Thirty years ago, from the ashes of a smoldering city impacted by violence and despair a beacon of hope emerged for the poor, the forgotten, and the disenfranchised: Operation HOPE. From its inception, HOPE has always been a source of inspiration for the potential that lies in every person, city, and community that’s uplifted with the transformative power of dignity, financial literacy, and opportunity. Three decades later, that mission is as relevant as ever.
Following the tumultuous riots that had raged on in Los Angeles for days on end, I had a vision that I believed could profoundly impact and change the city forever. I believed that with financial literacy coaching and preparation, the average man and woman could lift themselves out of economic despair and begin experiencing the fulness of the American Dream. With tireless pursuit and coalition building, my dedicated team and I began launching HOPE Centers, which would later develop into what we now call HOPE Inside.
These HOPE Inside locations have become a symbol of the collective work and partnership of banks and institutions that understand the importance of extending the life-giving power of financial freedom to their clients, communities, and employees. From them, we have empowered 2.4 million adults with financial dignity across nearly 1,500 U.S. cities and towns. 71% of clients have seen an increase of 47 points to their FICO scores. Additionally, we have created nearly 3,000 small businesses and have helped fund 11,000 homeowners with nearly $2 billion in mortgage loans.
We are successful because we are making a difference.
Since 1992, Operation HOPE has become a champion for the underserved and Invisible Class. Following in the social justice tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his lieutenant in the fight for equal rights and our Global Ambassador, Ambassador Andrew Young, we have been the financial advocate and banker for the American people. I have had the privilege and honor of taking this fight to the highest levels of government, ensuring that financial literacy is a priority for the nation by securing it as federal policy under the George W. Bush Administration. Further, our work led to the renaming of the Treasury Annex building in Washington D.C. to the Freedman’s Bank Building in honor of Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln’s vision for the economic empowerment of formerly enslaved people in America.
Following the horrific attacks of 9/11, I saw the need to connect federal services and nonprofit entities to better serve communities across the nation in the face of disaster. This resulted in the birth of HOPE Coalition America (HCA), which is linked to one of our major programs, HOPE Inside Disaster.
HOPE’s style of advocacy and public-private partnerships came to a head in 2020 when our nation dealt with twin pandemics of COVID-19 and a social justice reckoning that emerged in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Nearly 28 years after its inception, HOPE was called back to the forefront of public discourse, highlighting the social ills of Black people in America as well as the economically underserved across the nation. Our voice helped lead the charge towards change on the national level, as well as with our corporate partners and others seeking to make a difference.
Out of this national revival of consciousness emerged new meaningful programs that extended our work into a new era, what I call the Third Reconstruction. National programs and initiatives like 1 Million Black Businesses (1MBB) powered by HOPE and Shopify, Financial Literacy for All (FL4A), and the Investors’ Bill of Rights provide an immediate solution with long-term consequences that everyone at every level can be a part of to help change our national narrative and course-correct towards collective growth and prosperity.
Locally, we continue to be a trusted partner in helping to achieve financial wellness for all people – from corporate wellness initiatives like HOPE Inside the Workplace for adults down to the youngest citizens, as with the newly launched Atlanta Child Savings Program.
As we celebrate 30 years of impact and uplift, we look forward to 30 more years of progress, economic empowerment, and opportunity for all Americans of every race, creed, and economic background.
Today, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, “What does success look like to me?” Are you simply measuring success by cash flow? Your tangible assets? The number of vacations you take? Or are you measuring success by the lives you touch and the impact you make on the world?
The answer doesn’t have to be either/or. Rather it can be both. I encourage you to continue being kind to others and do good to all while you continue your pursuit of economic excellence.
Thank you for celebrating with us. Happy birthday, Operation HOPE!