Hear from “pro-crypto” D.C. congressional candidate Rev. Wendy Hamilton, as she shares her perspective on blockchain technology, economic justice, and equity. We sat with her for an exclusive interview that originally aired on Twitter Spaces, hosted on our handle @BinanceUS.
Earlier this week, we spoke with Rev. Wendy Hamilton, a 2022 Washington D.C. candidate for the U.S. Congress, on why she’s running as a “pro-crypto” grassroots candidate. In addition to being an ordained minister and social justice advocate, Rev. Wendy has worked as a communications professional on Capitol Hill, as an adjunct professor at the University of Phoenix and the Community College of Baltimore County, and recently as an Executive Assistant to Benjamin Jealous, former President and CEO of the NAACP at organization’s Baltimore headquarters. Most recently, Rev. Wendy served as the Director of Spiritual and Cultural Outreach for 2020 Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang.
A Conversation With Rev. Wendy Hamilton
Note: The following section features a transcript of our live conversation between Rev. Wendy and hosts Rachel and Zach from Binance.US. The sections below have been edited for brevity and clarity. Where possible, conversations have been condensed to make the following content more readable. The opinions expressed below are Rev. Wendy’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Binance.US. Click here for a recording of the full, unabridged conversation.
Rev. Wendy, you’re currently a congressional candidate running to represent Washington D.C. for the U.S. House of Representatives. On your campaign website and in your messaging, you describe yourself as someone who is blockchain aware. Why is cryptocurrency a key issue for you and what is your position on crypto and the role it can play for your constituents?
Honestly, I’d like to classify myself as a pro-crypto candidate. And this came through my own education and my desire to learn more about this new and innovative technology.
What I came to understand most about cryptocurrency and its potential was that it was a tool for economic justice.
As I dug more into it and got more information, I could see where cryptocurrency transcends ideology. It wasn’t about it being Democratic or Republican — it provided a way to break through some of the traditional financial barriers that I see holding back people of color.
Cryptocurrency looked like an opportunity to remove the middleman… and provide an avenue to financial liberation and freedom. That excited me, because that is economic justice — where we’re leveling the playing field and giving everybody an opportunity to succeed financially. So for me, I looked at cryptocurrency and still do as a potential tool to eradicate poverty — and that is at the crux of my campaign.
I know we’ll talk a little more about some other tools we can use in this fight towards eradicating poverty, but cryptocurrency definitely plays a role and that is why I decided to adopt it as a part of my campaign.
Crypto can certainly be a polarizing topic. I’m sure in your campaign as a congressional candidate, you’ve encountered supporters who described themselves as crypto enthusiasts. Yet on the flip side, I'm sure you’ve encountered others who are a bit skeptical or even fearful of crypto. What do you tell people who might be skeptical about a pro-crypto position like yours?
[laughs] So I take it you’ve been a fly on the wall in some of my conversations. First and foremost, yes when I first started announcing my support and promoting advocacy around cryptocurrency, you had a few people who would push back. And basically what I’m finding is we tend to fear what we don’t know. A lot of the pushback that I was hearing was more rooted in this notion somehow that “crypto is too advanced, we’re not ready for it, I don’t fully understand what it is — but then you had others who were like oh that’s so awesome you’re embracing crypto…”
In terms of what made me decide to take it on — like I said, I did my own research and it fit within my platform. I cannot support something if it doesn’t resonate with my values. I wasn't jumping on this train just because it was popular. This was something that I adopted at the beginning of my campaign and I’ve been running for almost 14 months now.
We started out against a 32 year incumbent. You have to start early in getting your name and your policies out there and making them known and so, we brought crypto into our space early on and started thinking about adding it to our platform.
I’ve even had some of my opponents' supporters laugh at me, like [laughs] does she think supporting crypto or having a pro-crypto platform is going to help her beat the incumbent?
Yeah I do actually. Because for me it’s about being forward thinking. Because I don’t see anywhere where my opponent, or really many others, are talking about where we are in terms of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.
One other pushback I want to mention that I got as a pro-crypto Democrat: Some of the pushback I got from more left-leaning circles are about crypto’s impact on the environment. What I found in my research is that we’re sort of scapegoating technologies for being harmful to the environment when really what’s harmful to the environment is how we get our energy in the first place.
