Marie F. Smith, AARP President
Good morning. As President of AARP, I represent our Board of Directors as well as our 35 million members. I talk to and hear from members every day. This morning I’m sharing that voice of the member. And AARP’s power derives from its members.
That’s what sets AARP apart. We are nonpartisan, nonprofit, and our position on the issues is driven by what we hear from our members and what’s best for them and society as a whole. As you know, we have a broad array of issues. Ultimately, we want to bring about positive social change for an aging America. That includes health, community service and economic issues. Bill will speak about some specifics.
Strengthening Social Security is our top legislative priority in 2005. We know it's the number one issue for our members. I and my Board colleagues have crisscrossed this country to speak at more than 50 Social Security forums in 2004 alone, with more to come. I can tell you that there's intense interest, it’s growing and it cuts through party or age or ethnic lines.
I come with a quarter of a century of professional experience working for the Social Security Administration. I know what this program means to real people, including my own mother, who was able to lead a life of dignity because of the peace of mind that Social Security provided. And I will never forget the woman who came to me with her three children my first day on the job. Anxious. Desperate. Her husband was disabled and how on earth would she be able to provide for her family? When I explained what she could expect from Social Security, her relief and gratitude was so palpable that it inspired me for years to come. I hear similar stories every day from people who can't afford health care coverage and prescription drugs.
AARP is prepared to work vigorously to strengthen Social Security and to work in other areas to make life better for people of all generations. We will do this because it's the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. And we will bring the full force of our national and grass roots advocacy to bear.
I know you have many questions for us, so let's turn now to AARP’s CEO, Bill Novelli.