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CUNA Kicks Off 2018 GAC with Gian Paul Gonzalez
Monday, February 26, 2018 6:45 AM

Credit Union National Association kicked off its Governmental Affairs Conference Sunday with former NFL Oakland Raiders player Gian Paul Gonzalez. He may have been a distinguished athlete in his own right, but he's becoming more well-known for teaching English to immigrants, his work in his community as a minister, and his philosophy of going "all in."

“It’s not necessarily about your athletic achievements,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really a focus on what you can give to others, and how powerful that is.”

At a critical juncture in Gonzalez’s life, gave up a professional basketball career to be what he viewed as the most important thing—a public school teacher in his troubled community. He went “all in” on this commitment, and this personal mantra has become the center point of a message that has inspired everyone from kids in juvenile detention to Super Bowl champions.

To find true fulfillment, Gonzalez says, you must throw your heart and soul into what matters most, relishing the trials and tribulations with the successes.

“When you’re ‘all in,’ it’s something personal,” Gonzalez says. “It’s something that drives you. Something that can’t be described by a slogan on a T-shirt. It’s something that comes from within.”

The NFL’s New York Giants went “all in” after hearing Gonzalez’s message in the 2011 season. In short order, the Giants went from a team in danger of missing the playoffs to winning the Super Bowl. They felt so strongly about Gonzalez’s phrase, they put it on their championship T-shirts and invited him to their parade.

Since then, Gonzalez has brought his message from high school football teams to the Portland Trailblazers, Dublin Ireland, Arsenal, FBI, DSW, Verizon, Walmart, and the U.S. Army.

Gonzalez says the test of being all in is not about a win. You only know if you’re all in after a loss; people show up early or stay late in the weight room. The test is if you’ll be committed when it’s inconvenient or not on your way somewhere else. “Just because you’re not going to Division I doesn’t mean you can’t practice like it,” he said.

There’s only one thing that keeps us down, and it’s us, Gonzalez said. We’re the only reason we don’t commit to going all in.

Gonzalez related the opening of a 2,500-square-foot youth center, Hope + Future, which he founded and serves as executive director. On the first day, only five kids showed up, but he thought, if those five kids didn’t join a gang, it was worth it. Just this past Friday, the center signed up kid #1,089. But it’s not about just numbers, he says. It’s about people.

Gonzalez’s mother was guided to terminate her pregnancy because she had contracted the measles, which could have led to detrimental development of her child during the pregnancy. But she decided not to follow the doctor’s guidance. She committed to the pregnancy and gave it everything. And that, Gonzalez said, is what “all in” means to him.

His mother only made $75 a week when he was growing up. No financial institution wanted to give her a shot, but one credit union said they would find a way. “I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for you,” he said to credit union attendees.

Gonzalez asked the audience, What does it mean to be committed? What does it mean when you push all your chips into the middle? It means you’re ready to win; you’re done going halfway. But why do we say we’re going to be committed and then pull back when things get hard?

Being committed is about what you do when no one is watching, he says. “When you give someone hope, it means you’re also giving them something else... a future. There are people in our lives that need hope.”

“We don’t come to a place, we come to a person,” he said. “That’s powerful. You can’t buy that. They know you genuinely care about them. They are a person, not just a number. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we don’t focus on the things we can’t control.”

Gian Paul Gonzalez continues to teach 9th Grade World History.

Throughout the week several events will be livestreamed on CUNA’s Facebook page for those not in attendance. More than 5,000 credit union leaders are in attendance for this year's GAC, the premier credit union event of the year. 

Log onto CUNA’s Facebook page engage with the livestream by sharing the link, submitting questions and comments, and liking the live videos. A link to the live streams will also be sent from CUNA’s Twitter account prior to the start of each speech.

Highlights from GAC will be added to CUNA’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, using the hashtag #CUNAGAC.