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Rawle Andrews, Jr. Esq.

Mar 07, 2016

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Regional Vice President, AARP

  • Rawle Andrews, Jr., Esq.Rawle Andrews, Jr., Esq.

    Regional Vice President, Maryland

    American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

  • EmpowermentEmpowermentEmpowermentEmpowerment

    might call it external communica-

    tions, on what AARP is, what it does,

    and how you can get involved.

    Andrews shared with Exceptional

    People Magazine what he enjoys

    about his position and what he enjoys

    most about helping AARP members

    live healthy and productive lives.

    EPM: Why did you decide to be-

    come an attorney?

    Rawle: I believe that I always

    wanted to find a career in law, even

    though my father was a physician, his

    uncle and mentor was a physician and

    my younger brother also is a medical

    doctor. And I think my ability to help

    folks know their rights, have those

    rights enforced, was only going to be

    from a mouthpiece where legal train-

    ing was available. That doesnt mean

    a lot of people dont watch Law and

    Order; they can figure out what law-

    yers do, and sometimes they do it

    pretty successfully. But ultimately the

    classical legal training, I think, does

    give me a chance to give voice to the

    voiceless, whether thats a corpora-

    tion, a government entity, or an indi-

    vidual.

    EPM: You received your JD with

    honors, and you also received the

    2006 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year

    award. How important is it for attor-

    neys to do pro bono work?

    As an attorney and the

    Regional Vice President for

    AARP in Maryland, Rawle

    Andrews, Jr. has confronted

    many challenges.

    Often viewed by many as an organi-

    zation offering discounts to senior

    citizens, AARP is much more than

    that. It provides an abundance of

    benefits that many people may not be

    aware of. Andrews is responsible for

    ensuring that it all comes together and

    runs smoothly. He oversees various

    programs for 850,000 members.

    In some respects they are our con-

    stituents, but they also are our volun-

    teers. They also are our partners in

    several of our collaborative efforts to

    try to make a difference for people 50

    and older and their families, stated

    Andrews.

    I would split my job into thirds, if

    you will. One-third of my job is the

    general administration and manage-

    ment of the business and financial

    affairs of AARPs business in the

    state of Maryland. The second phase

    or the second third of my job is to run

    and oversee our advocacy operations,

    which some people would call lobby-

    ing. And the third is really in the pub-

    lic education and community outreach

    phase of the work we do, so you

    Rawle: I believe that if you read 99

    out of 100 law school essays over the

    last 25 to 30 years, almost every one

    of them would say, Please admit me

    to your law school, no matter where

    the law school is, because I want to

    be able to give back to the commu-

    nity, and the only way I can do it is to

    be a lawyer. That being said, people

    get in, the golden handcuffs come out

    and then, suddenly, they take a job on

    K Street or Wall Street, or wherever

    the street may be, and they find that it

    becomes difficult with family and

    other commitments to give back.

    But I think if thats where you started,

    that your plans were that you would

    be committed to public service in that

    way, that you would know your obli-

    gations. So it becomes an obligation

    deferred, not an obligation you arent

    aware of. The other thing I would say

    is but this is really, really important

    I believe the reason why I was hon-

    ored with that award is because there

    is a difference between pro bono and

    community service.

    And Ill give you an example. If Im

    a lawyer trained in lawyer skills, the

    best way I can give back is to take my

    professional expertise and help some-

    body who has modest means and

    make their life a little better. That

    doesnt mean I couldnt volunteer for

    Habitat for Humanity and go build

    somebodys back yard playground, or

    May-June 2011 | Exceptional People Magazine | 59

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    Rawle: I think every day when I

    wake up, I know I have a real oppor-

    tunity to help someone. And thats

    when I pick up the phone, write a let-

    ter, send an e-mail, or have a meeting.

    Because they come to you with a

    problem and they know there has

    been wrongdoing sometimes they

    dont legally know how it happened

    or why it happened. But they feel in

    their DNA that theyve been

    wronged, and they need a road map

    a Mapquest, if you will to try to

    find the solution to it.

    Sometimes the fact that theyve been

    wronged morally, in our system of

    laws doesnt mean that theres a legal

    remedy for that. But if I can help

    someone say, Well, you know what,

    I know you feel badly about it, but

    they werent required to tell you X,

    Y, or Z, I hope Im saving you some

    time. People dont always see the

    value in me giving my hour or two

    hours to explain that to them. But I

    am saving them from a roadblock,

    because if you go to court, youre

    going to waste money filing a lawsuit

    and its going to be dismissed but

    there is a value in doing that.

    But I do feel that every day I get up, I

    am in an honorable profession al-

    though sometimes lawyers dont be-

    have honorably. I have an opportu-

    nity to make a difference every day --

    plant trees, or clean up the park or

    something like that. That certainly is

    valuable service and needed service in

    the community, but where do people

    really need help?

    The reality of it is, when Martin Lu-

    ther King was in jail in Birmingham,

    he needed a lawyer to get him out, not

    a gardener, not a doctor, or pharma-

    cist. So I think when professionals

    use their professional tools for the

    public good, thats pro bono in my

    book.

    EPM: You also received a commu-

    nity service award for the DC Coali-

    tion for Housing Justice.

    Rawle: I did, and a lot of that was

    related to helping people who either

    were in predatory loans or who were

    in foreclosure rescue scams, so they

    could keep their family housing. A

    lot of my pro bono has been in the

    affordable housing arena, because I

    believe if the house is not right, eve-

    rything else falls apart. The home has

    to be the castle. So its been easy for

    me to use my professional training to

    help people in those scenarios, as well

    as teaching about housing issues at

    Howard University.

    EPM: What have you found to be

    most rewarding about being an attor-

    ney?

    whether I take that opportunity or not,

    thats on me.

    EPM: Youve been with the Mary-

    land state AARP office for quite a

    while. In your current position, what

    is your main role as Regional Vice

    President?

    Rawle: I think I would split my job

    in thirds, if you will. One-third of my

    job is the general administration and

    management of the business and fi-

    nancial affairs of AARPs business in

    the state of Maryland. The second

    phase or the second third of my job is

    to run and oversee our advocacy op-

    erations, which some people would

    call lobbying. And the third is the

    public education and community out-

    reach phase of the work we do, so it

    can be called external communica-

    tions -- what AARP is, what it does

    and how you can become involved

    and so forth.

    I wish I could tell you, that every time

    I come here, I have a list and the first

    three things on my list are manage-

    ment, the second three things are ad-

    vocacy, and so forth. Every time I put

    a list of ten together, Im lucky if I get

    three of them done, no matter what

    basket it happens to be in on any par-

    ticular day. In Maryland, we have

    850,000 members, so in some re-

    spects they are our constituents but

    they are also our volunteers.

    60 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2011

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    AARP was offering a class. And the

    only requirement, if you came to the

    class, was that you had to agree to

    handle at least two bro bono cases. I

    ended up handling about 15 cases and

    probably consulting on about another

    20, inside and outside of the District

    of Columbia. I advised people in Ha-

    waii, in Minnesota. I actually had a

    trial in Dallas. What made me proud,

    with divine intervention and knocking

    on wood, is between 2004 and 2006,

    nobody we worked with lost their

    home.

    There were some days that were dark.

    The reality of it is that we were able

    to come up with the strength and the

    creative solutions sometimes com-

    munity support. Sometimes people

    don't realize the impact that a volun-

    tary appearance can have upon a

    judge. And Id say, You need to tell

    everybody in your friend and family

    network that this is serious. I know

    a lot of times we dont like to talk

    about troubles were having, but if

    the judge sees that the community

    cares about these issues and that eve-

    rybodys potentially at risk, he or she

    may give you favor that day and it

    worked. Ultimately, by the time I

    did that and the award came, Legal

    Counsel for the Elderly under AARP

    was seeking a managing attorney.

