One year ago I became CEO of AARP. Since then, my view has certainly been confirmed: This organization and its members are a powerful, positive force in American life.
I came to AARP with a perspective shaped not only by many years in the corporate world, but also by my deep roots in the middle-class experience—as the grandson of a minister, as someone whose mother was a teacher and whose father worked in the post office.
Because of that experience, I’ve always believed that if our democracy is to work well for all, the average citizen needs a champion. I continue to be impressed with all that AARP does to help the average citizen.
We speak up, in a loud and clear voice, for these citizens. That means policymakers don’t hear only from the big banks and the large health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical and utility companies.
We’re the voice of people 50-plus in the halls of power. Through our state offices, we’ve made a difference on pocketbook issues—from lowering utility bills and prescription drug prices to fighting financial fraud, from making streets safer to expanding home- and community-based services.
In Washington, we have a long record of accomplishment, championing efforts to provide prescription drug coverage for seniors in Medicare; to defeat the privatization of Social Security; to approve disbursement of an extra $250 check during the Great Recession for Social Security recipients; and finally to extend and improve the quality of health care.
One aspect of the new health care legislation that deserves special attention is long-term care. This is not just a policy matter. For me, it’s a family matter. I was a caregiver for my father during the last eight years of his life. Many of our members also know this challenge. An AARP study reported that America’s caregivers provided $375 billion worth of care in 2007. Our country must do more to support family caregivers.
Now, we’re committed to doing whatever we need to do to help our members and the public understand what’s in this new law and how it will affect them. And we will work tirelessly to ensure that the law is implemented in a timely and equitable way that ultimately and drastically reduces the growth of health care costs.
Our work at AARP involves not only solving policy problems but also opening up new possibilities and new ways of thinking—at any age.
We are helping our members overcome challenges—and pursue their dreams. We’re helping them get tools and resources to enable them to save for a secure retirement. While we battle age discrimination in the courts, we also have programs and information to help older workers stay in the workforce as long as they desire. We also recently launched a major effort, Create the Good, to connect people with meaningful opportunities to serve in their communities.
Our members don’t want to be limited or labeled. They want to define themselves and live their best life. Whether it is for ways to get the most out of their travel and entertainment dollars or for new ways to serve their communities, they are turning to us to make life at 50-plus more rewarding. One year into this journey, I am excited about what lies ahead for our members.