Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is the author of “Say Yes to No debt” (formerly titled “dfree®: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery” which was published in February 2015 by Zondervan. The book is based on Dr. Soaries’ dfree® strategy, which uses a 12-step approach to teach people how to achieve financial freedom starting with debt-free living. A companion workbook was also published “dfree® Lifestyle: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom.” This workbook offers a step by step curriculum that facilitates changing financial behavior and achieving financial goals. This curriculum is being used in the 7000 member First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey where Dr. Soaries serves as the Senior Pastor. It is also being taught in hundreds of churches and community organizations.
Dr. Soaries’ work was the focus of the third installment of CNN’s Black in America documentary “Almighty Debt,” which originally aired October 2010 and the re-aired in February of 2011. The 90-minute cable-news feature was narrated by award winning television journalist Soledad O’Brien who described Dr. Soaries’ efforts to support three families that were facing tough financial challenges caused by the Great Recession. The documentary was viewed by 14 million households.
Continuing his effort to stress the importance of financial freedom, Dr. Soaries has launched a national “Billion Dollar Challenge.” The goal of this campaign is to lead families in the reduction of one billion dollars of personal and family debt. The web-based tool that allows people to establish debt reduction goals, track their debt reduction progress and to form groups of friends and family members to get out of debt together.
Dr. Soaries’ experience in creating change stems from his youth. As a college student, he led a campaign against drug use on campus that resulted in his being kidnapped at gunpoint from his dormitory room by drug dealers. He later worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator. His roles during and after college eventually led to historic and noteworthy government positions. From Jan. 12, 1999 to Jan. 15, 2002, Dr. Soaries served as New Jersey’s 30th Secretary of State making him the first African-American male to serve as a constitutional officer of the state. Dr. Soaries is also the former chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission having been appointed by The President of the United States on Dec. 15, 2003 after being confirmed by the United States Senate.
Dr. Soaries is an independent director at three corporations: Federal Home Loan Bank of New York where he serves as Vice Chairman of the Compensation Committee; Independence Realty Trust where he serves as Chairman of the Compensation Committee; Ocwen Financial Corporation.
Dr. Soaries is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, conferences and churches around the world, as well as a frequent advisor to major corporations in the areas of ethics, diversity, philanthropy and community relations. He is also special adviser to the Okyenhene (King) of the Akyem Abuaka Traditional Kingdom in Ghana, His Majesty Osageyfuo Amoatia Ofori Panin. He was recently honored by the government of Liberia and recognized at an Indigenous Investiture where he was designated and robed as a Paramount Chief.
Dr. Soaries earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University, a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, the most recent being Rutgers University (2014) and currently New Brunswick Theological Seminary both in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He has also received seven honorary doctorate degrees from institutions of higher learning.
In 2012 Dr. Soaries was listed on the Annual “Power 100” List by Ebony Magazine which identifies the most influential African Americans in the country and in 2014 New Jersey Monthly Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in New Jersey. He is a frequent blogger and contributor to various periodicals and media. His works have been featured in several publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Ebony Magazine, Black Enterprise, Church Executive, and Government Executive Magazine.
Dr. Soaries resides in Central New Jersey with his wife, Donna, and twin sons, Malcolm and Martin.