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On Sept. 6, LeadingAge's Public Policy Congress embarked on a 2-day journey, meeting in workgroups to refine concept papers and identify key public policy principles. After the morning of the first day, full of introductions and workgroup meetings, the Public Policy Congress reconvened for a few inspirational words from Diana Aviv, president and CEO of The Independent Sector.
Aviv opened her address to the Public Policy Congress by noting that in addition to "doing the right things for the right reasons" (one of LeadingAge's president and CEO's trademark expressions), we must "all be fearless in the face of adversity and complexity."
She cited former President Kennedy, who famously said, "we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, (other things including civil rights legislation and peace corps) not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
For a group whose work is never-ending and constantly changing with the political landscape, especially with elections approaching, Aviv's word were well received.
In addition to numerous quotes and anecdotes that illustrated the importance of steadfastness and perseverance in times of adversity, Aviv stressed the value of defining and protecting the tax-exempt status of providers, and of ensuring that legislators know the benefits that nonprofit aging services providers offer the community.
Referring to sequestration and upcoming budget cuts, Aviv said, "Remember they're not looking at this in isolation, they are interested in reducing the deficit, and looking at streams of funding. To simply say "we're good and nice'-they know that already, they've told us we're good and nice. Now we have to change the 'good and nice' to what difference we make in their communities, and what their constituents would feel about this. Let's hope they are voting constituents."
Given Aviv's South African upbringing and softly lilting accent, it was fitting for her to close with a Nelson Mandela quote accompanied by an African proverb, "if you want to go fast, then go alone, but if you want to go far, then travel together." The implication was that the work of the Public Policy Congress, while it may not yield immediate results, is the kind of work that produces long-lasting effects that will outlive any single administration or Congress.