Gray Panthers: Member E-Letter


Dear Friend of Gray Panthers,

Thank you for your ongoing support of the Gray Panthers. Your support enables us to work toward our vision of creating a humane society that puts the needs of people over profits, responsibility over power, and democracy over institutions. As a supporter, you will be receiving periodic updates from the national office in Washington that will highlight our work here, work coming out of our local Gray Panther networks and information on key issues.


Gray Panthers 2008 National Convention: "Turn America Around!"

Thanks to the support from members, patrons, and friends of Gray Panthers, the “Turn America Around” Gray Panthers 2008 Convention held in Detroit, Michigan was a success. Through much hard work and planning, this convention succeeded at achieving its purpose of adopting and supporting progressive issue resolutions and advocacy initiatives designed to create a vision for a better America. It is noted that this convention took place against the backdrop of the $700 billion bailout plan of Wall Street  by the government. If the decibel levels captured in the meeting room during the various Gray Panther growls was any indicatio n, convention attendees were enraged about the U.S taxpayer bailout which was being negotiated as we met.  

The convention opened with a Meet & Greet followed by an address from distinguished Detroit City Councilwoman Joann Watson We also took time to recognize those who had made significant impact in the Gray Panthers organization during our presentation of Maggie Kuhn Leadership Awards. The convention attendees received a warm Motor City welcome from Ken Cockrel, Jr., Mayor of the City of Detroit followed by a fiery presentation by Rev. Ed Rowe of the Central United Methodist church who addressed the importance of “Faith Partnerships in Progressive Movements”.

A very important part of the agenda that addressed the convention’s theme was the panel “Why We Need to Turn America Around: How We Can Do It.” Guest panelist included Tina Abbott, Secretary-Treasury of Michigan State AFL-CIO who spoke on Labor. Heaster Wheeler, the dynamic Executive Director of Detroit NAACP addressed Civil Rights/Civil Liberties. Next, education reform was addressed by Kathleen Strauss, Michigan State Board of Education. Lastly, Al Fishman from the Detroit Area Peace with Justice Network spoke on Peace. Brenda L. Lawrence served as moderator for the panel discussion.

Due to an unfortunate personal event immediately prior to the convention, the esteemed speaker and author Dr. Robert Butler, M.D. was unable to attend the convention in person for the keynote luncheon. However, he was fortunately able to deliver his presentation on “The Longevity Revolution: Meeting the Challenges of Aging with Provocative Policy Solutions” via telephone and PowerPoint presentation.

On Saturday evening, the convention reception was held at the Charles H. Wright African American Museum, the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum provides exhibitions and programs that explore the diversity of African American history and culture and houses over 30,000 artifacts and archival materials. One of the most notable exhibits was the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection. The guided tour was amazing, to say the least and is most definitely is a cultural experience to explore if e ver in Detroit.

Dr. David Apsey and Dr. Claudia Fegan, both from Physicians for a National Health Program were speakers during the reception. Dr. David Apsey gave a presentation on HR 676: Medicare for All which outlined the specifics of single payer healthcare and its benefits to citizens. Dr. Claudia Fegan went on to deliver her thought provoking single payer address “Next Steps in Turning Around the American Health Care System”. Dr. Fegan’s theme, “Nobody Out! Everybody In!” resonated loud and clear with the attendees. Attendees were provided with postcards supporting H.R. 676 and were strongly encouraged to send them to their House Reps to gain support for this critical legislation. 

The “Turn America Around” Rally took place in Hart Plaza in from of the Labor Monument. Dynamic guests including political representatives and progressive allies from labor, peace, civil rights, education, housing (foreclosures), the environment and health care were in attendance to share their visions for effectively accomplishing the convention’s theme of Turning America Around.

As a means to providing attendees with information and resources, there were several workshops incorporated into this year’s agenda. The skill building workshops included Combating Climate Change, Confronting Military Recruitment in Schools, Getting Publicity for Our Causes, Influencing Elected Officials, Recruiting and Retaining Members, and Fund Raising .


The convention’s banquet featured speeches from distinguished guest, Ron Getttelfinger, President of UAW International Union and Barbara Jean Johnson, representing the Governor’s office and Director of Community Affairs for South East Michigan.


