GAC: Nussle seeks a big choir to sing CUs' strengths

March 11, 2015

WASHINGTON (3/12/15)--As CUNA's 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference wound down Wednesday, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle had a message for the nearly 5,000 credit union leaders who attended the sessions throughout the week: Be as good as you can be and deliver on that.

Click to view larger imageCUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle answers questions from audience members during the final general session of the 2015 GAC. Nussle gave advice on how credit union leaders can ramp up their advocacy efforts by getting members involved. (CUNA Photo)

"When I first came to Congress, CUNA and the credit unions had the reputation of turning out in large numbers on Capitol Hill, but we have work to do to make that reputation bigger, better and bolder than ever before," he said. "I know the power of credit unions, and what you do in your communities. I don't think enough people out there do."

Nussle fielded questions from the audience during one of the last general sessions. One attendee asked him about balancing trying to "be the good guys" when it comes to advocating to legislators, but also making legislators wary of not supporting credit union positions.

Nussle responded that "we do need to show how strong we are, and we can do it in a positive way. It's the Tom Sawyer principle, get everybody else to help paint the fence with you," he said. "We need more fence-painters, more people in the choir, we need more people who, if they engage not just in Washington, but at home, we will be stronger, and they will respect us, and it will border sometimes on a healthy degree of fear, if that's what we're looking for, but I think it's respect and engagement that is going to get us there."

Nussle pointed out examples of successful trade organizations, such as AARP, and told those in attendance that credit unions are able to have much more of a personal impact with their members.

"You and I know, that just because I've got a card in my wallet, or you go to Denny's on Saturday and get a discount, that doesn't mean you're an engaged member of AARP," he said. "We have the opportunity to engage people in the credit union message, people who have much more of a relationship with who we are, what we do, what we stand for."

Another audience member asked Nussle where he gets his signature twinkle in his eye.

Without a moment's hesitation, he mentioned his wife, Karen, before adding, "What puts the twinkle in my eye is hearing your stories and realizing I have the chance ... to get your stories outside of this room, that's what puts the twinkle in my eye."