The truest measure of our lives is not the length of our days but how deeply we touch the lives of others. That is a lesson the African-American community has always taken to heart, whether it's in our churches, through sororities and fraternities, in all types of civic and social organizations, or by simply acting to help a neighbor or friend.
This ideal of service to others is also a defining principle of AARP, the 40 million member organization for men and women who are 50-plus. AARP was founded by a retired high school principal, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, with the motto, "To serve, not to be served." We honor that commitment today by connecting and engaging our members in a wide range of opportunities to serve others.
Our Create the Good initiative offers more than 250 ways to make a difference through a range of flexible, meaningful opportunities to serve. Whether you have five minutes, five hours, or five weeks, there are ways for you to give back.
Create the Good can connect you to Operation Energy Save, where you get a toolkit to help friends and neighbors save money on their energy bills. You can use your financial skills to help people in need to prepare their taxes. Last year, more than 34,000 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped nearly three million people fill out their taxes. The efforts of these committed individuals helped to secure approximately $837 million in refund payments, including—$187 million in Earned Income Tax Credits -- putting money in the pockets of low- and moderate-income people, with special attention to those over 60.
There are many other ways to get involved through AARP. You can teach a driver safety course to help people refresh their driving skills. You can use our checklists to assess a neighbor's home for safety, or use our web-based tools to help someone in need file for public benefits or plan for retirement. You can help someone looking for work to assess his or her skills, update a resume, and prepare for interviews. To learn more about ways you can help, visit www.aarp.org/blackcommunity.
One of the great lessons we can learn from service is a deeper understanding of how the generations are connected to each other.
As a former school principal, like our founder, Dr. Andrus, I have a special appreciation for those who volunteer to help our schoolchildren reach their potential in their studies and in life.
AARP members are working to improve their communities through a wide range of activities in service and civic engagement. They are contacting public officials on important issues such as health care, housing, mobility, energy prices and retirement security. More than nine million are engaged through AARP's volunteer, donor, and activist networks.
Friday, September 11 will be a National Day of Service and Remembrance, established by the Kennedy Serve America Act. It will be a Day of Service for AARP staff and volunteers as we reflect upon the horrible events of that day eight years ago and rededicate ourselves to reaching out to others and fulfilling our country's promise.
Getting engaged to improve the life of someone else can bring a new sense of purpose to our own life. Studies have shown that volunteering not only helps the person being served but also has a positive effect on the health and well-being of the volunteer.
"Life is not a spectator sport," Jackie Robinson said. "If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."
A man born just over 40 years after Jackie Robinson—Barack Obama—put it this way when he signed into law the Kennedy Serve America Act last April.
"All that's required on your part is a willingness to make a difference," President Obama said. "That is, after all, the beauty of service. Anyone can do it."
The beauty indeed. Anyone can do it and everyone can benefit when we open our hearts and extend the hand of service.