Bill Novelli is CEO of AARP, a membership organization of 40 million people age 50 and older, half of whom remain actively employed. AARP’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age. Prior to joining AARP, Mr. Novelli was President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, whose mandate is to change public policies and the social environment, limit tobacco companies’ marketing and sales practices to children and serve as a counterforce to the tobacco industry and its special interests. He now serves as chairman of the board. He was also Executive Vice President of CARE, the world’s largest private relief and development organization.
Mr. Novelli is a recognized leader in social marketing and social change, and has managed programs in cancer control, diet and nutrition, cardiovascular health, reproductive health, infant survival, pay increases for educators, charitable giving and other programs in the U.S. and the developing world. His book, 50+: Give Meaning and Purpose to the Best Time of Your Life, was updated in 2008. Mr. Novelli serves on a number of boards and advisory committees. He holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. from Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, and pursued doctoral studies at New York University.
Bill Novelli: I don’t know that I have a particular hero. I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book called “A Team of Rivals”. It’s a book about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. And one of the most powerful lessons I got out of that book is that Lincoln was a flawed leader. In other words Lincoln was a human being. And we think of him in terms of the Emancipation Proclamation; in terms of winning the Civil War. But what . . . what you really get out of this book is that Lincoln made mistakes. And we all are gonna make mistakes; but we can all be leaders. You don’t just have to be at the top. You can be a leader throughout an organization. You can be a leader in your town, in your neighborhood, in your community. So I think what we have to think to ourselves is we can do it. Yes it’s partly obligation; but it’s partly our desire to leave a legacy, to give back. And then if we make mistakes, that’s okay. Just keep on going.
Recorded on: 9/27/07