As it is well known, Gray Panthers is an advocacy organization devoted to issues. The business of developing and tackling these issues was a very crucial portion of this convention. After voting, the priority issues are:


I.  HEALTH CARE (Resolutions relating to health care and personal

                        safety and security, including the rights of those

                        with disabilities.)  


II. ENVIRONMENT (Resolutions relating to urban growth, waste

                          management, energy, pollution, wildlife, environmental



                         (Resolutions relating to foreign policy, weapons

                         proliferation, crime, punishment, civil rights, civil

                         liberties, marriage equality, discrimination, &

                         community safety)


Other issues voted on and part of our platform included Family Security, Education, Jobs and Worker’s Rights, Political Integrity & Economic Justice, and Gray Panthers Organizational Policies. The Action Issues Committee of the National Board which is made up of board members and activists is meeting soon to follow-up on the priorities that came out of this convention and will be posting our new resolutions shortly.  

We would be remiss if we failed to recognize the outstanding entertainment that was provided for this convention. Raging Grannies, Y Deep River Choir, and the renowned Renaissance High School Choir served as musical entertainment at various events. In addition, some of our very own Gray Panthers provided musical entertainment including “Oh Yes We Can”- a song by Luci Murphy of the Greater Metropolitan Washington Gray Panther Network, and the “Gray Panthers Anthem” written by the late Joan B. Lee and sung by Daniel Duane Spyker of the Metro Detroit network. Whether through humorous melodies, rousing chants or traditional choral selections, the masterful deliverance of the musical pieces brought notable delight to all of our convention attendees.

All in all, this year’s convention received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. We would like to thank all those friends and allies who supported the convention in some way. You each contributed to a wonderfully successful meeting.

A special thanks to our sponsors:

Consumer’s Union

The Family in Memory of Doris Dawson

Charlotte Flynn 

Presbyterian Senior Services


Gray Panthers News from National Office

 "Impact of Economic Crisis on Aging Generation"

On the verge of this historical election, the state of the economy sits heavily on the minds of many citizens. Senior citizens, in particular, have been significantly affected by the economic financial crisis. One thing is certain; the next US president must carefully take into consideration the needs this country’s most influential citizens.

One of the hardest hit groups during this economic crisis are the retired as well as baby boomers nearing retirement. The collapse of the financial markets has forced many retirees to watch their retirement savings disappear with falling stock prices and failing banks. Many retirees are also suffering from failing 401K and IRA plans. Much of their pension funds are invested in stocks. Additionally, there has been a decrease in the percentage covered by defined benefit (“pay-out”) plans and an increase in the percentage covered by defined contribution (“pay-in”) plans. This means that risk in terms of steady retirement income has been transferred from the employer to the eventual retiree. Financial dependence on stock-based savings has forced the baby boomers and senior citizens to put a whole new perspective on their golden years.  

These financial effects have raised the prospect that additional older Americans will remain or return to the workforce. Recent reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show this is already a booming occurrence. Statistics show workers 65+ are increasing faster than the rest of the workforce. Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over). It is important to note that these increases do not merely reflect the aging of the baby-boom population because as of 2007, the baby-boomers had not yet reached the age of 65.

However, with the aging of the baby-boom generation, the graying of the American workforce is only just beginning. In the future, these trends are predicted to continue as more retirees are forced to return to the workforce to survive. Additional BLS data predict an overall 8.5 percent increase in the total labor force during the period 2006-2016. However, within the age categories, workers ages 55-64 are expected to have the sharpest climb with a 36.5 percent increase. The number of workers between the ages of 65 and 74 are predicted to soar by more than 80 percent. By 2016, workers age 65 and over are expected to account for 6.1 percent of the total labor force, up sharply in comparison to their 3.6 percent share in 2006.

Seniors have worked for  decades to earn their retirement funds and the nation’s politicians and financial institutions have failed them. Other generations may be able to “ride” this economic downturn out but the economic crisis has placed this generation of seniors in a financial bind where they are struggling to make ends meet. For a retired senior today, in many cases living on a fixed income, decreasing retirement funds and increasing food and gas prices, the impact of economic challenges brought to the forefront by this crisis is immense. The nation’s current economic state reflects the crucial impact that the next administration’s economic policies will have on the lives of the aging and senior generation.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Spotlight on Statistics "Older Workers". July 2008

For more information concerning this issue, please visit 

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