have come here to mother Africa, and South Africa in particular, to teach young people and adults financial literacy, entrepreneurship and dignity too. That is why I am so optimistic about this place the world calls Africa. Others see problems, but I see opportunity. That is her new name. A continent called Opportunity, and a people called HOPE.
Remember, "you cannot have a rainbow without a storm first."
A special thank you to my hero Ambassador Andrew Young, along with good friends Sean Cleary, former Wellington mayor Herman Bailey, his son Heindri Bailey, Thierry Tanoh, Kevin Kellems, Taddy Blecher, Ajay Banga, Natalie Abatemarco, Martinna Gmur, Sharon Deutsche-Nadir and all the others who helped to make the Banking on Our Future, South Africa commitment (to be formally announced in June, 2007) real. Our lead partners for Banking on Our Future, South Africa include the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank, Citigroup, the Clinton Global Initiative, the City of Wellington, CIDA University and a host of others. Keep you posted as we go....
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant