They'll come. They'll speak. And for many of them, they'll thank God they're not attached to a lie detector. And so it will go again this week as CUNA hosts its Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington.
GAC's three days of meetings means dozens of speakers getting in front of the largest credit union audience of the year. Many will be drawn from Congress and the Administration, each of whom will be very clear on one point-they support credit unions-and a bit foggier on just about everything else.
There will be pundits (in the tide-like ebb and flow of Washington, the Democrat-leaning speakers from 2010 will mostly stay behind their various think tank desks while the Republican-leaning speakers pick up the speaking fees in 2011); there will be heroes (although he has the capacity to cause a rash of Amtrak bookings by outlining everything that could go wrong on the flight home, I am guessing that will not be the theme of former USAir pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's remarks), and there will be a bullfrog named Jeremiah (proving that CU efforts to reach out to Gen X and Gen Y have not yet translated to the management teams and boards of credit unions, there will be entertainment from Three Dog Night).
In all, there can be a lot to absorb and sift through in three days inside the D.C. Convention Center, and that's before listening to the bombast, bluster and boasts in the vendor show that attendees must navigate to get to the keynote speakers.
Therefore, once again as a public service to those who can be there and to those who cannot, we offer up this handy guide for deciphering the secret codes of Washington's windtalkers as part of an annual tradition known as the Speech vs. the Unspeech. The speech is what you will hear (or read about). More importantly, The Unspeech is what you would hear if presenters were forced to speak with two jumper cables on their earlobes with the cables running to a truck battery and a lie detector.
The Speech: These have been tough times. Some of the toughest ever for both our country and for our credit unions. But together we have worked to get the problems behind us, and it appears the worst may now be over. We've learned lessons. We've made mistakes We've made improvements. But we also have seen successes and are your partners, especially now as we join with you in providing tools to help reconstitute the corporate system. And let me just conclude by saying, that you may not have to pay an NCUSIF premium this year!*
* This is a forecast and not a promise or a contract. Offer is subject to change. Void in some areas. Contact your physician if you become light-headed or if other symptoms persist.
The Unspeech: I never knew a six-year term could feel so long. I just want to make it to the end. I remember the good old days when NCUA board members could come out here and kill 20 minutes with talk of some broad NCUA initiatives.
Who would have ever guessed that, relatively speaking, Norm D'Amours seems to have been well-received? I would just like to add that it's time to quit blaming NCUA for all the failures-is it me or was it just a few short years ago that the big theme at this meeting was how NCUA over-regulates the industry and you had sophisticated professional management teams that didn't need so much oversight?
And hey, by the way, I can't see you due to these stage lights, so would someone please call out a warning if you see someone else rushing the stage.
Member of Congress
The Speech: America is good. Credit unions are good. Credit unions didn't need bailouts. Now we need to run government like you run your credit unions. Smaller government is good government, and I support a package of budget reductions to balance the budget. Constitution. You need less regulation. Again, credit unions good for America.
The Unspeech: Credit unions are good, but that's probably not going to be my theme when I speak to the bankers' association in a few weeks. After all, I need donations from both of you; have you seen how much it costs to get elected? Yes, I know, that package of federal budget cuts is a good first step, but it's also like a 500-pound man dieting by giving up gum. We may need to make cuts in defense, Social Security and Medicare benefits, but from what I can see looking at this audience and from the Marine Corp Band sitting here, I've decided not to bring that up. And that's why my remarks will take all of my allotted time and there will be no Q&A. Thank you.
Mary Matalin, Republican Strategist
The Speech: I like to thank the voters in 2010 for shutting up James, my husband. I don't really understand half of what that bayou-twanged baldy is saying, but I know he's saying a lot less of it.
The Unspeech: People think an outspoken Republican and an outspoken Democrat can't be happily married. But they don't understand the secret: taxes. No, I don't mean tax policy. I mean the tax return we file every year showing the loot we raked in speaking.
Recession? Not in the battling, speaking political spouses business, baby. The beauty of this business model: it doesn't matter which party is in power, because we always are.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.