With a patriotic theme and “America the Beautiful” playing in the background, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) and the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) co-sponsored the celebration of Social Security’s 75th birthday at the North Shore Retirement Hotel on Aug. 13.

Katie Jordan, representative of ARA, said, “The promise of Social Security cannot be broken” and “all people have the right to receive it.” Praising those who have worked hard to maintain Social Security’s benefits, Ms. Jordan criticized the federal government’s decision to borrow money from the Social Security fund. “It is unacceptable that the government can pay back Wall Street and not Social Security.”

Many listening had tales of the impact of Social Security on their lives. Helen Crawford, 97, was a young adult when FDR made history in 1935. She has been receiving Social Security for the past 20 years. Ms. Crawford said it took a long time to receive good Social Security benefits and that Americans finally have that chance. She added, “Social Security has brought me a long way, and I’m grateful for still being here.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that the passing of the Social Security Act is an example of government at its best, a reason why she loves being a part it. Mayor Tisdahl said, “I’m not worried about Social Security, because … the political genius of FDR, my political genius and your political genius will guarantee Social Security.” 

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, the final speaker at the celebration, said, laughing that, she felt at home; she had had both her bat mitzvah and wedding reception at the North Shore Retirement Hotel. She went straight to business, saying that Social Security is “the greatest treasure of social benefits and insurance programs.” As a member of the Committee of Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Congresswoman Schakowsky said she and her colleagues look at the deficit and the long-term debt. She added that without the Social Security trust fund the country would be an additional $2.4 billion in debt.

“It’s real money. The Social Security bonds are good and represent $2.4 trillion,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Americans will receive full benefits until 2037 and then, depending on the country’s current status, the benefits will either remain full or will be reduced to … three-fourths of the benefits.”

Congresswoman Schakowsky concluded the festivities by saying, “We can say, in all honesty, to our children and grandchildren that Social Security is one of America’s social treasures and that the people of today never let it get destroyed. … Happy birthday, Social Security, and I pledge to you that you will have many, many more.”

The Committees

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) was founded in 1982 by Congressman James Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was instrumental in the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935.

The Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) has about four million members and has the mission “to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security.”

Currently, Illinois’ NCPSSM has 156,939 members, who advocate for the reform of Social Security and Medicare in ways beneficial for all people.

“Today, 20 percent of Americans … solely rely on Social Security [for their income],” said NCPSSM representative Nan Anderson. “We are the largest social party in the country. We must continue to protect those 50 million people who rightfully earn Social Security.””