The Hills to Climb—Advocacy and Amanda

The sun, while nestled within a chilly January afternoon provided the perfect warm invite for a Presidential inauguration. One, clouded earlier by a tempest of capital terror, now drowned out by the voice of a young black woman who superseded all other speakers with a stretch of perfectly placed words that capped the inauguration of the 46th president with a spoken word rainbow.
Amanda Gorman, beaming in sunshine yellow with a bright red wrap adorning her hair—began without hesitation. Speaking with a broad and wise smile and a focused dedication, her poetry sermon jumped off the pages. The hill she climbed that day to the capital was also the namesake of her poetry—The Hill We Climb. And her voice that day took center stage. It unleashed a call to action for advocacy, for democracy— because as her poem, richly echoed both to the dignitaries behind her podium or the millions of virtual listeners—“We will not be turned around by or interrupted by intimidation. Because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. “
She asked us all to leave behind a country better than the one we were left. And similar to the youthful but masterfully mature words she penned to paper—so does United Way. A legendary and historic charity whose dedication to advocacy for those without voice is always our clarion call. A call to help, to heal and to make life better for those living in SJ County.  
This past week United Way Worldwide celebrated Advocacy Week as a way to share our organization’s commitment to our role and leadership in public policy, economic empowerment, and social injustice. We recognize that locally, UWSJC’s work in the field of advocacy is only beginning. Yes, we are known for our workplace giving, our directed donations to our area’s nonprofits and now we are placing equal focus on Advocacy directives. Housing, Homelessness, Youth, Education, social justice, and inclusion will be at our forefront.  
Our signature work will be to push needed change, ensure social right and justice, and create plans and partnerships with others to build, grow by either leaps or small wins, “...merging mercy and might, and might with right.” As Amanda recognized on that day. Our role in San Joaquin County has been and will continue to be to serve and support our nonprofit agencies which, by the way, are some of the largest employers in our county. Across the nation, nonprofits are the third-largest employers and represent a unique swath of individuals who support both a social and fiscal mission at the same time.  
Here locally, our advocacy work penetrates a hands-on commitment to serve our municipalities in directing dollars and resources for: the homeless, advocating for early childhood education, housing justice for low-income families, or equity injustice to earned income tax credits for migrant families.
UWSJC wakes up each day to climb our own struggling yet shining hill in our county. So that in the end, as Amanda closed on that sunny day in Washington, DC, “We can leave behind communities better than the one we were left.”  
Kristen Birtwhistle
President/CEO of UWSJC