Rep. Paul Ryan, former Republican Vice Presidential nominee and current Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, gave a TEDx talk this week on the government’s “War on Poverty” and how it has largely been ineffective after 50 years. In his talk, Ryan offered the House of Help, City of Hope in Washington, DC (also featured in Opportunity Lives’ “Comeback” series) as an example of an effective organization that truly reduces poverty in its community.
Here’s the opening of Ryan’s speech:
“Four miles from here, in a part of town called Anacostia, there’s a shelter called the House of Help, City of Hope. Years ago, the place was boarded up. And the neighborhood was a mess. Drugs, gangs, crime were everywhere. When the utility guy came to check the meter, he needed a police escort.
“But then a woman in the community took action. Her name is Shirley Holloway. And she worked with a philanthropist, a non-profit led by my friend Bob Woodson, and the District of Columbia to buy the building and turn it into the House of Help. They chased out the gangs. They cleared out the drugs. And now, the House of Help has served thousands of people struggling with addiction and homelessness. It goes to show what happens when all parts of the community work together.
“They do a lot of good work. Let me give you just one example. When I went there, I met a guy named James Woods. He told me, when he was younger, he fell in with the wrong crowd. Joined a gang . . . sold drugs. He was a tough guy—the enforcer. He got addicted, went homeless, and went to jail. When he got out, he knew he needed to change, but he didn’t know how—till he joined the House of Help. Then he went clean, found a job, got married, and turned his life around.
“The question is, why? What worked? If you asked James, he’d say one thing: Shirley Holloway. To keep him out of jail, she paid his legal fees. He promised to pay her back. But she didn’t cash his checks; she saved them. And when he got married, she turned over all the money she’d saved so he and his wife could have a nice wedding.
“Nobody had done that for him before. Nobody had put him first.
“So, a heart-warming story, right? Sure. But I’m not speaking to the heart. I’m speaking to the head. There’s a reason Shirley Holloway got through to James Woods. She had credibility. He knew he could trust her. And when she gave him advice, and taught him new skills, and held him accountable, he listened. Credibility is the key to unlocking people’s potential. Credibility is what makes the policy effective.
“And what I learned from James was, credibility doesn’t come in bulk. It’s small-scale. It’s gradual. It’s personal. And it is our ultimate weapon in the War on Poverty.”
You can read the full text of Paul Ryan’s speech here.
[Editor’s note: TEDx has not yet released the video of Ryan’s speech. Once it is we will include in this post.]