NASW is stronger when we work together

Darrell Wheeler, Ph.D., MPH, ACSWAs I pen my last column as NASW president, it is with great pleasure and pride that I take this time to thank the thousands of NASW members who have deepened their commitment to the association through engagements at local, national and international levels.

The capacity of our professional association is only strengthened when our members take a sincere interest in all aspects of our One Association.

At times, these interactions seem to be based on divergent and oppositional agendas. However, over the past three years as president, I have come to realize, appreciate and welcome the need for the plurality of perspectives to help make our association more vibrant and better positioned to weather future social, political and economic challenges.

The theme of challenge should resonate with all of our readers, as the past 16 to 24 months have been a case example in social uncertainty.

From changes in national leadership to implementation of association changes in our revitalization and modernization efforts, our association has experienced the necessary pains of maturing and growing past our 60th anniversary to assure we are a strong, nimble and relevant professional entity on local, national and international agendas.

The theme of challenge and change has been the harmonic for my presidency, a volunteer role I have held as a signature event in my professional social work career.

Whether meeting constituents at one of the two national conferences held during my term, in their local chapter conferences, in international meetings, or on the floor debating at Delegate Assembly or a leadership forum, these interactions have only increased my passion for the profession and the individuals who make up our One Association.

Rather than lament the issues or struggles association leadership faces, I want to celebrate the power and strength of our profession — especially at this point in our national and in NASW’s history.

As I leave office, I do so with a great sense of personal pride and passion for the collegial support I received from the staff and board members — nationally and in the chapters.

I also wish to thank the chapter executive directors and council of presidents for their hard work and support.

It would be impossible to name names without getting into trouble for omitting important contributors, but I must thank both Angelo McClain, our chief executive officer; and Tony Benedetto, the CEO of NASW Assurance Services Inc., for their time and energy in guiding us through perilous and uncharted experiences.

I must also thank Doreta Richards, who handles the governance matters on behalf of the national board. Without her attention to detail, it would not have been possible.

Our One Association is just that — our association’s future rests in the ability of each of us to see beyond individual gains and needs to build on the profession’s rich history and embrace the necessary challenges of change. This imperative is something I have tried to use in facing each new challenge and success.

Only time will tell if our decisions today were the right decisions for the future, but I am absolutely certain that because we have worked together — not without our differences, but together — we will as One Association remain strong, vibrant and ready to leverage the power and strength of social work for the causes of social, political and economic justice.

Our incoming president, Kathryn Wehrmann, is someone I have known for many years. I know that under her wise and thoughtful leadership, NASW will continue to flourish.

I thank you for this opportunity to serve our association and our profession.