President’s Column

By Donna Altepeter

Donna Altepeter

Dear friends and members,

As I write this for our December newsletter, it is November. It is about a year since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency and once again, politically, things have shifted.

I woke up this morning and things had changed. All of over the country, things had changed. First black mayor elected in St. Paul. A complete turnover of the state house in Virginia. Women, people of color and transgender and lesbian leaders, voted into local and state offices. Maine passed a referendum for the expansion of Medicaid.  Changes at city council and county council levels took place in many places across America. Candidates were taking stances on gun safety, funding education and healthcare. People turned out, more than ever, to vote in their local elections. Local matters. I have said this before and I believe it; it is locally where we connect with people, it is locally where we can develop relationships, it is locally that we can begin planting seeds that can carry changes throughout our state and nation.

What I am most happy about is that people came out and voted. Regardless, of party, we need people to participate in the voting process if we are to maintain a democracy. This really matters.

This past month, NASW Wisconsin held another wonderfully successful conference. We had people who came to challenge our learning and our perspectives, people who came to help us consider thinking differently. I know I was challenged and I hope that the conference helped you to consider something different in the way you understand and serve others. One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation of the awards and in particular, the Public Service awards which went to leaders of each political party; Assembly leaders, Jonathon Brostoff and Joan Ballweg.  What makes each of them true public servants is their dedication to the voice of their constituents and their work for social justice. They work to know what people need and fight to get it in place, even if it challenges the status quo. I believe that this is what the elections of yesterday signify:  that people want to be heard and to be represented. People want to be understood. We know that this is the crux of the client-worker relationship and we know that this essential connection is what works at the mezzo and macro levels. This is why I believe each of you, in doing good work in the profession, could do good work in our communities politically.

This begins with voting.

Votes on city council candidates matter; votes on school referendums matter; votes on mayors, matter, county council and clean water, they matter; state legislators and governors, they matter and they help move people to experience the connection and the benefit of relationships—of feeling heard.

Additionally, we can make a difference by being a leader: working on a campaign, connecting with voters or running for office.

So, two things to consider this morning:

  1. Vote: Regardless of how “small” the issue or how “local” the election might be, it is where we can make a difference and sustain our democratic process.
  2. Become involved politically or even consider running for office. Regardless of political persuasion, good work can be done on both sides of the aisle.

Joan Ballweg and Jonathon Brostoff are excellent examples of this.

Thanks for all the good work you do.

Have a warm holiday season. 

Make change.

Donna Altepeter, LCSW
Your NASW Wisconsin, President