Brooke Shearer’s Legacy Is Now Our Responsibility

The last time Brooke spoke to Bill Clinton, she interrupted him to say: “But this credit union thing is all messed up. We’ve got to get that fixed.” Those are our marching orders.


Last week Bucky and I shared our remembrance of a special person who believed in and fought for credit unions her entire professional career.  Brooke Shearer’s memorial service was this past Saturday.  

Brooke was involved full time with credit unions while employed at CUNA in the early and mid 1980’s.  She and her husband Strobe were part of a new generation of leaders that came to national office with the Clinton Administration in the 90’s.   Their relationship with the Clintons extends back to the late 1960’s when Strobe and Bill were Oxford roommates as Rhodes Scholars.

At her memorial service Bill and Hillary Clinton each spoke, describing their relationship with Brooke and her commitments to the “underdogs” of society both in the US and around the world.

Bill Clinton recalled his last phone conversation with Brooke.  He said she started by asking how is the economy doing?  Bill said he gave his general response indicating that the Obama team had made a good start, things were starting to improve and so forth.  Brooke then interrupted to say: “But this credit union thing is all messed up.  We’ve got to get that fixed.”  

The former President did not say what “getting that fixed” meant.  All we know is that in the next ten days, the administration announced that Debra Matz would fill the board vacancy at NCUA and be designated Chairman.  We will never know if there was a connection; after all this is Washington DC.

Brooke believed in the power and example of credit unions to do the right thing for their members.  In a society where those who achieve the most get the most, Brooke believed credit unions provided an economic democracy where all had an equal chance to meet life’s needs fairly, without exploitation.

In her last year, she had become concerned about the direction of economic policy in the wake of the financial crisis.   Cooperatives were an ideal public policy option for some of the most difficult problems facing the country.  She had spent precious time in the last six months delivering that message to Treasury officials, Federal Reserve governors, Obama transition team leaders and Wall Street veterans whom she felt could influence policy.  She had written and circulated summaries of the “counter-cyclical” successes of credit unions during the crisis.

Whatever her precise influence on events, we know that a former President felt strongly enough to make this story part of his remembrance of who Brooke was and what she believed in.   Over 1,500 other people also heard this story of one of Brooke’s commitments to the underdogs of society.   Her legacy, as reported by the former President, undoubtedly surprised and perhaps influenced others’ perceptions of credit unions.

Now it is up to us who share that same belief in cooperative solutions to carry that commitment forward.  




June 1, 2009


  • Very impressive that was mentioned by Clinton