Legislative leader tells social work students that advocacy and voting are two ways to improve the lives of Indiana's vulnerable populations

Hundreds of social work students attending the recent 13th annual Legislative Education and Advocacy Day at the Indiana State House were told by a top legislative leader that advocacy and voting are two ways to improve the lives of vulnerable populations.

“I am here to tell you that advocacy matters because we are your employees, regardless of how fancy some of these people (politicians) think they are,” said State Sen. Vi Simpson, the Democrat leader. “We all work for you and you must tell us what you feel in your heart.”

Lead 2012Sen. Simpson, who in recent years has always taken time to greet the students in “the people’s house,” told the more than 600 students from schools of social work around Indiana, “That is your job as a citizen and our job as your employee is to listen.”

What happens if they don’t listen? “That’s when elections matter,” she explained. “When people don’t vote or they are not careful about whom they vote for, then we keep the whole world safe for the right person to sing the Star Spangled banner and to make sure we can teach theories of philosophy as science in our classrooms,” Sen. Simpson said. “If you care about whether we spend time drug testing the poor because we are suspicious about the poor or whether we reject adoption subsidies for at-risk children even though it saves us money because we are paying them to stay in foster care, ….then  you will be advocates and good citizens and vote the right way.”

How do you know if you are voting the right way? “You ask tough questions and you make demands of the people you vote for. If they don’t respond, then try somebody else.”  Sen. Simpson went on to point out that it is up to the students as citizens to hold public officials accountable. “You must hold them accountable for bad legislation, for bad votes in this house because the votes we make here on your behalf in this representative government impact your lives and the people you advocate for, the poor, the old, the young.”

“We’ve got a lot to do, you and me,” Sen. Simpson told the students. “I want you to know I stand with you, the Senate Democratic Caucus stands with you and all that you mean to this state, all the good work you are about to do as you venture into your careers. I thank you for the path you have taken. You didn’t choose this path to get rich, you chose this path because you have a faith in human beings, in humanity, in human kind, because you know and I know we can do better and together we can do better.”

Mona Rowland, a BSW student from IUE in Richmond, was asked to speak on advocacy and explained she views advocacy as how social workers can help ensure everyone has the same opportunities. “As a social worker, it is my goal to see that happens,” Rowland said.

 “I look at it in such a basic way,” Rowland said of advocacy. She asked how many people in the audience brushed their teeth that morning. “Advocating is as basic as making sure that everyone has the same access to brush their teeth. I think about everybody in the nursing home, they have no clue on how to brush their teeth anymore. We think about our young, our old and disabled, but none of them necessarily know how to do that. As social workers we are going to be the ones to make sure thy have a way to get that done.”

Lead 2012“Advocating means caring and parenting our young people, ensuring access to a good education and giving opportunities to succeed regardless of where they come from or the color of their skin. Advocating means ensuring our veterans, the people who fought overseas for our safety and freedom are support in every way possible. Advocating means finding homes for the homeless and protecting families facing domestic violence.”

To bring about change, “we need to register to vote if we haven’t,” Rowland said. “Imagine the change that could occur if everyone that was eligible to vote did vote.”

LEAD was started in 2000 as a way to promote social justice by facilitating, creating community and legislative environments where social work values are accepted and implemented as well as educating participants about the importance of influencing state policy by participating in the electoral process and advocating for statewide action. The event is planned through the Indiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
IUPUI
robschn@iupui.edu
(317) 278-0303