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Ask Lee: A Chat With AARP's President

It's a privilege and a pleasure for me to serve as your AARP president for the next two years.

I'm taking over this office from my friend and colleague Jennie Chin Hansen, and I look forward to building on the successes of her administration. I'd like to share a little of my background with you. After a 30-year career in education, 25 as a school administrator in the Wicomico County School System in Maryland, I looked toward retirement as a time to give back to the community and the professionals with whom I had been associated for so many years.

Because of my experience in education, I was drawn to AARP, whose founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, was a retired high-school principal. Dr. Andrus established the National Retired Teachers Association, and then AARP, to help older Americans live with dignity, financial security, and access to quality, affordable health care. Those goals have never changed. I joined the Wicomico Retired Teachers Association and later became its president. After also serving as the AARP state coordinator for retired teachers, president of the Maryland Retired Teachers Association, and AARP Maryland state president, I was elected to the AARP Board in 2002.

I contributed to my community in other ways as well, as a volunteer board member, and eventually president, of the Holly Foundation, an organization devoted to the needs of the developmentally disabled who live on Maryland's Eastern Shore. "We learn the secret of happiness when we learn to direct our inner drive, our interest, and our attention to something outside ourselves," said Dr. Andrus. That wise counsel will be my guide in the two years ahead.

AARP makes headline news for its advocacy in the health and financial-security arenas. But our many other efforts to improve the lives of all Americans are seldom publicized. I want to see that change. I plan to encourage and promote volunteer service nationwide—and to use our "bully pulpit" to showcase the work of our volunteers and to increase their ranks. Your greatest donation can be the gift of time and experience. I want you, our members, to be aware and proud of the work AARP does to help individuals and communities in need. I want you to join in these efforts. And as we work together, I look forward to answering your questions about AARP.

 —W. Lee Hammond, President

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