Hope is Power
By Laetitia Clayton
It’s easy to get discouraged these days. We hung our hopes on 2021, thinking it had to be better than the madness that was 2020. But the new year arrived roaring like a lion.
Six days in, a riotous mob attacked and briefly seized our U.S. Capitol, leaving behind death and destruction; fear and disbelief; and a crack in our democracy. The insurrection was based on unsubstantiated claims that our national election was rigged and stolen from then-President Donald J. Trump. Trump and his supporters — including some Republicans in Congress — worked the crowd into a frenzy, even urging them to march to the Capitol, stop the counting of the electoral votes in Congress, and “take back” the country.
The events of January 6 overshadowed even the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to rage. As of this writing, the number of coronavirus cases and deaths has been breaking records almost daily.
But on January 20, we experienced hope. After weeks of worrying that inauguration day might turn violent, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office without a hitch. Not only that, but the day was filled with messages of love, unity, strength, gratitude and, yes, hope—despite what we’ve been through and what we still face.
COVID-19 is still here, with reports of newer strains, but the vaccine is giving us some hope. We’re still an extremely divided nation, but the new administration seems determined to help us heal. Some say politics will be boring now compared with the past four years of chaos and constant uncertainty. I think it’s a welcome relief.
President Biden may be a traditionalist in a lot of ways, but he is already creating a legacy of his own by assembling the most diverse Cabinet of any U.S. president—and social workers are among them. You can read more about that in this issue.
On his first day in office, Biden got to work on executive orders to meet some of his administration’s immediate priorities. It’s a weighty list that includes actions to “control the COVID-19 pandemic, provide economic relief, tackle climate change, and advance racial equity and civil rights, as well as immediate actions to reform our immigration system and restore America’s standing in the world.”
Because social workers are involved in some way in each of these priorities, two of the topics are covered in this issue of Social Work Advocates: climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In our cover story, social workers discuss the varied impacts climate-related events have on people and communities, which disproportionately affect our most vulnerable populations and people of color. Environmental justice is a social justice priority for NASW and should be for every social worker.
The second feature article explores the ongoing effects of COVID-19—now that we’re a year into the pandemic. One thing is evident: Social workers have shined during the health crisis in myriad ways. Learn more about how in the article "Like Never Before: Pandemic Highlights Importance of Social Workers."
There are many things to celebrate this year, but also more tough times ahead—with racial equity one of the top challenges we face as a country. Positive things are happening there, too, however. Overall, there is hope where there was little before—and that is the power we need to see us through.
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Until next time,