AARP: Creating an America as Good as Its Promise

by Savoy Staff

AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins speaking on “Leading the Equitable  Recovery” at AARP’s Virtual Fall Summit “Moving Forward: Reimaging How We Invest in Health, Wealth & Aging.”

By Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP

AARP has been on the frontlines for over 60 years fighting to improve people’s health and economic security, to fight against age discrimination and to address the needs and interests of people as they age, especially those most vulnerable.  As our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, proclaimed many years ago, “What we do, we do for all.”

We’re deeply concerned about the disparities that exist in our society—in healthcare, economic opportunity, and quality of life— because we believe all people should be empowered to choose how they live as they age.

Today, we have deep divisions within our country.  COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities where, historically, there has been less opportunity. Blacks and Latinos have been hospitalized and have died at higher rates due to COVID-19, we have witnessed increasing incidents of racial violence throughout this past year.

These disparities are not random, but instead are the result of a long history of inequality due to a lack of social, economic and political opportunities.

During times like these, people look to their leaders—and to each other—for guidance, support, solutions, and perhaps most importantly, for inspiration and reassurance that we will get through them and move forward.  Hopefully, we have all learned some valuable lessons from recent events, and we can find ways to apply these lessons to move us forward.

At AARP, as we look to the future beyond COVID-19, one area of focus for us is to build equity into the recovery in terms of health, wealth and aging. We see an opportunity to build on our efforts to address long-standing disparities in health, economic security and quality of life—and to redouble our efforts to combat racism and ageism.

All people should have access to the resources, services and support that empower them to live a life of dignity, good health and purpose—regardless of age, race, or income.

If there is one thing I would like to see come from this global pandemic, it would be that we take advantage of the opportunity before us to build a more equitable society.  As we consider this moment in time, it’s clear this work is more important than ever.

What Dr. Martin Luther King said so many years ago, still rings true today.

He said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.  We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.  In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late.  This is no time for apathy or complacency.  This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

AARP has always fought to build a more equitable society and to advocate for programs that empower all people to live and age with dignity and purpose because we know that discrimination of any kind corrodes our communities and our society from the inside out, and it frays our democracy.

To eradicate the entrenched disparities and inequities that have obstructed opportunity and inhibited longevity for generations, we need new ways of thinking.  We need bold ideas, solutions and choices.

The late Congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, once said that “What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.”

Let us unite to create a society that values hope over hate, faith over fear, and compassion over confrontation.  And, let us all commit to creating a country where every person has the opportunity to live a life of dignity, good health, economic opportunity and purpose—regardless of race, gender, income or age.

And when we do that, we will create an America as good as its promise.



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