So I think we have to go a little bit further into the conversation to solve some root problems of how and where we get our energy in the first place. I learned from my research and what I learned helped transform me and change my perspective on these technologies. So that’s what I resort to when I get pushback: I just give them information and let them decide from there.
D.C. for a while has been grappling with regulations for crypto. From a Binance.US perspective, we’ve long voiced our belief in the power of responsible regulation and we’re certainly open and willing to work with regulators... Where do you think the conversation is headed when it comes to crypto legislation in the U.S.? As a potential representative, do you see a way forward that satisfies both the die-hard crypto community and regulators who have a desire to be consumer protection focused?
It’s almost starting to feel like some of a tug of war right? I honestly want to be that representative that comes in and grabs ahold of the middle of that rope and says, “let’s put this down and come to the table and talk… We’re going to have to meet in the middle and we’re going to have to bring all voices to the table and hash out what makes sense.”
One thing that’s also happening is the conversation about crypto is starting to become a partisan issue, and I think that would be the worst thing that could happen for cryptocurrency — that it becomes a us versus them… Like I said, the opportunities that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can benefit everyone. I don’t want to see it fall into these camps of "you’re with us" or "you’re against us".
And so particularly when it comes to these technologies and cryptocurrencies, when we get to the Hill you want somebody like me. You want a representative who has an open mind, who’s curious, who’s doing her own research, who’s surrounding herself with people who are giving her information.
I don't profess to know everything on this issue. It’s always evolving and I'm still learning, but the conversation comes down to this: do you want somebody like me? Who’s passionate and knowledgeable about crypto? And who wants to represent the next generation of our country, who wants to listen and learn from the crypto community, and who will steer these conversations in Congress towards focusing on economic justice and web3, consumer sustainability, blockchain — or do you want someone who is afraid to wade into the future and talk about what the potential of this technology can be?
Cryptocurrency legislation could actually be really great for the crypto community, for the U.S. government and for the entire U.S. population. But in general, my blockchain and cryptocurrency vision is bigger than any one coin or application — I’m deeply knowledgeable compared to other legislators, but I want to listen and learn from others as well and incorporate these new ideas into my policies so that we can bring all voices to the table.
So earlier, you mentioned economic justice and eradicating poverty. It seems like those are very clear pillars within your campaign. I know that you’re a big proponent and advocate for universal basic income which – if passed – would grant each DC resident $1,000 per month for life without any conditions. Can you share the role of how something like universal basic income and cryptocurrency can address income inequality and help deliver economic justice to underserved communities?
Well, can I first say that cryptocurrency and universal basic income are not mutually exclusive? I really just want to put that out there because I sometimes get comments from the community like “Why universal basic income?” and “that’s not sustainable.”
I think there’s a way we can work together and there’s even some crypto-based universal basic income programs like Good Dollar and Proof of Humanity.
There’s examples out there that demonstrate that these two policies can work in tandem to help eradicate poverty. Something you mentioned early on is that I did have the distinct honor and pleasure of serving as a Spiritual and Cultural Outreach advisor to the Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign.
It was Andrew’s messaging around universal income that drew me to him in the first place. I knew nothing about him — I saw an article in the New York Times introducing his candidacy and how he was running on universal basic income and providing a lifeline and an economic “non-means tested floor” for people to stand on.
And that resonated with me because of my grandparents. I’m from the Midwest originally… I came to D.C. when I was 17 years old. D.C. is my adult home but I was born in Ohio.
You know, my grandparents worked in factories where the jobs were automated away. There was nothing left for them to fall back on and the town fell into decline.
I thought about them having something like universal basic income, something that they knew would come in. That probably would have been a better source of hope and possibility for them as opposed to the despair that took over our town.
So in that same regard, when it comes to universal basic income, providing this hope — I believe that cryptocurrency offers this same hope, particularly because it’s not “means tested”. You don’t have to qualify. You don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops and particularly for people of color who have been harmed by traditional financial services and having to qualify and having to provide extra types of information… universal basic income combined with crypto are two major tools in the fight towards eradicating poverty.
With universal basic income, you know you would get the money. You don’t have to show them how many people are in your house, how much money you’re making… universal basic income is unconditional. I think universal basic income and cryptocurrency can work together because the two concepts have the same vision and potential in mind.
I’m sure you’ve seen cities like New York and Miami, and even countries like El Salvador have really embraced blockchain technology. You know some are going so far as to give Bitcoin legal tender status in the country. Is this something you can explore for D.C. first? Compared to other countries, do you see America as a leader in the blockchain and crypto technology at the moment?
