NASW National Conference: Courage, hope, leadership messages resonate

Sep 8, 2014

By Paul Pace, Rena Malai and Laetitia Clayton, News staff

The theme of NASW’s national conference, “Social Work: Courage, Hope and Leadership,” was delivered through speakers’ messages and personal stories throughout the four-day event in July.

Brené Brown was among the keynote speakers at the conference.

Nearly 2,000 people from 50 states and 12 countries attended the conference in Washington, D.C., where they heard from expert speakers and had the chance to attend a variety of individual presentations, which ranged from topics such as mindful parenting and racial equity to holistic grief support and equine-assisted psychotherapy.

The event also included a ceremony that honored 10 individuals with NASW’s National, Foundation and Chapter awards; a film festival, which featured three social work-themed documentaries; preconference workshops; poster presentations; an exhibit hall; and several receptions and smaller gatherings that allowed for networking and socializing.

NASW CEO Angelo McClain opened the conference and noted that its theme highlights the many ways social work aids society’s progress.

“When I think about hope, courage and leadership, I think about what you guys do every day,” McClain said. “You bring hope in the face of hopelessness. You bring courage in the face of social injustice. You bring leadership in the face of indifference.”

McClain discussed the positive contributions social work has made since the 19th century, but he cautioned that the 21st century  “challenges us to be prepared.”

“This (conference) will help you go home and prepare yourselves for the grand challenges and also the grand opportunities,” he said.

NASW President Darrell Wheeler also delivered opening remarks, saying that the conference offered a chance to learn more about the social work profession and opportunities to learn from colleagues.

One of his top goals as association president, he said, is to continue advocating for all fields of social work and to let people inside and outside of NASW “know what we do, why we do it and what difference it makes.”

Spoken-word poet Kane Smego was the opening presenter. Smego is a nationally recognized spoken-word poet and artistic director of Sacrificial Poets, where participants use the power of stories and voice as tools for self-transformation, nonviolent resistance and community engagement. Smego, from North Carolina, is also a National Poetry Slam finalist.

Wheeler said after the conference that the event as a whole energized him.

“The 2014 social work conference reinvigorated my enthusiasm and pride in both the profession and the great honor I have in serving the profession at this time.”

Keynote Presenters

• Brené Brown

Brown, best-selling author, scholar and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, was the opening keynote presenter.

From the September 2014 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.