WASHINGTON — Richard Cordray's political savvy has given him a knack for relating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's work to vastly different audiences during public speeches.
The director of the CFPB has used past work experiences, parrots and most recently, The Bible, to relate to the demographic of his audience. Cordray kicked off a speech Thursday before the National Baptist Convention relating the consumer watchdog to Moses' "faith leaders," Aaron and Hur.
"Like Aaron and Hur, who stood on each side of Moses and held up his hands when he grew weary in the battle, faith leaders use their own strength to steady others and enable them to carry on the fight. So you try your best to offer guidance. You try your best to offer help," said Cordray in his prepared remarks for the convention in Charlotte, N.C. "Now you have someone to lean on when people come to you with their financial troubles."
Cordray went on to describe the agency's work as helping consumers, particularly African Americans, climb the ladder to financial success — much like the Biblical story of Jacob dreaming of a ladder to heaven, he noted.
"We know that consumers have to climb the ladder themselves — we cannot step into their shoes and do it for them. But what we can do, and must do, is hold the ladder steady," he said. "We can help empower Americans to make sound financial decisions they can live with for the rest of their lives. And we can make sure they are not forced down the ladder by what we call the 'Four Ds': deceptive marketing, debt traps, dead ends, and discrimination."
Cordray doesn't do analogies in every public speech, but one favorite was when he hosted a press conference last year with Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce their first partnership with the city on enforcement matters. In Cordray's opening remarks, he recalled being a law student in Chicago, a "fascinating city of so many unexpected dimensions" … and parrots.
"During my first year, I lived on the South Side across the park from where Mayor Washington lived. Outside his building, a large family of green-and-gold 'wrong way' parrots, who perhaps had confused their migration patterns from South America, had built an enormous nest," said Cordray in his prepared remarks. "Little did they know they had stumbled upon the safest home in the Northern Hemisphere, since the Mayor's police security detail was parked underneath their tree 24 hours a day, seven days a week! I also understand that the Mayor was a fierce and valiant defender of those parrots."