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Put 'we the people' in the driver's seat on Social Security and Medicare

In his farewell address upon leaving office, President Ronald Reagan, asked us to remember that our Constitution tells us, in effect, "We the people are the driver, the government is the car, and we decide where it should go, by what route, and how fast."

Over the past year, AARP members in overwhelming numbers have sent us a clear message; they realize that changes are needed to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, but they're tired of having politicians in Washington sit behind closed doors trading away the benefits they've earned over their lifetimes of hard work. They've told us they believe they've earned the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat and take the wheel on the road to strengthening Social Security and Medicare.

In other words, AARP members believe strongly that they've earned the right to have their voices heard on the future of Social Security and Medicare — the programs so vitally important to their financial security and health.

We agree. AARP just launched "You've Earned a Say," designed to generate a widespread movement of personal empowerment on Social Security and Medicare.

A primary goal of "You've Earned a Say" is to empower 50+ Americans by providing them with information to make informed judgments regarding proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare so they can decide for themselves what is or isn't in their best interests. We're committed to offering them unbiased, straightforward and accurate information — without all the political jargon and spin.

AARP will be spending the next year listening to what people have to say about the pros and cons of the different proposals for Social Security and Medicare through questionnaires, local town hall meetings and debates. We will facilitate these conversations here in Utah and across the country.

We also will ask all federal candidates to clearly state their positions on Social Security and Medicare reform, and then share those positions with voters so that they can make informed choices at the polls in November.

The 2012 election may turn out to be a referendum on Social Security and Medicare. The next president and the next Congress could well determine the future of these programs. AARP will provide the opportunities for Americans to have their voices heard, but for "You've Earned a Say to succeed" — for Social Security and Medicare to remain strong for future generations — Americans must exercise the right and the responsibility our Constitution has given us to raise those voices. So, get in the driver's seat and take the wheel. We've left the keys for you at our website:

Alan Ormsby is the state director of AARP Utah.