    EPM: How does it feel to know that

    you have approximately 850,000

    They are our partners in several col-

    laborative efforts to make a difference

    for people 50 and older and their

    families.

    EPM: What attracted you to AARP?

    Rawle: Well, its funny -- whether I

    was attracted to AARP or AARP

    found me I really dont know the an-

    swer to that question, but it all kind of

    dovetails around the pro bono award

    that you spoke about earlier. When

    predatory lending first came to my

    attention, a gentleman came to my

    office to tell me that he was in an up-

    side-down loan, and none of the

    promises the bank made were kept.

    There was no way he could ever pay

    his mortgage. This was about the

    summer of 2004. Nobody was really

    talking a lot about predatory lending

    then and I didnt know a lot about it,

    because in my former professional

    life, I had worked with banks.

    I did a lot of business banking as a

    deal-breaker, but I wasnt really fa-

    miliar with predatory lending. So I

    said, Well, as Im doing my due dili-

    gence, I dont know that you really

    have a case. You signed a loan, you

    took the money, and youre in your

    house, but let me see if I can do some

    research. And so I was looking for

    courses where I could do continuing

    education to learn about predatory

    lending and what the anatomy of

    those cases was and lo and behold,

    lives that you are responsible for as

    the Regional Vice President?

    Rawle: When I first heard that I had

    850,000 constituents and members, it

    didnt sound that daunting. It was just

    a number on a page. AARP has al-

    most 40 million members, so the real-

    ity of it is at some level everybodys

    responsible, good or bad, for every

    one of those 40 million. So it didnt

    seem when I was talking about the

    promotion, the opportunity, that it

    was that daunting. But in reality, con-

    stituent casework is constituent case-

    work, no matter what.

    So in a membership-type organiza-

    tion, you can get calls from any and

    everybody, including people who are

    elected officials but also who happen

    to be dues-paying members of AARP.

    They ask, Why are you doing this?

    Why havent you done that? And

    they want an answer. If you dont

    have an immediate answer, they don't

    want to wait 20 years for green ba-

    nanas to grow yellow to get that an-

    swer. So in reality, it is manageable,

    but I can tell you that it is an awe-

    some privilege and responsibility to

    know that that many people are rely-

    ing on you.

    EPM: Well, youre performing a

    great service, so its worth it, I would

    imagine. What are some specific ser-

    May-June 2011 | Exceptional People Magazine | 61

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    Rawle: We are making great strides

    to accommodate a growing older

    population in America. But the real-

    ity is while we have large numbers of

    African-American members over

    two million we dont believe weve

    done our best to demonstrate the

    benefits AARP can offer to them. In

    many instances what were finding is

    that African-Americans are aware of

    AARP but they dont know why its

    relevant to them.

    Hispanics and Latinos is another area

    of multiculturalism where we could

    be doing better. While we have well

    over a million members in Hispanic-

    Latino populations, what we find is

    that many times they are not aware of

    AARP. If they dont speak English

    as a first language, there is nothing

    similar to AARP in other countries,

    except the government. They're not

    going to voluntarily give money and

    turn their information over to this

    entity, without knowing what will be

    done with that information.

    EPM: With your attorney back-

    ground, do you help individual mem-

    bers of AARP, or do you represent

    the organization?

    Rawle: In the Legal Counsel for the

    Elderly position, I advised the depart-

    ment and individuals. In my current

    position we dont actively practice

    law on behalf of individuals, but we

    vices and products offered by AARP

    which make the organization unique?

