After coming to America as an immigrant from Greece, my father decided to start his own community bank to help give others a chance at the American dream. My father and my mother are my personal heroes. Over the last 30 years, that bank has helped thousands of people start their first businesses, build homes, and follow their own dreams. I was raised in my father's business, and I am extremely proud of the lessons I learned there and the values my father taught us all. I remember learning from him at a young age that it is our responsibility as Americans to help people, show them compassion, and try to help everyone achieve their own dreams.
It was because my father instilled in his sons the importance of helping others that I decided to leave the bank in 2005 to pursue public service. At the time I left, according to every independent analysis, the bank was one of the best performing in Illinois.
During my campaign for State Treasurer, I took the perseverance I learned from my father and I hit the campaign trail. I told the people of Illinois the facts and shared with them my vision for the State Treasurer's office. In the middle of that campaign, my father suddenly died. It was the worst day of my life.
Tragically, over the past few years, the economy has sailed into uncharted waters that even my father, in his 30 years of banking, could never have foreseen. Wall Street greed coupled with lax oversight by Washington politicians led to a deep recession that leveled a crippling blow to the commercial real estate market. In the wake of that economic tsunami, hundreds of community banks are now struggling and being forced to close their doors. Sadly, like 50 others this year alone, Broadway is no exception. The unraveling of the real estate market has taken a gigantic toll on homeowners, businesses, community banks, and families throughout our country.
Tonight, after months of struggling to get out from under the weight of the collapsed economy, my father's business was sold. Broadway Bank is among almost 700 banks nationwide that have entered into regulatory agreements in the past year alone. And it is now among over 200 that have had to change ownership over the last two years. Just tonight, six other community banks in Illinois have also been closed. Unlike some larger financial firms, there was no bailout for my father's bank.
It is an incredibly sad and heartbreaking day for me and my family. The bank opened the door for thousands of families that were turned away by the big banks. It has started hundreds of businesses that never would have gotten off the ground without it. My father and my brothers have changed the lives of so many families and entrepreneurs both in the Edgewater community and throughout the country. They have become an intimate part of so many customers' lives. I am immensely proud of what my father created and the lives he and my brothers have touched.
While this is a surreal and extraordinary day for me, unfortunately, the struggle of family businesses across the State has become all too ordinary. But the knowledge that what has happened tonight is just a sliver of the hardship which has become endemic in our society strengthens my resolve.
Ultimately, the voters will decide whether they want someone who understands first-hand the impact this economy has had on families, or someone who has been in Washington for a decade, voting for Wall Street over Illinois' interests time and time again.
Rather than run on his record, Congressman Mark Kirk's entire campaign to date has revolved around hoping and praying that this family business would fail. Is that the kind of Senator we want, one that cheerleads for an Illinois business to fail while bailing out the Wall Street banks that helped get us into this mess in the first place?
I am ready to make that choice abundantly clear for voters. I am ready to talk about the issues -- about cracking down on Wall Street abuses, enhancing consumer protections, revitalizing our economy and creating jobs here at home. I am ready to speak up for the families that have been far more seriously impacted by this economic crisis -- those who cannot find a job or whose own small businesses are struggling.
The fact is that if we had more people in Washington like the millions of Americans who have been personally touched by the economic carnage created by the policies of the last ten years, our country might not be in the mess it is in today.
Those families need a voice. They need someone in Washington who will speak up for them, someone who isn't beholden to the corporate special interests and someone who won't be a rubber stamp for Wall Street's recklessness.
While today was a devastating day for me and my family, what happened today makes me want to fight even harder for Illinois families that have lost their jobs, their homes, and their own businesses. While my situation is far different than most people's, and my family will emerge from today more fortunate than most, I have a renewed vigor and a new perspective on just how horrible it is out there for so many people. It is that perspective which compels me to work harder, fight with even more passion, and make sure that the lessons my father taught me every day live on in this campaign.
Thank you for standing alongside me,