There is a Chinese proverb that says: “One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade.” As AARP’s first Asian-American national volunteer president, I benefit from the legacy of AARP’s first African-American president, Dr. Margaret Dixon, who served as AARP’s highest-ranking volunteer leader from 1996 to 1998.
What a shining example Margaret has provided—as a compassionate trailblazer, a fierce advocate for the interests of people age 50+, and an eloquent ambassador for AARP to diverse communities around the country. In retirement after decades of service as an educator, Margaret first started with AARP as a local volunteer, an AARP minority affairs spokesperson in Maryland.
By the time Margaret had reached the service limit of AARP’s Board of Directors, she had committed a total of 14 years of her life as an AARP volunteer. She truly embodies AARP’s motto, created by our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus: “To serve, not to be served.”
Margaret recently celebrated her 86th birthday, and I had the opportunity to visit her in her home. She imparted much wisdom to me about using the two years of my term as AARP president to help make a difference in the lives of our members and their families, and especially about working to ensure that they have access to affordable, quality health care and peace of mind about their financial security.
One thing in particular that Margaret said has stayed with me. When I acknowledged her for her pioneering role as AARP’s first-ever minority president, Margaret reminded me of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had said: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”
Both Margaret and I will always treasure the opportunity that AARP offers to us in the multiple ways we can serve to “create the good.”
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