At 73, Floyd Mori shows no signs of slowing down.
"If I had to paint a portrait of myself, it would be to somehow show the effect or impact I've made on the lives of everyday people," he says. Looking back on his career, he has definitely left an impression. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in economics, Asian studies and political science, Mori taught college before he participated in local politics.
"I never anticipated a career in politics," he says. "However, I was a college professor teaching economics, which involved government policies and issues, so I always encouraged my students to become part of an enlightened electorate to make our system work."
During his stint as an elected member of the California State Assembly in the '70s, Mori helped develop policies on discrimination. His work eventually collided with his active membership in the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). "Where I grew up in Utah, the JACL was the only organization that included everybody," he recalls. "It was a community organization, and that is why I got involved."
Mori became the national president of JACL, where he advocated for civil and human rights, especially on behalf of Asian Americans. "We were one of the first organizations to speak out and caution our nation about bigotry and discrimination — especially during 9/11," he says. In fact, Mori has been recognized by other organizations, most recently hailed by AARP as a "community thought leader" and the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette last year from the Japanese government for his contributions to the Japanese American community.
One might think that he would be ready to lie back, relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor. Instead, Mori continues to look for new opportunities to do what he loves and give back to his community.
That is not to say that Mori does not enjoy his down time whenever he can get it: "Golf is a big hobby of mine," he points out. "I started a golf business, which I still have today. I love fishing as well and still have colleagues in Sacramento I fish with to this day."
But in spite of his fondness for these hobbies, Mori continues to do many things that defy current perceptions about growing older: mainly, that as people enter their retirement years, there is not much left to do but stop working and sit. Indeed, Mori tries to keep up with technological advances: "These days I stay in touch with the world through Facebook and other social networking activities," he says. "In fact, I think many older Americans deserve more credit for using these tools to stay connected."
But most important, Mori continues to tirelessly participate in activities he feels most passionate about. "Currently, I'm working on a proposal in New Orleans for the Vietnamese fishermen. It's to help them make a living by raising vegetables in place of fishing due to the BP oil crisis," he said. As a result of the oil spill in the Gulf region, many livelihoods were displaced because people did not consider the fish from the region safe.
In addition, he was recently appointed interim CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS). If his current docket isn't busy enough, he also works for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, consulting on issues related to legislation for the aging, using his years of experience as a consultant with many Fortune 500 companies.
His passion for the needs of senior citizens stems from his long association with them: "My parents were much older than many of my friends' parents, so I had a lifetime of associating with older relatives and friends of theirs," he recollects. "Whether it might be a dinner or activity, I always make it a point to listen to what they have to say. Because I was involved in politics in California, I was fully aware of issues facing seniors."
But more than his youthful association with older people, Mori's leadership role at APAICS, his consultant work on aging and active participation within the Asian American community today is largely motivated by his experiences as a 50-plus member: "Turning 50 was somewhat of a milestone for me," he notes. "My hope is to educate and penetrate people by looking at policy and seeing how their voice can be of value."
His work in policymaking today ensures that the 50-plus do not lose their voice in the democratic process. "Older Americans are becoming a greater part of our society and we are all living longer, so policy related to older Americans is very critical and important," he points out. "We can't forget the needs of the people who have given so much to make our country as great as it is."
He is still living a fulfilling life, giving back to his community and engaging in his passions. But even as he looks toward the future, with all the things he still wants to do and to achieve, he seems amused by how far he has come and the detours his life has taken.
"I would have never imagined a life that was outside of how I grew up on the farm. My life has changed in so many ways for the better," he says. "My dream was to have a home, a family, a yard, and I did all of that. As life changes, so do your aspirations."
Clarence Cabanero is an intern with Multicultural Markets and Engagement at AARP.
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