NASW Participates in Inauguration Day Activities

Inauguration weekend was a busy one for NASW staff and members.

NASW obtained a number of tickets to several inauguration events since it avidly supported Barack Obama in his campaign for the presidency and because NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark served on Obama's Women's Outreach Committee. NASW also had a strong representation at the Democratic National Convention.

For NASW staff and leaders who attended the inauguration, the day's events will be deeply ingrained in their memories.

NASW President Jim Kelly obtained tickets to the inauguration through Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who is also a social worker.

"She offered me a seat at the U.S. Capitol," Kelly said. "This allowed me to represent NASW to numerous constituencies."

Lee is one of nine social workers in Congress. "It's great having social workers in the House and Senate because they can help promote the cause of social work to the new administration," said Kelly.

NASW customer service receptionist Eva Campbell and her sister, who was visiting from New Jersey, arrived at the National Mall at 6 a.m. on Jan. 20. Despite the cold weather, she says, "The sun shined that day."

"It was amazing being in the crowd and seeing how people can really come together. It was amazing seeing a black man sworn in as the president of the United States. It was amazing just being part of the experience. I keep telling myself, 'I was there,'" she said. "There was a great feeling of warmth, pride and joy in seeing a change in America of this magnitude."

Campbell says Obama becoming the first black president of the United States shows her 12-year-old grandson that he can be president one day, too. "We've always told him that he could," she said.

Gail Woods Waller, communications director for NASW, attended the inauguration with her three sisters and 11-year-old niece.

"As an African-American woman, I was most struck by the sea of truly diverse faces cheering the prospect of a more unified country led by an African-American man. Nowhere on the planet, but in the United States, would this be happening," she said.

Waller was glad that her niece witnessed such a momentous day in history.

"My niece took footage of the impromptu dancing and singing among the crowds and interviewed a few people with her new video camera," she said. "But our joy in the moment was as much about her access to new and exciting opportunities as it was about knowing how many limitations were overcome to get us all to this place."

Dina Kastner, senior field organizer at NASW, also attended the inauguration with her family.

"My mom came in from Chicago. She, my husband and I watched on the JumboTrons behind the Washington Monument," she said. "It was refreshing to hear a president who spoke to me and my interests. The atmosphere was energetic."

The day before the inauguration, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Obama called for Americans to join in service.

The president's Inauguration Committee contacted NASW in December and asked them to support the Presidential Day of Service.

"We saw this as an opportunity to link our work on the Give an Hour campaign to the president's call for service," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "Social workers have an obligation to service, so we requested that our members get involved."

NASW sent out an alert e-mail on Jan. 6, informing members how they could participate in a number of events, including NASW's virtual event. The virtual event encouraged social workers who are licensed and practicing clinically to sign up for Give an Hour, a national nonprofit grass roots organization with the goal of creating a national network of licensed mental health professionals who can offer free mental health services to military personnel and their families. NASW received RSVPs from 122 people who signed up for the virtual event.

Give an Hour also hosted its own virtual event. According to Give an Hour's public relations consultant, Lauren Itzkowitz, 284 new social workers joined Give an Hour in January. The organization's total number of providers was 3,504 when the News went to press.

NASW encouraged members to blog about their Presidential Day of Service activities by creating a Day of Service blog post. Ten people posted comments, including Cheryl Kupras. "Because my daughter is off school that day, my options were limited to child friendly events. I went to donate the gift of life by donating blood at the American Red Cross. Also, as chairperson of my town's civic improvement commission, we sent a memo to the city council encouraging everyone to participate in the Day of Service and hope to coordinate a larger event in our town next year," she wrote.