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Dean's Reflections on Recent Senate Hearings

Dear Social Welfare Community,

I write to reflect on the events in Washington DC and elsewhere in our country last week. On Thursday we witnessed two starkly different testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee about events decades in the past. Dr. Ford offered a humble account of her experiences as a young woman. Judge Kavanaugh offered a starkly different testimony and insights into his personality and temperament.

It was startling to watch Judge Kavanaugh testify before the Senate after having worked with school-age children who bully and with men who batter their intimate partners for most of my career. I believe the truth was on full display for the millions watching. The judge refused to acknowledge a drinking issue in his youth as well as the possibility that he might not have remembered abusive events in the past.  He reminded me of some people with alcohol and drug abuse problems who become extremely defensive when confronted with their excessive using. His open rage also reminded me of many of the men I have worked with who become full-on hostile when challenged. I came away very concerned for the women and children in his life, and for all of our lives that will be affected by his court rulings.

Regardless of what the FBI finds this week, Judge Kavanaugh proved himself unworthy of a lifetime appointment to our highest court solely based on his behavior during Thursday’s testimony. He displayed extreme partisanship, offered unfounded conspiracy theories, and openly bullied those interviewing him for his appointment.  This is not the demeanor we hope for in a judge, let alone a Supreme Court Justice appointed for life.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota wrote the forward to the second edition of my Sourcebook on Violence Against WomenShe was an accomplished public prosecutor before rising to the Senate and is a strong advocate for women survivors of violence. The judge’s responses to Senator Klobuchar’s questions about his youthful drinking were, in my opinion, singularly enough to disqualify him for this position and were emblematic of his behavior throughout this hearing.

And while all this was occurring in Washington DC last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was moving detained immigrant children on short notice to a rapidly expanding detention center in remote eastern Texas where no schooling is available for these children in ever lengthening detentions.

The headlines and chaos from Washington often push other concerns away from public view, such as the continued detention of unaccompanied minor immigrants. Last week revealed not only the privilege and entitlement that some feel is their right but also a culture that continues to devalue women and immigrant children, among many others. Six weeks from now our country votes in the mid-term elections. My hope is that we, as a nation, reassert the dignity and worth of every person, as expressed in our NASW Code of Ethics and the American people’s historic yearning for a more perfect union.


Dean Edleson


Photo: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Judicial Committe. Getty Images. Sept 27, 2018.