Leymah Gbowee to speak at conference

Leymah GboweeLeymah Gbowee is a testament to the value of hope.

Faced with years of ongoing civil war in her homeland of Liberia, Gbowee held on to a belief that peace was possible. She unified groups of women to demand an end to the violence that was shattering the lives of innocent people every day.

The unrelenting protests proved to be crucial in bringing about a resolution to the country’s stalled peace talks in 2003.

Gbowee, as founder and president of the Monrovia-based Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, continues to work on behalf of advancing women’s rights in the continent, particularly in conflict and post-conflict regions.

Gbowee will be a keynote speaker at NASW’s “Restoring Hope: The Power of Social Work” conference in Washington, D.C., July 22-25. She plans to discuss her personal experiences as a trained social worker and trauma counselor working with ex-soldiers and victims of gender-based violence.

Gbowee was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her efforts. She is the first social worker to receive the honor since Jane Addams in 1931.

Other conference keynote speakers include:

  • Tony Keith, a Washington, D.C., spoken word poet and activist.
  • Bob Woodruff, reporter for “ABC News,” and Lee Woodruff, journalist and contributor to “CBS This Morning.” Their book, “In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing,” explains how the couple maintained hope after Bob Woodruff suffered a near-fatal traumatic brain injury while embedded with U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
  • Donna Brazile, CNN political commentator, adjunct professor at Georgetown University, author and columnist. In 2009, Brazile was chosen by O, the Oprah Magazine as one of its 20 remarkable visionaries for the magazine’s first-ever “O Power List.”
  • Roberto (Betho) Pacheco, special projects coordinator of AfroReggae Cultural Group, a national government organization with a focus on cultural activities that help young people.

The conference will feature more than 30 additional social work plenary presenters and hundreds of social work experts in professional presentations. There also will be 12 pre- and post-conference workshops offered by renowned social workers.

Frederic Reamer, professor at the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, will lead one of the optional pre-conference workshops. His topic is the interface of ethics and the law. He noted that social work started with one fundamental idea— a belief in hope.

“In that era, the earliest social workers believed in hope for new immigrants, people living in poverty and without adequate housing or sanitation, people trying to find their way in an emerging industrial society,” Reamer said. “And here we are, more than a century later, celebrating our profession-wide belief in hope.”

While much has changed from the earliest days of social work, society remains in critical need of the services social workers provide “to address the private troubles that people endure and the public issues that are the source of meaningful solutions,” Reamer said.

Karen Bullock, associate professor at North Carolina State University, will offer a pre-conference workshop on cultural competence as a practice perspective for hope and resiliency. She said hope is a concept that is premised on a belief in the unseen future.

“Hope is what people need in times of uncertainty,” she said. “Being able to believe in and anticipate positive change and persevere during hard times is what hope is all about. We as social workers can best serve our clients of the future by bringing hope into our practice frameworks, approaches and interventions.”

In addition to keynotes, panel discussions and individual presentations, the Hope Conference will feature poster sessions, exhibitors and a social work film festival on the evening of July 23. Entertainment will be provided July 24 by The Capitol Steps, a music and comedy troupe that covers national politics.

Speakers for plenary sessions

At press time, speakers for the plenary sessions include:

  • Opening Plenary: “Leadership and the Power of Social Work.” William Pollard, president of Medgar Evers College in New York, and Nancy A. Humphreys, director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work and professor of policy practice at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.
  • Plenary Session II: “Building Resiliency After Trauma.” S. Megan Berthold, assistant professor of casework at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work; Ellen Minotti, director of Social Services of Cambodia; and Roberta Greene, professor and chair in gerontology and social welfare at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Plenary Session III: “New Understandings of Grief and Implications for Practice.” Ken Doka, professor of gerontology at the College of New Rochelle in New York.
  • Plenary Session IV: “Hope for our Children.” Terry Cross, executive director of the National Child Welfare Association; William Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs; and Sheryl Brissett Chapman, executive director of the National Center for Children and Families.
  • Plenary Session V: “Building Hope with Honor for Military Veterans.” Anthony Hassan, clinical associate professor and director at the University of Southern California Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families; Carol Sheets, national director of social work at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Plenary Session VI: “Social Work is the Profession of Hope.” Rachel Minkove, social work student at the University of Maryland; LCPL Christopher O’Connor (ret.); and Elizabeth J. Clark, executive director of NASW.