Jim Nussle knew he was preaching to the choir, and he was loving it.

At his first Governmental Affairs Conference as CUNA's CEO, Nussle told the crowd that the rules he learned from his father about conducting a choir translate well to his new role at the nation's largest CU trade association.

"The first rule of being in a choir is listening, not singing," Nussle said, noting that a choir is basically a musical cooperative. If each member of the choir is too busy singing to listen to one another to ensure the proper blend of voices, cacophony can be the result, even if everyone's singing the same song.

Which leads to the second rule of being in a choir: singing off the same sheet of music.

And the third: practice, practice, practice.

It is Nussle's hope to conduct a choir of 5,000 well-blended, well-rehearsed credit union voices singing the same message as GAC attendees head off to Capitol Hill to lobby their lawmakers for credit union-friendly initiatives.

One false note this faithful choir should be listening for: "we're with you."

"You'll hear a lot of your lawmakers say, 'we're with you.' I know, I used to say it myself when I was in Congress," Nussle commented, exhorting CU executives to push for stronger, more affirmative statements of support and concrete demonstrations of such in the way of co-signing and voting for bills important to credit unions.

One of the things that makes this year's "Hike the Hill" effort all the more important, Nussle said, is that this is a much different Congress than in years past. "There has been 60% turnover in Congress since 2009," he explained. "That means there are lot of new people on the Hill who don't already know you."

One disappointment for the credit union choir, however, will be who is missing from the audience: many of the very lawmakers credit union advocates have traveled to see aren't here this week.

But as several different speakers told the audience, all is not lost.

"Your meetings are going to be different," said Ryan Donovan, CUNA chief advocacy officer. "They will be longer and more relaxed." And that, he said, will give credit union reps a better opportunity to lay out their full message before the people who are most likely to be working on these issues — the Hill staffers who serve these lawmakers.

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