"If it weren't for Medicare, we'd be bankrupt, or I'd be dead." I heard this powerful testimonial from a woman at a Tulsa senior center on a recent AARP visit. Another woman told how she, as a young mother, was able to feed and clothe her family only with the help of Social Security survivors' benefits after her husband died suddenly.
See also: You've Earned a Say.
For these individuals, and for me, AARP's work to protect Medicare and Social Security is deeply personal. As for each of you, my life journey has been filled with challenges, good fortune, and unexpected twists of fate. My dad died before I was born, and my mom raised my sister and me on seamstress wages and monthly checks from Social Security survivors' benefits.
The first in my family to go to college, I financed my education through scholarships, three jobs and National Student Defense Loans. My business career took our family — Audrey, my wife of 37 years, and our children, Rachel and David — from Boston to Kansas City, Mo., then to Dallas, Philadelphia and Burke, Va. As much as those experiences shaped me, a life-threatening boating accident seven years ago had an even greater impact. This sobering event challenged me always to ask, "Am I doing all I can with the second chance I've been given?" This has guided me since, especially in my service with AARP's all-volunteer board of directors.
As I visit with AARP members from Maine to San Diego, I'm so grateful to learn about your lives and the spirit of generosity and determination that you share with your families and communities. You've told me about your struggle to find decent jobs, how you wrestle with caregiving challenges, the joys of grandparenting, the fulfillment of volunteering, and about the hard work you do day in and day out to provide health care and financial security for your families.
Listening to you guides the board in helping you navigate life's realities, by providing valuable information and useful products and services; fighting discrimination in the workplace; preventing unfair utility hikes; and, perhaps most important, preserving and strengthening Social Security and Medicare. Through You've Earned A Say — a national conversation about health and retirement security — AARP is taking the debate about the future of Medicare and Social Security out from behind closed doors in Washington (1-888-687-2277). What you tell us helps ensure that when people think about Medicare and Social Security, they're thinking not about a math problem but about the women at the Tulsa senior center.
I look forward to hearing more from you. As I begin my term as AARP president — with deep gratitude to my predecessor, Lee Hammond, and to all of the 23 men and women who have gone before me — I will work each and every day to make sure your voice is heard.
Also of interest: Social Security and older women.
AARP President Rob Romasco discusses Social Security.