Forging a Pathway for a New Generation of Leaders and Entrepreneurs

By:  George Addison

“There is a spirit and a need and a man at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”

Coretta Scott King

HOPE Global Forums

Each year, I travel across America and sometimes outside the country to attend various types of business events, large and small.  On average, they all have interesting speakers and breakout sessions aimed at empowering people to pursue their dreams.  This year I had the privilege to get a “behind the scenes” look at the 4th Operation Hope Global Forums Annual Meeting held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.

My interest in attending this event was driven by the pre-media buzz I was hearing from media and attendees alike.  I was more determined to cover the event after hearing John Hope Bryant speak on Sirius XM’s Maggie Linton Show about the many things his organization was accomplishing and planned to pursue in the coming years.

At a time in our society when many people “talk the talk, but very few actually walk it,” John Hope Bryant is one of those men who not only talks the talk; he walks the walk as well.  He uplifts thousands to do the same; in the process leaving no one behind.  More importantly, Bryant is known to many as a man who backs his talk with action.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”  Bryant lives and exemplifies this mantra.  The Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bryant Group Ventures and Operation Hope, is a “Silver Rights” entrepreneur, philanthropist, thought leader, author and businessman.

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Chelsea Clinton and John Hope Bryant share a special conversation with the Hope Global Forums audience. Photo Courtesy: HGF

Bryant is an Oprah Angel Network Award recipient and TIME Magazine’s 50 Leaders for the Future (1994 cover story) and has served as an advisor to the last three sitting presidents.  He has been recognized by the last five U.S. Presidents.  President Obama appointed him to serve on the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, focused on the next generation of young leaders.

A best-selling author on economics, his book “How The Poor Can Save Capitalism:  Rebuilding The Path to the Middle Class” (Barrett-Koehler), was picked as the Best Business Book for Economics & Finance for 2014 by 800-CEOREAD, Essence Magazine’s Top 10 Best Books for 2014 and ranked in 2014 as the Best Business Book for Sustainability by Business + Strategy.

Operation HOPE, Inc. provides financial literacy empowerment and economic education to youth and adults.  Its mission and programs focuses on Silver Rights empowerment and strives to make free enterprise work for all people.


Hope Global Forums attendees take part in the working group – Credit Where Credit is Due: Accessing Credit, Transforming Communities session. Photo Courtesy: HGF

The 2016 Annual Hope Global Forums theme “Reimagining the Global Economy:  Inclusive Economics, was a befitting theme because of the annual meeting being held amidst the national celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the festivities surrounding the King Holiday.

Operation Hope is the first nationwide nonprofit private banker to a constituency of poor and underserved communities.  To date, Operation Hope has served 2 million plus people, and utilized more than 20,000 volunteers to serve some 200 U.S. cities.  In addition, the organization has directed $1.5 billion in capital to wealth strapped communities.  Its historic 100-year partnership with Gallup allows them to effectively measure their impact through the Gallup-Hope Index.

Bryant envisions a modern global economy where the poor, underserved, and middle class are seen as untapped assets, whereby they can be taught to utilize entrepreneurship and job creation strategies that empower them to become the catalyst to economic growth nationally and globally.

In one of his blogs, Bryant posted this quote when illustrating why underserved communities typically take to the streets:

“700 credit score communities don’t riot – in all of American history.  Only 500 credit score communities – riot.  Failed economics, in our broader communities, actually becomes an active breeding ground for anger, dissension, community angst.”

John Hope Bryant

Founder of Operation HOPE and the HOPE Global Forums

This year’s Hope Global Forums featured a number of exciting and thought-provoking innovators, business and community leaders from both the public and private sector.

They included the following:


U.S. HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, preps for an interview with MSNBC after speaking to Global Hope Forums attendees. Photo Courtesy: HGF / BMG

Ambassador Andrew Young, Jack Lew (U.S. Treasury Secretary), Maria Contreras-Sweet (24th Administrator U.S. Small Business Administration), Julian Castro (U.S. HUD Secretary), Chelsea Clinton, Tony Ressler (Founder of Ares Management / Owner of the Atlanta Hawks), Honorable Kasim Reed (Mayor – City of Atlanta, GA), Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian (Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient), Van Jones (CNN / President of Dream Corps), Benjamin Jealous (Sr. Partner Kapor Capital – Former CEO NAACP), Andrea Jung (Grameen America), Michelle K. Lee (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office), Lisa M. Borders (The Coca-Cola Company Foundation), Theia Washington Smith (City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative), Rodney D. Bullard (Chick-fil-A Foundation), David Fuller (SunTrust Bank), Donald Duggan (Bank of the West), Marlon Moore (Huntington Bank), Marissa Lara (Synchrony Bank), Maggie Linton (Sirius XM Host / Executive Producer of the Maggie Linton Show), Francine LeFrak (Same Sky), Jan Jones-Blackhurst (Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation), Robert K. Webb (Hyatt), Sandy K. Baruah (Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce), Honorable Gerald Rosen (U.S. District Court), Tonya Allen (The Skillman Foundation), Kevyn Orr (Former Emergency Manager – City of Detroit), Kenneth J. Carrig (SunTrust Banks, Inc.), Corey Michael Blake (Round Table Companies RTC), Eric Wilson (Noble Impact), Tranh Tran (Kidpreneur), Bryan Breckenridge (Box.org), Beth Ann Bovino (Standard and Poor’s Rating Services), Asia M. Mason (Coca-Cola Company), Robert Marchman (Financial Industry Regulation Authority), Louisa Quittman (U.S. Treasury Department), David Gacheru (Charge d’Affaires Kenyan Embassy to the U.S.), Adrienne Kiasa (This is Africa Financial Times), Sean Cleary (Strategy Concepts (Pty) Ltd.), Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders (CEO FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative & FE3DS), D. Bryan Jordan (First Horizon National Corporation), John Bartling (Invitation Homes), Steve Bartlett (Treliant Risk Advisors), Sally Taylor-Shoff (FICO), Reginald Maisonneuve (My 1000 Points), Lucy LaVouile (700 Credit Score Communities Graduate Operations HOPE), Christopher Honenberger (ClearPoint Credit Counseling (CCCS), Major General Devid R. Bockel (U.S. Army Retired), Ditu Kasuyi (Kasuyi and Associates), Jean-Michel Giraud (Friendship Place) and a list of other supporting players.


