Looking Back on an Exciting Term

Elvira Craig de SilvaFrom the President

— Elvira Craig de Silva, DSW, ACSW

As I write my last column as president of NASW, I feel increased love and excitement about our profession from when I wrote my first column. I have indeed been privileged during these three years to be part of the growth of social work and the expansion of NASW.

My presidency is one of the highlights of my life experiences. At every step and turn, there was always something special — an eye-opener, an inspiration, new people, an unexpected test or challenge, the development of a strength I did not know I had and the consistent support of leaders and staff. I am particularly indebted to Executive Director Betsy Clark for her vision for the profession and NASW. Together, with the national board, we forged a partnership that guided the association through uncharted territory.

I have always said that it takes courage to be a leader. I have witnessed it in many others and experienced it personally through my NASW presidency. For both opportunities I am grateful, because I have learned, grown and reinforced my conviction that I am in the right profession and that there will always be a place for me in social work.

Many things have been happening within our association that will ensure the continuation and growth of our profession, starting with the National Social Work Public Education Campaign, which since 2005 has actively promoted the skills of social workers and reminded Americans that the best help often starts with a social worker. I hope you will continue to join me in supporting the campaign, as there is much work still to be done.

The Social Work Congress in March 2005 began a necessary and honest conversation about the state of the profession. These efforts, coupled with results released from the first national study of licensed social workers in 2006, created the roadmap for launching an essential Social Work Reinvestment Initiative. Active House and Senate bills, plus exciting work in scores of state legislatures, provide new vigor for the profession.

My presidential initiative "Weaving the Fabrics of Diversity" has resulted in two documents, produced by the Diversity Task Force, that have been widely used by our membership: "Institutional Racism: A Call to Action" and "The Immigration Toolkit." The toolkit has been immediately useful to social work activists and NASW chapters, and the racism document is a considerable contribution to our own institution and, we hope, others to more effectively address the ever-present barriers to racial equality. My sincere thanks to members of the Diversity Task Force for their contributions and ongoing commitment to the effort.

We have celebrated two World Social Work Days and participated in an historic U.S.-China Social Work Forum, the first joint conference of U.S. and Cambodian social workers, and annual Social Work Day at the U.N. events. Our work with the United Nations now includes support for the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission. Our attendance at the 2006 International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) World Conference resulted in NASW assuming a lead role in the IFSW Commission on Policy, Advocacy and Response and the development of a critical international policy statement on AIDS. Additional statements on genocide and older persons will be reviewed at the 2008 IFSW meeting in Brazil.

My most enjoyable experiences have been my visits to the chapters, being exposed to the extraordinary work of social work colleagues across the nation. I applaud their continuous and significant work, which exemplifies the profession's proactive stance on issues affecting community life and the organization's responsiveness to members' needs.

We are at a crossroads as a nation, as a society and as a world collective. Our humanity is being tested. We are caught in the push-and-pull of economic stresses, political compromises and the everyday needs of average people struggling to survive in an increasingly polarized world where decisions are being taken out of their hands. Social workers are needed more than ever.

This is an historical moment for the social work profession. Our skills and worldview place the worth and dignity of individuals, families and communities at the center of what we do. NASW is an important part of our nation's ability to overcome issues that limit human potential. We are members of a strong and valued organization.

My very best wishes for a successful and enjoyable presidency go to incoming NASW President Jim Kelly. I know that under his capable leadership NASW will continue its path of growth and inclusion. To my husband Milton, my four sons and their families and my grandson Christian: I have deep gratitude for your support, encouragement and pride that I am a social worker!

And to all NASW members, being your president has been both a privilege and an honor.