    Rawle: Oh, I think that the two sin-

    gular priorities of AARP which peo-

    ple rely on regardless of age, if

    theyre a wage-earner, are Social Se-

    curity and Medicare. And people

    who pay into FICA expect that when

    the time comes for them to receive the

    paid-in benefit, theyre going to get

    their money back at a reasonable rate

    of return. They don't expect Congress

    or anyone else to tamper with their

    benefits. That is where we are; that is

    where were going to stand.

    From a standpoint of protecting Medi-

    care, for the most part the recipients

    are 65 and older. There are some ex-

    ceptions such as people with disabili-

    ties -- and you have to prove them.

    For a lot of people the only income

    they have one in five people is

    Social Security. The only medical

    insurance they have is through Medi-

    care. And I think people rely on us to

    do that. But beyond that, AARP is

    much more because by having 40 mil-

    lion members what were able to do is

    leverage that network to provide

    goods and services at reasonable

    rates.

    EPM: What are some areas where

    you believe AARP can possibly im-

    prove?

    put them in touch with folks, includ-

    ing our legal services network at

    AARP, who can actually provide that

    information.

    EPM: Your job requires that you

    travel a lot. How do you balance that

    with your personal life and family

    life?

    Rawle: I have a very understanding

    family, and I try like the dickens to

    make sure that when Im at work, Im

    at work, but when Im at home, Im at

    home. So I dont bring my laptop

    home Im not saying I never get on

    a PDA or a Blackberry from time to

    time but if Im at home, Im at

    home. In terms of travel, being in

    close proximity to headquarters, a lot

    of times when the meetings are in the

    Washington area, I stay at home in

    lieu of staying at a hotel I think that

    saves AARP money, but it gives me

    more time at home.

    EPM: What would you say to peo-

    ple who think that they dont need

    AARP?

    Rawle: Well, usually, at first blush,

    what I say is that you cannot and will

    not hasten death by opening an AARP

    birthday card or joining AARP. But

    the other thing I would say is life, like

    any game, doesnt end until the sec-

    ond half is over. And the reality is

    everything we do and everything we

    62 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2011

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    how to age. And the reason why I

    say that is because everything that

    brought us to this phone call, some-

    body taught us how to do it or we

    watched somebody do it. Would you

    agree with that?

    When it comes to aging, all we do is

    have birthdays, whether we choose to

    celebrate them or not. And there are

    consequences of not learning how to

    age properly. So what I want to do is

    help people plan for aging. I want to

    help people know how to plan for

    disability. I want people to be com-

    fortable with having a plan for the

    hereafter, so that when they leave

    their loved ones, there will be no riot

    at the repast. Ive been to one riot at

    the repast Ive been to one too

    many.

    And so thats what Im hoping for, is

    that having been here and shared

    some of my experiences and exper-

    tise, I've been able to help. I want

    people to learn how to age, so they

    can live the way they want to live

    until its time for them to go home to

    glory.

    see tells us if youre not prepared,

    youre already struggling with matters

    such as older parents who are facing

    health issues and that can place a

    drain on you, your income and your

    time. Youre already dealing with

    younger kids who are not being taught

    how handle aging, so youre going to

    be a burden to them when you be-

    come your parents age.

    When we have a family reunion, we

    want to make sure one of the pro-

    grams we talk about is nutrition and

    wellness. When we have a family

    reunion or a patriarch or matriarch

    birthday, we want to talk about well-

    ness and family planning, and those

    types of things. But on a more basic

    level we fight utility companies to

    keep the rates reasonable and prevent

    shut-offs from being handled in an

    unfair or unreasonable manner. Peo-

    ple dont know were doing that.

    EPM: What kind of footprint or leg-

    acy would you like to leave with re-

    spect to your position as Regional

    Vice President for AARP?

    Rawle: I am truly committed to our

    mission and vision of helping people

    live better in the second half of life. I

    would hope because I was here, hav-

    ing been on the legal side of some

    issues that complicate the second half

    of life, that I would be in the van-

    guard of having helped people learn

    May-June 2011 | Exceptional People Magazine | 63

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