Grooming the Next Generation of Social Work Leaders

The future belongs to the young and I am encouraged by the incredibly gifted young people who are joining the social work profession these days. Our 2022 Student Advocacy Day was a testament to growing activism among young people generally and the passion within our profession to have an impact on the trajectory of our society. CRISP Fellows are mining data to tell the story of our incredibly special event. Approximately 300 students participated, and the feedback has been more than encouraging. We are editing the recorded sessions and they will soon be available on our website as will the forums recorded during Social Work Day on the Hill so that you can observe for yourself.

Hats off to the Student Leadership Team led by Kenneth Hagler, II, a BSW student at Johnson C. Smith University School of Social Work. The event was well-organized and went off without any major glitches. We could not have done this without the generous support of our sponsors: the Center for Social Development at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, the Council on Social Work Education, Columbia University School of Social Work, the University of Washington School of Social Work, the Association of Social Work Boards, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Social Work, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Student Advocacy Day was a welcome bit of optimism with all that is going on in the world these days. The nation is in a slow and contentious recovery from the worst of the pandemic. And, it has been heart-wrenching watching millions of Ukrainians forced from their homes and their country by the whims of a madman willing to commit war crimes to achieve his ends. And words can barely describe the disgraceful performance of grown people behaving like clowns during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing for Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Senators Lindsey Graham, Michelle Bachman, and Ted Cruz are supposed be among the best citizens this country has produced. God help us. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus does a superb job summing up that deplorable show. Their shameless fake patriotism embarrassed the country before the entire world.

Zealots in the Republican Party are desperately trying to destroy democracy because they see the handwriting on the wall. After years of working to deny people of color equitable opportunity, preventing Latinos from entering the country, suppressing votes, and demonizing the Democratic Party to negate them as a viable alternative, they know there is not much they can do with young Americans. Generation Z will be heading to the polls in larger numbers starting with this year’s midterms emboldened by the fact that their votes put Joe Biden in the White House.

In Generation We: The Power and Promise of Gen Z, Anne Marie Hayek relates the stories of young Americans and how they are changing the course of the country and the world. She also provides numbers that will cause more than a few sleepless nights for Ginnie Thomas, Mark Meadows, and the Trump clown show. In 2016, 42-44 percent to Americans aged 18 to 29 years old voted. In 2020, 52 to 55 percent showed up to ensure Donald Trump did not return to the White House. In Georgia, young voters made up 20 percent of voters. As more of them reach voting age and Baby Boomers leave the population, their votes will be decisive.

There are enough young voters to keep Democrats in power in this year’s midterm election. However, Democrats are led by their oldest members and are out of touch with these voters. They are out of touch with me. They have decided to play the same game and just try to outraise Republicans rather than take creditable steps to address the corrupting influence of money in politics. They have not presented a compelling view of a future that voters can embrace. If you want to get a glimpse of the future, look at the forum recently held at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics on How Gen Z Shapes Our Political and tell me if you are not impressed with 11-year Orion Jean, Time Magazine’s Kid of the Year. Young social workers need the guidance and support of more experienced social workers. There is work for all of us—young and old. We must be engaged.

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