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Encore Careers Summit: ‘Growling and kicking for social change,’ by Gara LaMarche

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In a rousing call to action at the Encore Careers Summit, Gara LaMarche (at right) urged older Americans to heed the call to service that was a hallmark of President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign as well as push for policy changes that will help launch encore careers. His speech is featured on the home page of The Huffington Post.

As president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the few foundations focused on aging, and as a former leader with Human Rights Watch and other organizations working for positive social change, LaMarche has watched social activism ebb and flow in many countries.

“Make the most of this moment,” he told the audience. “Respond to the call of a new president when he asks what we can do for our country, a country in which many of us are happily surprised to find we take a newfound pride.

“Help to pass the Kennedy-Hatch bill and other measures to build institutions, the new and improved and inclusive versions of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, building on the success of the Experience Corps, that give structure and funding to this movement. Help to push for a Third Age Bill that could help millions of Americans launch encore careers through tuition assistance and retraining programs. Don’t let this moment pass: seize it, expand it, fly with it.”

But action is not enough, LaMarche said: “We need to marry service with advocacy to change policy, law and the flow of money, because otherwise we cannot get the job done, and we will continue to feel as we too often do that we are emptying the ocean with a teacup. You and millions like you are uniquely poised to step up even more boldly to this challenge, because you and the people you serve have the authenticity to be listened to.

“When you put in the hours to help young men who’ve paid dearly for their personal mistakes with prison time, as has Mark Goldsmith, Purpose Prize winner and founder of Getting Out and Staying Out, you have the credibility to tell the New York State Senate that the Rockefeller drug laws are a societal mistake. We can’t continue to have two tracks of engagement in this country, one aimed at winning elections and passing laws and the other at helping our neighbors. The two must come together, and when they do, they will be multiplied a thousandfold.”

LaMarche noted, “I believe we are on the cusp of that exciting moment. And if those of us who have been in the vanguard of the movement to tap the potential of older adults and harness purpose can do that, together, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, we boomers “may be remembered more for what we did in our sixties than what we did in the Sixties.”

He concluded, “Let’s serve, yes, but let’s step up the growling and the kicking, too.”

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Encore Careers Summit, Gara LaMarche