Former Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with CUNA GAC Master of Ceremonies Antonio Neves for a question-and-answer session after Kerry's address Monday to a record-breaking GAC crowd.

Kerry: CUs have a ‘bedrock belief’ in making lives better

March 11, 2019

Credit unions have a remarkable legacy of providing fair access to the financial system, former Secretary of State John Kerry told a record-breaking audience Monday at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Kerry also served in the Senate from 1985 to 2013 and was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004.

He said in his remarks he has a long history with credit unions, but his home state of Massachusetts has a longer one, as it enacted its first state law establishing credit unions in 1909.

“The philosophy of the credit union movement is as fundamental today as it was 110 years ago… ‘Not for profit, not for charity, but for service,’” he said. “It’s based on the bedrock belief that everyone ought to be able to achieve a better standard of living by pooling their saving and making loans to co-workers, to neighbors, to people who don’t have access to credit…I thank you for making those words more than just a slogan.”

Kerry estimated he’s been a credit union member for at least 40 years, and said he was glad to support the Credit Union Membership Access Act in 1998.

“One of the things that sets credit unions apart is the accessibility of the diversity. You walk into a branch and you see the whole neighborhood. Teachers, policemen, nurses, city workers. Every walk of life working together to invest in the community and improve the quality of life for every single person,” he said. “I think it gives meaning to the notion that when you join a credit union, you’re not just an account number. You’re a friend.”

He also said he opposed credit unions being lumped in to one-size-fits-all regulation saying credit unions are being treated unfairly by rules that limit flexibility and add burdens. He urged those in attendance to push back against these rules during their Capitol Hill visits later this week.

Looking at the bigger picture, Kerry lamented what he called “self-inflicted wounds” on America, most notably the recent government shutdown. He also joined sentiments previously expressed by CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle about the need for more robust data security and consumer privacy.

“We need to have the kind of negotiation we had with Ronald Reagan and [former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail] Gorbachev in Reykjavik when they negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons, we need to negotiate the rules and standards by which nation-states are going to behave with respect to cyberspace,” he said.

►Read more conference coverage from CUNA News, and get live updates on Twitter via @CUNA_News,@cumagazine, @CUNA, and by using the #CUNAGAC hashtag. You can also follow the conference on Facebook and Instagram. For a complete schedule and information on keynote speakers and breakout sessions, visit the CUNA GAC event page.