I want to tell you a story about where my interests in civic engagement in general and policies affecting the aging in particular come from.

One of the best teachers I ever had was a professor at Duke University named Bruce Payne who taught a course called “Humanistic Perspectives in Public Policy.” One of the main assignments in that class was to go somewhere at least once a week and talk to people who were unlike yourself and then write about what you learned every Friday. The students in that class did some marvelous things. They talked to tobacco workers at the old Liggett & Myers Tobacco warehouses, they talked to truck drivers at truck stops on Interstate 85, and they talked to the down-and-out in local bars in Durham.

For my part, I went to a local high-rise housing project for the elderly every Tuesday. I asked the residents there about their views on Social Security, religion, retirement, and how government affected them. And it taught me a lasting lesson about never forgetting the public in public policy.

Join us at Forum 11 in Washington, DC from March 2-5, 2011. More information soon at kfla.org/forum11.