Letter To The Editor: What Does 'Modest' Mean? What We Say It Does

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For 75 years, the American credit union member has been defining himself and herself without the assistance of bankers or government. And it has been our modest assessment that we are a "working class of people" who raise our families, grow our communities, pay our taxes, and honestly tend to the general welfare of our nation. This modesty does not mean we are a class of shrinking violets. To the contrary, bankers, business and government have repeatedly relied upon us to bail them out from the immodest excesses of power, privilege and money. We have even carried them through their cyclical loses in business confidence, put up with their alligator tears about how difficult their tasks are and how little they are compensated for their hard work. And all the while, we have successfully raised the bar on our modesty by becoming a larger, smarter and more prosperous economic force.

Too large, too smart and too prosperous, it seems, for a banking industry that is already playing out what they call the "end game." In their world of alligators, where the large eat the small and grow larger, credit union members are the 800-pound gorilla in their end-game arena. We are a financial alternative that literally has them scared to death because if we continue to raise the bar on our "modest" means, we could be the "last man standing" in their end game, redefining bankers as a more modest and responsible working class of people.

So, of course, these bankers want an "official" redefinition of what "modest means; hopefully one that will never include them. And if at all possible, these bankers would have everyone, even us, ignore what 87 million Americans have already decided: "Modest means what we say it means." That genie was let out of the bottle 75 years ago and has been growing ever since. Now the 800-pound gorilla in the game, there is no way anyone is going to put us back-not even those inside the credit union movement who wring their hands with worry that our modesty means complacency, or those who have abandoned modesty altogether and jumped headlong and naked in that pool of immodest alligators.

If "modest" means anything in America, it is the quiet self-confidence that we will always (if eventually) do what is good and best for the largest number of us. The bankers would have us profile that number with a completely new concept of "modest" that excludes classes, diminishes diversity and insures that we do not become too self-confident in the exercise of our modest ways and means. They are, of course, ignoring the fact that our modest ways and means have always been the right and force behind our people forming a "more perfect union." And given their latest and almost desperate attempt to redefine what "modest" means, I'm looking at the silent side of their discussions and speculations about the banking "end game" and thinking the gorilla is the odds-on favorite.

Mike Dillon

South Division Credit Union

Evergreen Park, Ill.

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