Elizabeth Warren knows a thing or two about challenges.
As assistant to President Obama and special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Warren faced steep opposition as she led the effort to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which began operation this summer.
She was told to quit before she started, that she would be up against the “largest lobbying force ever assembled on the face of earth.”
“I thought what people were saying to me when they said ‘No, quit, don’t do this,’ was try harder,” Warren said. “So that’s exactly what I did."
Warren, a Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University, shared her story of perseverance with more than 700 students, staff, and faculty members at UMass Boston’s 2011 Fall Convocation on Sept. 15.
View photos from Fall Convocation on UMass Boston's Flickr page.
She encouraged students to fight for what they believe in and to embrace opportunities.
“You are here because you believe in opportunities. Education is the most obvious opportunity of our time,” Warren said. “You may plan to use that opportunity to make a difference only in your own circumstances. But as you drink in this opportunity, you will have the chance to make a bigger difference too.”
“Your time at the University of Massachusetts is about your opportunity to shape the world you live in.”
Each year, as part of the Fall Convocation, one of the eight UMass Boston colleges selects and invites a scholar to address the campus community. Professor Warren’s talk was sponsored by the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
McCormack Dean Stephen Crosby explained how they invited Warren to convocation six months ago, and how so much has changed since then. On September 14, she announced that she would be running for the Massachusetts United States Senate seat currently held by Republican Scott Brown.
“We didn’t invite her as a candidate,” he said. “We invited her as an advocate for reasonable regulatory reform, and for keeping an eye out for the health and integrity of the middle class. But we’re glad it worked out the way it did.”
Warren spoke of the idea behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — to make mortgages and credit cards easier to understand, to mow down the fine print and “weed out the tricks and traps.” She said it was one step toward creating a new voice in Washington for families and small businesses who had been hit hard in the financial crisis.
“We have an agency now that gives us a chance to repair a hole in the bottom of the economic boat for middle class families,” Warren said. “It’s going to help, but the problem is there are more holes, many more holes. So for me the question is how do we repair all of the boat. We need to create opportunities for middle class families and small businesses. ”
She said America needs innovative ideas and people who will fight for them.
“We need people who are willing to work hard and to take a chance on something that is not yet proven but can make a real difference,” she said. “We need fighters. A good idea doesn’t turn itself into a reality. Someone has to fight for it.”
“So when someone says to you, ‘ You can’t do something,’ if you believe in it, do it anyway. When someone says, ‘You’re going to get beat even before the game begins, quit,’ then get in there and fight harder. Stand up for what you believe in, because sometimes, sometimes, you can win.”