Thank you, Lynn, for that kind introduction. It's a real pleasure to be here with you this morning for these "sunrise services."
And what better place to hold this inaugural event than in this museum, where we celebrate the life of a man who helped bring an end to the evil of human beings subjugating others in slavery? Thank you, Lifetime Television, and thank all of you for coming today.
I want to give special thanks to the Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence for having the good sense to find each other and get married.
What a perfect match, and what a perfect combination of monetary and missionary resources. When I first heard about what you are doing, I just had to say "hats off" to your creativity and understanding of how to tackle two intractable problems in one mission.
By focusing on how important it is for victims of domestic violence to learn economic self-sufficiency, you can give them the confidence to remove themselves from abusive situations and assist them in rebuilding their lives.
Over too many years, I have met with too many victims, virtually all of whom have lived not just with abusers, but controllers—those who have denied them the opportunity or the self-confidence—to manage their own economic futures. Just imagine it. If you've never been allowed to manage your own money, write your own checks, or bank your own paycheck, how can you begin to meet the challenges of a life on your own?
I would also like to thank the other service providers and organizations for coming today to show your support for this wonderful new program and for all you do to combat domestic violence. It is a crime that is both domestic and global, and, sadly, it may well be victimizing women that we know.
Throughout my years of working on a number of challenges—youth violence, domestic violence, homeless education, I have found one recurring and dominant theme. If you scratch the surface of any of our more intractable social problems in this country, you are likely to find at their source—you guessed it, domestic violence. It is because violence begets violence in an endless circle. If we want to break the cycle, we must start with the children.
The bad news is that we're nowhere near ending that cycle. The good news is that it no longer is the crime that's covered with silence, as it once was, particularly in this country. We're recognizing it, we're talking about it, and we're doing the best we can to combat it in all of its manifestations—and through programs such as these, we are continuing to work to make it a problem of the past.
Aiding victims of Domestic Violence has long been an important issue to me. I have participated in Take Back the Night, regularly hosted roundtable discussions on domestic violence in my home district, and worked to amend the 2000 reauthorization of VAWA to extend the legal assistance for victims of violence grant program to include legal assistance to victims of dating violence.
I've also long been focused on the challenges of financial illiteracy in this country, and what steps we can take to enhance the financial skills and economic education of Americans of all ages.
That's why I was especially pleased to learn that the Allstate Foundation was tackling both of these challenges—by launching a new initiative that will provide funding for domestic violence centers and training programs to support victims in their efforts to rebuild their lives through economic self-sufficiency.
I agree with all of you who are on board with this joint initiative: helping victims of domestic violence to become economically self-sufficient requires critical foundational elements -- financial and economic literacy. The statistics show that our country is in an education deficit when it comes to financial and economic literacy. Suffering the consequences of this deficit are a majority of our citizens of all ages and walks of life, especially victims of domestic violence. We need to reverse this trend and educate our youth, adults and elderly populations on matters of economics and finance.
You may have heard President Bush talk about working to create an ownership society, and I believe that victims of domestic violence can have "ownership" of their lives if they are empowered with the educational tools that your coalition will help them acquire. Education is power, and with these educational tools, we will empower victims of domestic violence so that they can have the confidence to stand on their own two feet and make sound financial decisions for themselves and their families.
In Congress, we are working hard to promote groups like yours, which are establishing financial and economic education best-practices. In 2003, we created a Financial Literacy and Education Commission to coordinate all of the federal government's efforts. Their website is www.MyMoney.gov, and they are currently working with public and private sector groups to develop a national strategy.
In Congress, Representative Ruben Hinojosa and I have now created a Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus to bring together members who are working hard on this issue. We launched the caucus on February 15, just before the February District Work Period, and already we have 33 outstanding members signed up and the list is growing each day that we're in session.
I'm also happy to say that since its launch, Reuben and I have been inundated with calls and visits from organizations, including Allstate's fine D.C. representative, Chuck Bruse, that are doing outstanding and creative work in the field. One group even offered to give financial literacy and economic lessons to Members of Congress, which we all agree on some days is sorely needed.
But I digress. In order to showcase the work of so many of these groups, our caucus is sponsoring Financial Literacy Day on April 27 and will hold a fair in the House Cannon Caucus Room.
We have put together an ambitious agenda for the weeks and months to come. Among other things, our caucus will:
Host roundtables, staff briefings and other educational forums;
Organize and promote events such as the annual "Financial Literacy Month" and the annual Financial Literacy Fair on Capitol Hill on April 27th.
Establish a web site;
Provide a focal point for working with the Senate and executive branch, including the Financial Literacy and Education Commission; and
- Showcase all of the great programs that have been launched in the business, education, and not-for-profit communities.
I don't have to tell this crowd, that there is much more work out there.
We need your help. You are the generals of organizations that mobilize the soldiers that really implement this initiative. We need your input as we work to open the lines of communication and promote the best-practices of the private sector. So, please be in touch with your Members of Congress, encourage them to join our Caucus, encourage them to work with you, your organizations, and your state officials to promote this initiative.
Together, we will work to improve the financial aptitude of victims of domestic violence so that they can gain financial footing and begin a new life for themselves and their families. Thank you, Allstate, thank you National Network to End Domestic Violence, and thank everyone here today for the great job that you do to support this worthy initiative. Keep up the good work.