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NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Remarks at the African American Credit Union Coalition Hall of Fame Induction

February 2023
NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Remarks at the African American Credit Union Coalition Hall of Fame Induction

As Prepared for Delivery on February 28, 2023

Good evening, everyone. And, thank you, Karen, for that moving introduction. You represent the best of Hoosier hospitality, and I’m so pleased that we share that common bond of calling Indiana home. I also look forward to joining you in May for the grand opening of Afena’s new headquarters.

When I first learned of my selection to the AACUC Hall of Fame, I was shocked because the recognition was totally unexpected. My emotions then took over, and I cried for joy. That’s because I felt affirmed for the things I hold as my core values — diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I consider this honor to be among the very highest of my life, right up there with being nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the NCUA Board. And, this recognition means so much to me, especially knowing the caliber of the current and past honorees, several of whom I feel lucky to call friends.

After all, the list of Hall of Fame alumni reads like a who’s who of leading voices for economic equity and justice within the credit union movement. Given all that AACUC does to advance financial security in historically under-resourced communities, to be counted among the trailblazers who comprise this class of inductees is inspiring. And, that is what makes this moment so much more meaningful for me.

In a sense, all of us here are traveling partners. We look to one another for encouragement, support, and motivation. And, we continue to reach out to and invite others to join us on this journey. That’s why I am a big believer in the allyship needed to make progress toward our ultimate destination, true inclusion for all and in all aspects of life.

I recently heard Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, the noted higher education administrator and philanthropic leader from Arkansas, who shared her story about the “power of one.”1 She spoke about her traumatic experience as a member of the second class of African American students entering Little Rock Central High School in 1959, following in the footsteps of the Little Rock Nine.

When she returned for her 20th class reunion — or as she put it, “back to the scene of the crime” — she was initially shunned by her white classmates much the same way she had been shunned when she was a student. But, then something special happened.

At the banquet, a white classmate, who had never spoken to her while in school or in all the years since, met Dr. Hampton’s incredible courage with some of his own. That man sat with Dr. Hampton and her parents. Only then did other classmates feel comfortable engaging with Dr. Hampton, expressing their regret for mistreating her and admiration for her bravery two decades earlier.

In Dr. Hampton’s eyes, that man’s actions embodied the principle of the “power of one” — where one person creates the space for others to do the unthinkable, namely welcoming the unwelcome, including the excluded, and loving the unloved. Going against the status quo can make an individual a target of scorn, the subject of ridicule, and an object of suspicion.

Even though I am a white male, I have certainly experienced all of those things as a gay man. And, I know that many of you here have also exponentially experienced hatred and derision. But, acting from the heart and practicing the “power of one” can make an individual a change agent, and that’s where I stand.

When one classmate audaciously decided to become Dr. Hampton’s ally, others found their own courage to stand on the side of right. And, that’s what I see here, a room full of battle-hardened allies who are ready to work together and make a difference for all Americans, especially for those whom society has historically mistreated and shunned.

It’s through our work that we will expand financial security and create opportunities for all Americans within the credit union system. And, it’s why we — at the NCUA — have modified our rules to unlock the full potential of the Emergency Capital Investment Program for minority depository institutions. It’s why we are enhancing our fair lending supervision. It’s why we host an industry-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion summit. It’s also why we created a grant initiative to assist credit unions in closing the racial wealth gap. It’s why we customized exams for minority depository institutions, allowing them to focus more on serving members than meeting peer metrics for credit unions operating under a different business model. And, it’s why we are working to root out racial bias in residential home appraisals and automated valuations.

So, it’s with a heart full of awe, joy, and gratitude that I humbly accept this deeply meaningful recognition. And, it’s why I will continue the fight to make our world a better place for all. We cannot rest until the credit and savings needs of all Americans are met, especially those of modest means.

Thank you!

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