Social Justice for All
In 1893, 123 years ago, the Visiting Nurse movement began in New York City. It was then that Lillian Wald, the first public health nurse in the United States, began seeing vulnerable people on the lower east side of Manhattan. Back then the Lower East Side was full of immigrants from all over the world. It was the most densely populated place on the earth at the time. More than 1,000 people per acre were living in tenements — just horrid conditions.
Today, while most Visiting Nurse organizations across the U.S. focus on home health care, they all still believe that healthy individuals do best in healthy communities. All Visiting Nurse organizations around the country now combine the latest clinical knowledge with a commitment to social programs that improve the lives of those they serve. Visiting Nurse organizations are unlike every other home health organization because they have always had and will always have a focus on social justice.
My favorite definition of justice is defined as “… promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity.” It exists when “all people share a common humanity and therefore have a right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and a fair allocation of community resources.” In conditions of social justice, people will “not be discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability, location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of background or group membership.”
Social justice is about assuring the protection of equal access to liberties, rights, and opportunities, as well as taking care of the least advantaged members of society. Thus, whether something is just or unjust depends on whether it promotes or hinders equality of access to civil liberties, human rights, opportunities for healthy and fulfilling lives, as well as whether it allocates a fair share of benefits to the least advantaged members of society.
I have spent my entire career working in organizations that not only value social justice but advocate for it. I know that I will not stop working for social justice until it is a reality for all — which I hope is in my lifetime. Lately, the road to social justice for all is just too long and the journey in America too slow. I spent many hours these past few weeks thinking about the lack of progress on social justice issues. Frankly, I am sad and frustrated that America does not work for all of us equally. And Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said it well: “Senseless killings this past week remind us that justice is still out of reach for many. We can and must do better.” I agree.
I call on all of you, as we carry on the more than one-hundred-year legacy of Visiting Nurse programs, to work for social justice. Love is love is love. Make a difference in the world. Because that is why we are here.
President & CEO
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