Today the Claude Pepper Foundation releases a significant new poll on American and Florida attitudes on social security solvency and benefits, with a briefing and reaction by some of the country’s leading experts. The poll measures in a nonpartisan manner what Americans and Floridians think about Social Security – its benefits and future – as the presidential and congressional elections near.

We are privileged to be here at Florida State University’s Claude Pepper Center. I hope you have had the chance to see the exhibit hall with state of the art exhibits on Senator Pepper’s issues, like Social Security, health, civil rights, etc, a mock up of the well of the House, perfectly to scale recreations of his Senate and House offices, and the wonderful bronze sculpture of Senator Pepper.

The Claude Pepper Foundation was founded in 1986 to further the objectives of Senator Pepper as evidenced by the causes he championed throughout his political career. The Foundation supports and sponsors efforts to promote issues involving health care, social security and other issues that were part of Claude Pepper's 50 years of government service. The Foundation has received significant support from Congress, the State of Florida, and private contributions.

The nonpartisan Claude Pepper Foundation poll, conducted by the highly reputed firms of Bendixen and Associates and American Viewpoint, will be released with a briefing and reaction by experts including Sergio Bendixen, President of Bendixen and Associates, Coral Gables, FL; Bob Carpenter, Vice President of American Viewpoint, Alexandria, VA; Former Rep. Barbara Kennelly (CT), President, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; David Certner, Director of Federal Relations, AARP, Washington, DC; Prof. Jill Quadagno, PhD, Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar Chair of Social Gerontology, Florida State University; William Arnone, Partner, Human Capital Services, Ernst and Young, New York City, NY; and Peter Reinecke, former professional staff member, House Aging Committee under Chairman Pepper, now Chief of Staff for Sen. Thomas Harkin (MT).

What the general public, from the perspectives of the nation and Florida, thinks about this country’s public retirement program for the elderly, disabled, and dependents will be discussed from bi-partisan viewpoints. The public’s vision will be discussed with implications for the future of the current Social Security system and possibilities for reform.

It is our hope that conducting and releasing the poll, and our experts’ reactions and their discussion of the poll’s implications, will enhance the recognition of the importance of social security, a key issue as we approach the upcoming election, in a bipartisan sense and in the best way – improving awareness by the American people. By having the event in Florida, a state that is known for the importance of senior issues because of its demographics, and in a forum conducted by the foundation and center devoted to issues and actions of the late, great Claude Pepper, the champion of the aging, who cared so much about protecting social security, we hope to bring great attention to the subject and thereby to improve Americans’ knowledge of this critical issue.

For media here today who need information or interviews of participants at the event, I’d like to introduce Bob Weiner, former Staff Director of the House Aging Committee under Chairman Pepper, later a senior White House staffer and now president of Robert Weiner Public Affairs, who helped conceive today’s event and who has also contributed in the media to our understanding of the issue.

I also want to introduce Marie Cowart, the Claude Pepper Foundation’s Interim Director, who also had much to do with today’s event. Marie is Professor and Dean Emerita at Florida State University, and it’s an honor to have her helping the Foundation and the Center.