From John Hope Bryant
Founder, chairman and CEO, Operation HOPE
Vice chairman, U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy
The following is a statement by John Hope Bryant. As founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, America’s first non-profit social investment banking organization, founded after the Rodney King riot of 1992 in Los Angeles, I am writing to provide my support for SBA Administrator Steve Preston as the new HUD Secretary nominee. I know Administrator Preston through Operation HOPE’s work in the Gulf following Hurricane Katrina. Frankly, the relationship started out on somewhat shaky ground, as I make it a personal commitment to only involve HOPE in agreements and government led initiatives that I believe will bring real value to real people. Following Hurricane Katrina Operation HOPE was asked to partner with the SBA in the Gulf, prior to Administrator Preston’s arrival, in an initiative that in my opinion was well intentioned but respectfully, never achieved its stated objectives (for the people there). As far as I was concerned, the problem was one of organizational leadership.
As soon as Mr. Preston was confirmed as SBA Administrator I went to visit with him on this matter. And while I did not get the response I necessarily desired, he was absolutely straight with me, which I respected, and needed. From that moment forward my and our relationship with the SBA changed, for the better.
Since that time we have righted our working relationship overall, and in October, 2007, we launched a partnership at our new Harlem HOPE Banking Center wherein they have committed staff and program resources to promote small business and entrepreneurship on the ground in and around the Harlem community. The partnership is working, and is possibly a model we can replicate throughout the nation, in our remaining 8 HOPE Banking Centers in Anacostia and throughout California.
Finally, when President Bush signed an Executive Order that I had personally been championing and encouraging over the years; making financial literacy the policy of the federal government, on January 22, 2008, and thereafter establishing the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, led by financial guru Charles Schwab as chairman, and me as vice chairman, once again Mr. Preston and the SBA was there. Of all federal agencies which this Executive Order impacts, the SBA, under Administrator Steve Preston and Associate Administrator Anoop Prakash’s leadership, initiated immediate contact with me and the President’s Council, seeking to establish a new SBA Office of Entrepreneurship Education, in line with the Executive Order – and the needs of the under-served communities I serve here at Operation HOPE. It is my hope that the President’s Council will seriously consider this proposal in the weeks to come.
Given this, my personal experience with SBA Administrator Preston’s leadership, I am pleased to support Mr. Preston as the new Secretary of HUD.
As a final but related note, when HOPE hosted then HUD Secretary Jackson in South Central Los Angeles along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on March 5th, 2008, where Jackson announced the new increased limits around FHA, this new yet temporary change in FHA resulted In a spontaneous and sustained standing ovation from the assembled group of community, faith and business leaders present. I have subsequently had an opportunity to meet FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery and was likewise impressed with him. Together, Mr. Preston and Mr. Montgomery would make a formidable team in helping to stem the damage from the ongoing mortgage subprime crisis, while also providing a long-term vision for an agency so critical to the needs of the poor and those seeking to become “silver rights” stakeholders in America.