I see America as having the potential to lead the world in blockchain technology and crypto — as well as other technology problems like data privacy and other things we could get into. But I think that we have to be willing to embrace all aspects of what that might mean and what that could look like.
Now I know there are conversations that are happening around the other countries that have proposed or made Bitcoin into legal tender. I’m open to conversations and I hope that comes across more than anything else… Cryptocurrency is the topic of the day and I would so much rather be in front of it than be behind it.
I passionately believe that blockchain technology may have solutions to create a more equitable, transparent, sustainable, and responsible financial system for everybody.
You learn so much when you’re talking to constituents and I'm sure you talk to them every day. In your opinion, what are you hearing from them about the barriers that are preventing them from accessing crypto?
Right now I can only speak for my D.C. residents who I love and hope to represent in 2022. In talking with them I think there is mainly a lack of deep understanding with regards to cryptocurrency… I’m still finding that folks here in D.C. haven’t fully been able to break through the noise and so that’s another reason why part of my campaign is just as much about voter education as it is about inspiration.
I also see a lack of utility that’s being a barrier. When we’re talking about cryptocurrency and what makes it relevant and net positive to them compared to what they’re already using, I hear things like, “this cryptocurrency thing sounds great. How do I get it and how is it going to help me buy groceries and get food on the table?”
We need to go back and we need to educate and help people be informed consumers and not just emotional ones.
I think visibility is important, knowing where to begin if one is curious, where do we send people to learn — there’s so much information you know is available and some of it is accurate and some of it is not. What’s the crypto 101 resource that we send people to so that they can begin to start learning?
And then, of course, there’s the oversight — protections and building accessible cryptocurrency and blockchain products that are reliable, secure, and user-friendly for the vast majority of people who don’t use anything beyond the default apps on their phone. We need to make sure that we design public policies around the public’s needs while also listening to experts in the crypto community when it comes to designing for a more crypto-savvy sort of audience. So those are just some of the barriers I see for folks here in D.C.
That’s a great segue towards the importance of education. Just as an FYI for people, Binance.US does have a lot of educational posts on our blog. I know you have a team to help support education around your own learning. Have you ever had to educate your own personal friends and family on crypto? What has that general consensus been amongst your own circle and how you’re starting to have those conversations to help onboard people to the ecosystem?
Well, mainly I just tell them “my why”: I’m still learning and educating myself but you know, I find that it’s really important as a candidate to translate my understanding into applications that people can immediately see and understand how it benefits them in their daily lives. So breaking it down, I might have a friend or family member that says, “okay, explain crypto to me like I’m a third grader” and so just trying to have conversations but also being respectful of those who might have reservations. We’re talking about a wholesale change in how we approach our perspectives on finances, on money, on financial transactions… Most D.C. residents don’t yet understand the possibilities of crypto technology, but I still believe in its potential to change people’s daily lives. It’s important for me to educate people from their perspective and focus on issues that people can immediately relate to.
One of the things we did with my campaign is we created a page on our website about some additional uses of blockchain technology. We show you how you can explain certain blockchain applications for newcomers. I encourage you to check out my website and you can learn about some of these blockchain sustainability policies.
Thank you Rev. Wendy. Just a fun little question towards the end here—have you considered issuing NFTs as part of your campaign? What would your NFT look like?
[laughs] So yes, my NFT would look like a Hope Dealer NFT, so if anybody is out there that wants to do that, please send it our way...
I want the whole gamut of the crypto conversation addressed [including NFTs]... I’m here no matter which way someone prefers to find their path to financial freedom and financial liberation, so I just want to make sure I reiterate that today—I love this conversation, I’m so excited to have talked to you all and thank you so much for giving me the time and the platform to be able to talk to even more people.
Thank you so much for your time. How can our community learn more about you?
Visit revwendyforcongress.com. You can look on the Issues page to find more about my key issues, including cryptocurrency. Let’s celebrate that there are pro-crypto candidates who are endeavoring to bring this community and this important conversation to the table in Washington D.C.! Thank you everybody!
Rev. Wendy is a 2022 D.C. Candidate for U.S. Congress. For more information, follow Rev. Wendy on Twitter or her website. The transcript above has been edited for brevity and clarity. Listen to the full, unabridged conversation on our Twitter page.