Commissioner Paul S. Atkins
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Los Angeles, California
April 23, 2007
Thank you, John. Before I begin, I must note that the views that I express here today are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or my fellow Commissioners.
It is a real honor and privilege for me to be here for today’s bus tour. While we look back with sadness at the tragic, heart-wrenching events of fifteen years ago, we can celebrate the process of transformation that the South Los Angeles community has undergone since then. This process is ongoing and promises a more secure and prosperous future for this community.
We also cannot forget the tragedy of last week in Blacksburg, Virginia. Senseless violence; senseless killing. The madness and evil that we have to confront, as our ancestors have confronted it for thousands of years before us. Humans having no regard for others’ lives or property. We have come so far, yet have so much further to go. Evil is still with us.
That is why I salute Operation Hope and John Bryant. Theirs is a voice of hope for the future – of overcoming adversity through work, education, savings, and investment. John has already so eloquently described his life and how he came to the realization after the South Los Angeles riots that we need to promote empowerment and self-reliance versus negativism and the culture of victimization. Ownership. Enterprise. A hand-up; not a hand-out.
We have an incredible economy going now: a record-high stock market; growth rates that rival those of developing countries, not the tired developed countries of the old world; 21 straight quarters of real economic growth. Since 2003, 7.8 million jobs have been created in the US — more jobs created than created during the same period in all the other major industrialized countries combined. We need to ensure that this economic growth is experienced by all.
One of my favorite responsibilities as an SEC Commissioner is assisting with the SEC’s investor education efforts. I have visited with grammar school students, soldiers, senior citizens, hurricane victims, and others to talk to them about the importance of investing and ways to avoid some of the common investment scams and pitfalls. Individuals contribute not only to their own economic prospects, but to the economy as a whole, by making wise investment decisions. They provide capital for mortgages, risk-taking, new ideas. In turn, a strong economy means more jobs, more opportunities, and more chances for parents to see their dreams for their children’s futures fulfilled.
Our mission at the SEC is more indirect to a reconstruction effort than that of others, but no less essential. By policing against fraud in the securities markets, we help to make a solid foundation for investment. A theft that a criminal perpetrates against a well-meaning investor through an internet scam or hard-pressure telephone selling is no less a crime than stealing a purse. Often, it is more devastating, because the size of the theft tends to be more than most of us carry in our pocketbooks and because of the effect that the theft invariably has on savings and retirement plans. If the individual tragedy were not enough, the theft in turn diminishes the store of capital that the system has for investment.
I will close by quoting "Dreams" by poet Langston Hughes, who lived during the last century on the other coast, but whose advice is pertinent here today.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
His words continue to remind us that efforts at strengthening communities like South Los Angeles need to continue so that our children will be able to hold fast to their dreams and realize them one day.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to boarding the bus to get a first-hand look at the positive changes that the community has made over the past fifteen years.