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Thomas Jefferson's Advice On Why Get Involved

With the Democratic and Republican conventions behind us, it's hard to ignore that it's election time. Beyond all the fanfare, there is much work to be done. And to paraphrase Nike's signature tagline, we need to just do it.

Yet, many of you may be thinking, do I really need to get involved? A few years ago I, too, questioned my involvement. I wondered, would one more credit union advocate really make a difference?

I quickly realized that yes, our involvement makes a difference. Our elected officials can't possibly be as familiar with credit union issues and what matters to us and our members as we are. So it behooves us to help them understand exactly what is at stake for us and their constituents. We need to make certain that Congress understands that credit union issues are Main Street issues.

This is an especially critical time to communicate as our elected officials scrutinize every possible way to get our nation out of the mounting deficit situation and as our competitors hone their attacks on our industry's current tax exemption. We stand today with 94-million members, because many CU professionals before us took a stand and created opportunities to thrive and prosper. The unique status we enjoy today was hard-won and certainly merits defending.

This week, while many of us convene at NAFCU's Congressional Caucus in Washington, we have the perfect opportunity to hear directly from lawmakers about the issues that matter most. More importantly, it allows you to be front and center with these critical decision-makers to convey the valuable role credit unions play in their home districts, as well as to our nation's economy.

The consequences of the upcoming election are substantial. It's important to remember that the candidates who win will be among the power players in Washington making key decisions about all the issues that will impact us, including tax policy, regulation, the future of the housing finance system and consumer protection.

And as a matter of information, there are a few CU-friendly lawmakers up for reelection, some in close elections, including Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who need our support. With that in mind, it is critical that we all get involved. Winning support in Washington is always about the numbers. The more of us who participate in the process, the better the results for our industry.

We can't assume that things like credit unions' long-standing tax exemption and our industry's access to the secondary mortgage market will always exist. These are things we have to fight for. I am confident we can successfully do so-especially if all of us are involved.

 

What You Can Do

So for those of you gathered in DC this week, thank you. The value of your participation is priceless. Every minute that you spend in your representatives' offices is an investment in our future.

For those of you back home, your efforts in your congressional districts are equally important. You should attend local town hall meetings and get to know your rep's staff. Engage them in person and online. Visit their Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter to understand what's important to them. Send them your CU's updates, and let them know about the community events you support. Better still, invite them to your events. Let them know how many CUs are in their district and share some of your success stories.

Ultimately, you have everything to gain by becoming politically active and everything to lose if you don't. As Thomas Jefferson said, "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

Mike Parsons is president and CEO of First Source Federal Credit Union and NAFCU Chair. He may be reached at chairman@nafcu.org.

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