Maria Contreras-Sweet, 24th Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration, spends a moment with Corey Michael Blake – Founder and CEO of Round Table Companies (RTC). Photo Courtesy: BMG

The  Hope Global Forums covered a number of topics, among them; The 21st Century Workforce:  Diversity as a Business Rationale, Youth Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Strategies for Success, Impact Philanthropy:  Pathways from Success to Significance, Demystifying Millennials:  How They are Shaping Our World, Emerging Africa:  Beyond the Headlines, CEO Perspective:  Making the Business Case for Financial Inclusion, Hope Business in a Box Academies Pitch Competition, Credit Where Credit is Due:  Accessing Credit, Transforming Communities, Protecting Our Protectors:  Reintroducing Military Personnel into the Workforce, The Business of Healthy:  Designing the Total Wellness Model, The Age of Longevity:  Global Aging and Financial Inclusion, Women & Girls Entrepreneurship:  Removing Barriers to Progress and Scaling Success.

I truly was impressed with Operation Hope’s Global Forums and the excellent leadership charged with coordinating the event.   People like the Executive Management team of Bill Walbrecher, Rod McGrew, Rachael Doff, Mary Ehrsam, Lance Triggs, Jena Roscoe, and Anita Ward.  Senior Management team members Jason Yancey, Evelyn Ducoulombier, Oliver Bell, Kevin Boucher, Tyrone Cosey, Ryan Mack, Eric G. Parks, Rochelle Zawodny, Ivette Marina, Sevan Torossian, Shannon Campbell, Elaine Hungenberg, Tara D. Dennis, Omari Pearson, Ryan Mack, Louis Enrique Negron.

They, along with social media / communications personnel, key staff, and volunteers Krystian Palemo, Ty Smith, LeAnna Bennett, Christian Vann, James Nelson, Caryn Anderson, Tammika Meko-Fortney Reed, Chanel Wooten, coordinated the behind the scenes media operation, assuring delegates and exhibitors the best in logistical and communications support, resulting in a well-attended and publicized event.


Tony Ressler, Chairman, Co-Founder & CEO, Ares Capital Management and Ambassador Andrew Young, Chairman of the Andrew Young Foundation, share their thoughts with the audience. Photo Courtesy: HGF

First time attendee Cratiz Cannon, CEO of Audio Visual Stimulations (AVS) said, “I was blown away by the event and can’t wait till next year.   I met and networked with so many amazing people and the event was just wonderful.  Speakers were very empowering and spoke on financial, social, youth empowerment and political issues.  The people I met were of such high-caliber and quality, the event was priceless.”

Shontavia Johnson, owner of Jackson Johnson LLC., was a first time attendee and discussion leader  for the “ Women and Girls in Entrepreneurship” session said a number of things in particular stood out to her during the Operation Hope Global Forums Annual Meeting, “ I was moved by Operation Hope , I saw really three things.  First, it’s incredible what John Hope Bryant has been able to accomplish in relatively a short amount of time.  Secondly, I was so impressed with the financial literacy and organizational programs they had been implementing.  And thirdly, I was excited to see it was growing and expanding into new opportunities and a new location.”

Johnson further stated, “There’s a quote that I heard recently that says “You can’t be what you can’t see.” If you are a first time entrepreneur, the Operation Hope Global Forums Annual Meeting gives you the opportunity to see the tangible representation of what your life could look like.  You can see successful entrepreneurs even if you aren’t there yet.  You can see the fruits of your labor and the fruits of their success and you see that if those people can accomplish such things, then you can too.  There are so many ways out of poverty.  Sports and music are not the only two ways out of poverty.  I believe that stories like John Hope Bryant and others are so important.”

Maggie Linton

Moderator and Sirius XM Host and Producer, Maggie Linton, encourages attendees to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge given by Hope Global Forums speakers and panelist. Photo Courtesy: HGF / BMG

Maggie Linton, Sirius XM Host and Executive Producer of the Maggie Linton Show served as one of the event’s moderators.  She summed it up best when she commented about the quality of and access to speakers for those able to attend the Hope Global Forums Annual Meeting.

“More than anything, I think they’re getting at least exposure to not just people, but to change makers; people who have walked the path before them who have made a success. So many people have dreams and they put them on hold.  Hopefully, they get the stimulus from what’s here to move forward with their dreams.  I’ve had dreams over the years and you work hard toward them and sometimes group sessions, forums like this, will help you go over those hard steps to a different platform and move on.  John really wants to help the less than become more than.  And every single person that steps up on that stage has the integrity, has the chops, has walked the path, and not all of them have been smooth.  Most of them were not born into high finance and into wealth.  They were people who earned it just like we are out here trying to do the same.”

This year, Operation Hope announced a new theme for a new time entitled Operation HOPE:  Building an Economy for All.  Their next Annual Meeting will be in March of 2017 in observance of the Freedman’s Bank anniversary, which was chartered on March 3rd, 1865 by President Abraham Lincoln.  Its purpose, to “teach freed slaves about money.”

Hope to see you there….

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