|As we prepare to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., next week, I have been thinking a lot about his work fighting against the curse of poverty and for social justice.
Poverty is not just about how much money is in the bank account or if there is a bank account. It is about living on the edge of our society -- without economic security or health care. Without treatment for mental illness or assistance for basic living. Without the basic fundamentals that define a socially just society.
One of the many legacies Dr. King left us is an understanding of how social injustice affects families and communities, and how important it is to have a fair and equitable society that provides for everyone's basic human needs.
That is what we strive for every day here at DHS. We work to ensure that the people who live on the edge of our society do not fall off the cliff. We do it with our service, our actions and our dedication. Because of the work we do every day, things are fairer for Oregonians who need help the most.
Frankly, with the ever-increasing needs in our state, I am concerned not only for our clients but also about the well-being of our workers who are putting in extra efforts to meet an ever-increasing caseload that is seemingly impossible to catch up with.
All indications are that things are going to get worse with our economy before they get better and, as we work as an agency to keep people from falling, I will continue to tell the story of how DHS is on the front lines of the economic crisis.
The economic crisis shows in stark relief that we still do not have social justice in our country and also how difficult lasting solutions will be. That is why I am pleased that on Monday a record number of volunteers will be answering President-elect Obama's call to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Day of Service. Of course, volunteerism will not address the structural causes of poverty or our increasing need. But a day of volunteering in a food bank or senior center can increase empathy with our clients and understanding of the challenges we face taking care of them.
In Oregon there are hundreds of opportunities. To find an opportunity in your community, go to www.mlkday.gov.
As the economy gets worse, our work is more important than ever. So this year I am thinking about Dr. King's legacy and what he taught us about reaching out and pulling up those who get left behind in this country, and it makes me very proud that at DHS we don't need a call to service. We are already there.