Financial literacy is the founding first tool on the road to financial dignity for all.
I was honored to join Newark Mayor Cory Booker earlier this year for the first ever White House Urban Entrepreneurship Summit where I and others spoke, and Operation HOPE was a partner in the effort with the mayor and the Obama Administration. One of the ideas advanced during the summit, by Michael Blake from the Obama Administration and others including Reshma Saujani (pictured above), was the creation of a Mayor's Financial Literacy Council in Newark, New Jersey, fashioned after the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability (on which I serve for the President).
While many public officials these days are rightly so accused of talking and seldom if ever delivering, I am pleased to say today that Mayor Cory Booker did precisely the opposite here. He said very little about the initiartive in the weeks following the summit, but then after a subsequent meeting between another member of the President's Council, my friend Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz (also Council Partnership Committee Chair), and later myself and my right arm for policy Jena Roscoe, I was informed that the mayor intended to act. And act he did.
At the most recent public meeting of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, held on November 8th, 2011 and led by Council chairman John Rogers, Carrie and I read into the records a formal letter from Mayor Cory Booker, wherein he committed the City of Newark to creating a first ever Mayor's Council on Financial Literacy. I also shared the mayor's commitment in an earlier closed door meeting with Ms. Valerie Jarrett, Michael Strautmanis, Gene Sperling and other senior White House staff at the White House.
This commitment from Mayor Booker, which joins commitments from Mayor of Miami Tomas P. Regalado, Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves and several others, is critically important to making the tenants of the Council real for the average person living in communities across America.
The vision for local councils, which is still in active development in the Partnership Committee and the Capital Access Committees of the Council, is to be operational and to have local, on the ground impact in ways that the federal council cannot (by statute). The best research possible anywhere will come from the on-the-ground reaction from constituents, city and county employees, youth and families themselves, as we seek to connect them with resources; including but not limited to the Earned Income Tax Credit, banking the unbanked and under-banked, enhanced access to capital for those outside the mainstream, mortgage crisis and consumer credit intervention assistance, private financial counseling, employer supported financial literacy tools and services (and incentives), and financial literacy curriculum for local school districts and nonprofit organizations. Local councils are also a place where the mayor can appoint local outstanding leaders from government, community and the private sector (leading locally based CEOs) to serve and to help "operationalize" this vision on the ground, in local communities.
Responding to an inspired outside request, we are now actively working with the National Conference of Black Mayors (more than 700 strong across the nation) to make this vision real for their members as well.
A special thank you to Council Chairman John Rogers, Council Vice Chairman Amy Rosen, friends Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and Arty Arteaga and my fellow Council Members, Mayor Cory Booker and his deputy chief of staff Anthony Santiago, who led the effort to get this done on behalf of the mayor within his office. Of course, a special thank you to President Obama, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Remember, rainbows only follow storms. You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first. We are all working hard to make sure that something positive comes as a result of this global economic crisis.
The best is yet to come. Okay, let's go.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.