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Iowa Rep. Mark Smith calls for social workers to stand up

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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Iowa representative Mark Smith gave the keynote talk of the Don Kemp Memorial Lecture, titled “Social Workers Stand Up” on May 2.

Smith talked about the history of social work and its major influencers, as well as how future social workers should look to the past for inspiration in continuing their work. In addition to the talk, the Don Kemp Memorial Lecture also included the induction of new members to the program’s Lambda Theta chapter of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society, as well as awarding two scholarships.

The Don Kemp Memorial lecture works to bring in speakers that address a yearly topic chosen for the Social Workers month. This year the topic was “Social Workers Stand Up.” Therefore, the social work department worked to bring in a speaker that connected both social work as a job and understanding social policy.

Smith began his talk by outlining a brief history of social work, as social work has only existed in its modern definition for about one hundred years. He highlighted important figures from its history and explained their continuing importance today. He said that figures like Jane Adams or Jeanette Rankins were the shoulders upon which occured.   

Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Work Susan Schmidt said she hopes that students look to Smith as an example of a social worker engaged in multiple different facets of public service.    

“As social workers, we uphold six core values from our code of ethics,” Schmidt said. “One of these values is social justice, which entails ‘standing up’ particularly for those who are vulnerable or oppressed. Social workers have a simultaneous duty to practice these values towards individuals as well as towards the broader society. I hope that Mark’s example inspires some of our Luther College social work students to also pursue public service, whether by working for a county child welfare program, a statewide agency, or by seeking elected office at the local, state, or federal level.”

Smith also acknowledged that the current political climate posed issues to social workers, specifically that the repealing of the Affordable Care Act will significantly impact the population that social workers work directly with.

“If social workers can accomplish as much in the next 100 years as they have in the past 100, then we have a bright future ahead of us,” Smith said.

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