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The Ability to Save the World

“Every one of us has the ability to save the world, one person at a time, one agency at a time, or one community at a time.” Ted Alter, WSSW PhD, '15


On May 11th, 2015 Wurzweiler School of Social Work congratulated fifty MSW and PhD graduates as they completed their Wurzweiler experience and began their careers as professional social workers. At the Commencement Exercises, four student speakers summed up their perspectives on their student experiences and on social work in inspirational and impressive addresses, each of which evidences the nature of Wurzweiler's exceptional alumni. One of those speakers, receiving his PhD degree in Social Welfare, was Ted Alter. Below is the content of the speech he delivered. Congratulations to all of the Spring, 2015 graduates!

Good morning President Joel, Provost Botman, Dean Docherty, Wurzweiler Board, Administration & Faculty; - Friends, Family, and fellow graduates…. I love the field of social work, something that actually took me many years to realize. Over the past 37 years I have been a line worker, an administrator and most recently an educator. I returned to Wurzweiler after almost 30 years to work on earning a PhD.  I wanted to learn how I could effect change for the older adults I worked with whom seemed to decline so rapidly after moving to congregate housing.

The Talmud says “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”  Social workers save lives each and every day. I see social workers doing this every day… from making an older person’s day by stopping to chat, to advocating for their ability to make their own decisions…or a school social worker working with a troubled child trying to cope with the pressures from physical and cognitive developmental issues… or a hospice social worker ensuring that people have the care and support to be able to die with dignity in the place of their choosing…or a addictions social worker helping a man or woman get off drugs and get their lives back…or the community social worker helping to organize a community in order to get itself heard and feel empowered to advocate for themselves.

No matter the setting, social workers effect change.  With our social work education and our own unique, individual talents, and skills, we have the tremendous ability to advocate for others and as change agents. Every one of us has the ability to save the world, one person at a time, one agency at a time, or one community at a time. Thank you.