Every now and then, you meet a person who actually says what they mean, and means what they say.
Every now and then, you meet a truly authentic leader. A man or woman of substance, intelligence and character.
It is rare to meet that leader in a present position of immense power and authority.
It is rare to meet that leader, respectfully, in the political arena.
It is rare to meet a leader with both mission and purpose.
It is rare to meet this same leader, who is able to see both vision and practicality in the same breath.
It is rarer still, to meet such a person in an environment where ‘the urgent often crowds out the important.’
This is the story of one of those people. One of those special people. One of those leaders.
His name is U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Because of him and his laser-like focus here on ‘doing the right thing,’ today the U.S. federal government announced the renaming of U.S. Treasury Annex as the Freedman’s Bank Building.
I will tell this story with more detail and substance in the days and weeks to come, but here is a bit of the back story around the building renaming.
I was honored to sit down earlier this year with Secretary Jack Lew, tied both to my work at Operation HOPE, my bestselling book “How The Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class. The Solution for the 100%,” and The Freedman’s Bank Tour, which told the story of the Freedman’s Bank and our untapped American and human aspiration.
I also sat down with the Secretary in my role as a Member of President Barack Obama’s President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability on Young Americans, serving President Barack Obama.
All that said, my topic was singular for this meeting.
I wanted to respectfully request something that most people told me was an impossibility. The renaming of the U.S. Treasury Annex Building, into the Freedman’s Bank Building.
I was told by those outside of that meeting that it would never happen. But that is not what Secretary Jack Lew said. Secretary Lew had a different view of the world. He saw possibilities, just as I did.
Secretary Jack Lew told me that he was indeed interested, and that the world should indeed ‘know’ about their own American history. And he agreed, ‘the Freedman’s Bank Building was a much better name than the U.S. Treasury Annex Building.’ That was both funny,and true. And more interesting also.
The rest of this historic story of real leadership I will unpack in the fullness of time, but this post is a simple one. It is a thank you to Mr. Jack Lew. To thank Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
A a good man who allowed God to use him to ‘do the right thing.’
His name — is Jack Lew.
And here comes the legacy of the Freedman’s Bank Building, 150 years later.
Alive from this day forward, in the name of the Freedman’s Bank Building in Washington, D.C.
Alive as well through the work of Operation HOPE on the ground, opening Project 5117 offices, inclusive of HOPE Inside locations, HOPE Business In A Box Academies, HOPE B- Business Compact School sites. All laser focused, on helping to finish what President Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Ambassador Andrew Young had in mind.
A nationwide system for ‘uplift.’
Here is a link to the HOPE 100-City Book Tour and the Freedman’s Bank Tour of 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Here is a link to the work of Project 5117, on the ground. We are opening an average of one office a week.
Doing this work, for the benefit of the least of these God’s children, is how I will say ‘thank you’ ~ to Secretary Jack Lew the most.
John Hope Bryant
Author’s note: A special thank you to key Treasury officials who helped to support and make this happen, including Wally Adeyemo, Amias Moore Gerety, Melissa Koide and so many others within the building.
Dr. Lorraine Cole and Louisa Quittman, and Jena Roscoe on my own Operation HOPE Team, also deserve special recognition.